Even when there is no specific vacancy, most B2B firms are always looking for “good” salespeople. If you ask them what they mean by good, you’ll get a wish-list that describes a wide range of activities and especially, personalities. Someone who is hungry, with energy. Someone bright and outgoing who can hit the ground running. Someone who will make the calls. Someone with solution selling. People who can sell consultatively …
What these companies really mean is that they need to acquire new customers and accounts and they need someone with the specific mindset and skills to do that work. Traditionally, new business development (“hunting”) was seen as “basic” sales or doing the basics. That’s why it was conveniently referred to as door knocking or shaking the trees. Sounds so easy!
Relentless product innovation and increasing similarity between offerings has made it extremely difficult to compete in most markets. It’s very hard to get attention, stand out and get customers to change today. And if you’re in a B2B market you will have already figured out that marketing has very limited impact unless you are already a known brand or you have plenty of marketing money, which you probably don’t.
As we head into the 20s, sales will increasingly be about business growth, taking market share, creating new markets and selling small differences to well-informed, indifferent buyers. That “good” salesperson will therefore have a set of high level skills that are scarce, expensive and difficult to attract. The critical skills sets required will include:
Prospecting: The tools and approaches are changing, but getting and earning the attention of strangers (your ideal or dream clients), will be a top skill.
Subject Matter Expertise: Buyers are not interested in us because we’re salespeople or because of our personality. They will engage because of subject matter expertise and the ability to provide advice that guides better decisions and choices.
Product-Market Fit: Most B2B companies will rely primarily on their front-end salespeople to make product-market fit happen. Traditionally, “sales” was seen as a source of excuses for losing deals and rational, factual feedback from the market was therefore ignored by product development and marketing.
Managing and leading Internal Stakeholders: Salespeople historically were expected to focus on the “outside” world, and leave the rest of the company to get on with its work. Today, the whole company, especially in growth scenarios, is dependent on the validated feedback that a sales professional can provide. And it’s the hunter salespeople who are expected to experiment with business models and selling approaches.
Thankfully we are moving away from the deeply ingrained and often prejudicial perception of what is a “good”salesperson to seeing sales as a professional pursuit, that only a very small number of people will be able to do well.