First Published on LinkedIn
“Successful salespeople used to have similar attributes – resilience, gregariousness, the ability to condense information and articulate values into something that resonated to their customers. Now? It’s very different,” says Peter Bentley, Chief Commercial Officer of Aon’s Human Capital Solutions.
Before there were always two broad groups in sales – hunter and farmer, now known as activator and cultivator. The first was about sheer numbers: finding leads, driving the results. The second, a trusted adviser who maintains relationships.
“Sales used to be about how much someone knew about their client. Now it’s tailored to what they may understand about client needs. This means using all information at a salesperson’s fingertips to service the client effectively."
Although these still exist in the digital world, the process has changed – and with that, so have the skills needed. It’s far more diverse, not least because buyers research and understand products and services far better, they can purchase in so many ways, in highly competitive, global markets.
A company’s online footprint needs to be seen positively everywhere, making it easily searchable. Companies are navigating evolving landscape, some to greater or lesser degrees. They need to interweave all opportunities, aiming to ensure brand trust remains high and solutions work well enough, while they keep up with (or advance) beyond competitors, the market and new tech.
Kate Cramer is the Head of Aon’s Performance & Analytics Practice, and she specifically supports financial institutions’ sales processes. She says: “One market that is being highly disrupted is banking. It’s clear that automation, AI and tech help people to do their jobs more efficiently, but these also impact roles more widely because everything changes so rapidly.
“Sales used to be about how much someone knew about their client. Now it’s tailored to what they may understand about client needs. This means using all information at a salesperson’s fingertips to service the client effectively. It also means people need to adapt to changing technology. Sometimes sales people augment tech, and in other instances, tech augments people.”
Aon’s Peter Bentley suggests some companies need to think about going backwards to go forwards with their sales processes. “Often a company will be in a situation which isn’t linear, so smart and strategic thinking for the longer term is likely to get them to the next step, rather than taking money for the short term. The invention of a commercial officer in many organizations highlights that revenue growth is a complex process, that companies have no choice but to consider all angles. Sales is more sophisticated, balancing between deepening client needs.”
Yet it’s also much more exciting and interesting. For companies, the ability to scale is vital, as is changing the way the client is acquired intuitively adapting to the changing landscape.
Aon’s Kate Cramer explains that many companies are doing everything possible to improve salesforce effectiveness. “Organizations across industries are using metrics to understand how effective they are, reviewing market share, profit margins, their people. With that information, it’s possible to look at the overall strategy, perhaps deployment of staff, moving people to different locations, pay structures, incentives, changing targets, defining roles, realigning territories, all with an eye on improving and driving productivity. Financial metrics are everything here – as is making people as productive as possible.”
One thing is sure, sales people hired in all industries need the ability to adapt to the future - difficult when we don’t know what the future looks like. If a salesforce is often the most important and expensive part of an engine, how is it possible to combine today’s issues with future ones to make them work for the organization?
An essential part is to ensure the right people are in the right roles, individuals who are future-ready and able to adapt to whatever the environment conjures up.
Every company will have unique salesforce needs, specific abilities, behaviors, competencies and skills that correlate with KPIs. Defining this profile is key to calculating a benchmark to score candidates against, helping to drive sales hire successes in an unbiased way.
Aon has created an off-the-shelf Salesforce Effectiveness assessment process for hiring managers, so they can cost-effectively create the best teams for their unique organizational needs.
It guides companies through the four key sales processes: creating opportunities, generating solutions, closing deals and delivery – where each has different skills and competencies needed to successfully do the role. The process helps hiring managers to assess flexible, future and results-focused sales people that will uniquely fit the organization’s needs.