We’re not just a nation of polite, hockey-loving people who say “eh” a lot. As the latest research shows, Canada is also a country defined by highly successful sales professionals -- even if a large portion of them need to figure out the finer points of their job on their own.
In The New Sales DNA Report, The Canadian Professional Sales Association (CPSA) surveyed more than 500 people about their backgrounds, their development and the value of professional designations. Given how many organizations are dependent on a strong sales team to drive revenue and grow their business, the CPSA data is intended to look at the skills and talent needs in Canada today, and where some of the potential gaps might be.
“Regardless of company size or commercial sales environments, senior sales and HR managers report that they are having difficulty filling sales positions,” the report says. “Sales is one of very few professions where there is no specific experience or training required – many people simply fall into sales and it’s not commonly offered in college or university as a concentrated area of study like marketing.”
That said, the research suggests many sales professionals have taken a DIY approach to honing their abilities to convert prospects into customers, and have maintained a spirit of optimism while doing so. Let’s dive into some of the biggest numbers and think through how Canadian companies can use them to inform their sales strategy in 2018:
To the most successful organizations, of course, training isn’t a nice-to-have but a necessity. If that time isn’t being made -- and 40% said they had received no formal training in the last year -- companies may need to think of how they can weave professional development into daily operations.
As sales becomes more data-driven, for instance, think about the many ways the kind of information collected and managed via tools like Sales Cloud could prompt some teachable moments. Fresh insights from data on a certain segment of accounts could be used to refine the pitch or outreach process reps are using, for example. If training is relegated to something separate or is seen as a time when reps aren’t being productive, it’s no wonder so many companies are putting it on the back-burner altogether.
The use of CRM ranked below other options such as training the team or being on the road with them. What some managers may not realize is the time they’re losing by failing to invest in the use of CRM. Top-performing teams already know that tools like Sales Cloud mean fewer random searches for background information on a customer, less investigating into why deals are taking so long to close (or failing to close) and a lot less manual work figuring out how to report results. When you put a little bit more time into CRM, you can get a lot of time back.
No surprise here, given how sales has always been about being able to build great relationships. The pressure on reps to look after an ever-growing number of accounts, however, means that personality will only take them so far. That’s where technology can allow sales professionals to be more targeted, relevant and timely in how they reach out to their customers -- providing value to the relationship every single time.
Kudos to the CPSA for drawing attention to the fact that the demographics of sales teams, much like that of any other corporate function, is undergoing a profound shift. After all, this is the first generation to have completely grown up with technology, particularly mobile technology. As a result, companies should build training programs to reflect the fact that a rising crop of reps will have no problem managing data and key applications from their smartphone -- and that they will expect to have access no matter where they are.
It’s great to see how quickly Canadian sales professionals have embraced the idea of social selling and going to where customers are most likely to be “living” online before they make yet another cold call. It’s worth pointing out, though, that there are many options available. While LinkedIn makes a lot of sense, the use of Twitter for similar purposes came at only 39%. This is despite the fact that Twitter tends to be a source of highly active, real-time conversations. Maybe it’s time for more organizations to expand and experiment the way they do social listening.
Though this number represents a minority, it also shows that sales professionals in Canada have an opportunity to learn more about how AI will actually augment the work they do today. This could include the use of predictive intelligence tools like Einstein to show the most likely future behaviour in key accounts, or more advanced ways to sift through vast quantities of sales data to get quicker answers to their questions.
This is really great to see, but it begs one follow-up question: How would you suggest someone new to sales positions themselves for success? In addition to developing their soft skills, the next generation of sales professionals will need to think digital-first, while also appreciating and showing interest in unlocking the power of data. In a sense, that’s what the new DNA in the Canadian sales community is going to be all about.