There’s no doubt in my mind that the world of software sales has evolved drastically in recent times with the growth of Software as a Service (SaaS) creating the need for new skills and knowledge from professionals in this arena. As this service-based approach becomes the norm, we are seeing a new type of expert emerge. One with a combined ability to both understand the functionality of their solutions but combine that with a much deep knowledge of the value delivered to the customer.
The impact on sales leaders is notable. Sourcing such talent is going to be a challenge, as this evolution continues to take hold and training existing teams to meet new requirements is certainly not easy. Perhaps more importantly, though, knowing what skills will be needed in the future is tricky. So, what should you be hiring for now in order to build a future-proof sales team?
Business case: Being able to demonstrate the direct business value that the solution delivers to the end user in a clear and concise manner. An ability to give examples of bottom line savings, efficiencies, top-line growth and strategic benefits their solution delivers.
Resilience and persistence: In such a volatile environment, the ability to adjust to change effectively is certainly going to be crucial. When we further consider that the sales cycle can often be lengthy – particularly for large value customers – being able to bounce back with enthusiasm and energy whenever a setback occurs will be hugely valuable.
Foresight: With the potential for a deal to rapidly change as macro and micro environments impact strategies, plans and budgets, sales professionals need to have a greater sense of foresight and ability to pre-empt potential hurdles than ever before. While this is certainly hard to assess for, it’s an attribute that can be developed through regular account review sessions, led by an experienced sales leader.
Collaboration: The ability to work with – and learn from – other members of the team will play an increasingly valuable role as skills requirements continue to change. This is also particularly important when it comes to building a highly skilled team able to land those large value customers. Bigger accounts will need input from across the team, so having a group of professionals able to collaborate and influence others to gain the requisite backing will be key.
Coachability and learning: Given the continued evolution of the profession, the ability to accept and even seek out feedback in order to grow as a sales person is going to become increasingly important. This information will play a crucial role in an individual’s ability to develop the skills the team leader will need in their group. And with potential for further adaptation of the role, it will be those able to learn who will deliver the most value to the business.
Transparency: While in my view this is an attribute that has long been appreciated in the profession, it’s something I’m keen to cover off in this list of future skills requirements. The simple fact is any sales leader needs a team of individuals they can trust to be open and honest – particularly in terms of raising any challenges or flagging risks early on in the sales cycle. Being able to articulate this clearly both verbally and in writing also has a hand in this skill.
Composed and analytical: Remaining calm when facing a challenge is always going to be an important ability for a sales professional, however doing so in today’s fast-paced environment – particularly with high stress, large value deals – is only going to become more important over time.
Knowledge: Information is key in the world of sales, and knowing the intricate details and USP of the service and how it fits into the business case is, of course, crucial. An individual who actively seeks to develop their knowledge of this and the customer’s business as well as its micro and macro impactors will likely become a valuable member of the team.
Discipline and detail: In order to ensure the sales cycle runs as smoothly as possible, sales professionals need to project manage the sales process. Having a disciplined approach to the details will be crucial to success in this highly-competitive market.
Strategy identification: Knowing what approach is best for a new customer is certainly a skill that will add huge value to the sales team.
What makes a good sales person today is radically different compared to ten years ago and likely to vary significantly over the next decade. While the above is certainly not a comprehensive list, it is, in my view, the foundation for a successful sales team.
Richard Lowe is managing director of RBL Associates, a search, recruitment and training consultancy focused on the technology sector.