In the great scheme of things, a crossbill is another bird. But it is also an example of an animal that has developed extremely specialised features to extract and crush the seeds in pinecones. Specifically, they have a beak which has crossing tips, enabling them to split open the pinecone scales and get at the seeds.
Similarly, if you interviewed 100 salespeople, they would, give or take, look and sound like all salespeople. Their CV would read like a salesperson’s CV, as opposed to how the CV of an accountant or a software engineer’s CV might read.
But all salespeople are not the same. Sales has its crossbills. They’re the people who are specifically evolved to do new customer acquisition. They have specialised skills and behaviours. And they are a minority group – at best 15% of the sales population.
Our analogy is deliberate because the salespeople who do new customer acquisition as their main role, are as different from “salespeople” as a crossbill is from a chicken. (Chickens are the most plentiful form of bird on the planet, by many billions.)
But all salespeople are not the same. Sales has its crossbills. They’re the people who are specifically evolved to do new customer acquisition.
The Takeaway for Employers (who are looking for a “good” salesperson).
Some roles – like new customer acquisition – require extremely specialised skills. Those skills likely include the ability to prospect (cold), the ability to engage a CEO or and end-user so that they won’t leave the conversation, the ability to bring people into the market, reject the unsuitable prospects and make all that happen against the odds, in unfair timeframes. It’s no coincidence that the crossbill in our photo is roughly, bending over backwards. A chicken wouldn’t make sense in that photo.
The Takeaway for New Business Salespeople
There is no point in trying to be all things to all people, when it comes to picking a new role or employer or when sitting at an interview – although there is great pressure in “sales” to do exactly that. You will not be successful in a new customer acquisition role by using a set of generalist skills. Prospecting, positioning, discovery, finding obstacles and micromanagement of your calendar and deals are the key skills, and these are the skills 85% of the sales population don’t have to worry about, because, like the chickens, the food is already being provided (known as order-taking in sales).
You might even be an ultra-specialised salesperson, a Level 3, which you can read about here.