The impact of accelerated change in the business environments of most companies is undeniable. Disruptive technologies, lower barriers to competitor entry, shifting needs and expectations of customers, macroeconomic conditions; and the impact of numerous geopolitical events are some of the variables that now require most companies to be in a state of constant evolution. This accelerated rate of change impacts just about all industries, functional areas and job roles; however, it is quite possibly the world of sales in which we find some of the greatest disruption and need for evolution.
Caliper’s extensive research in sales performance over the last 60 years points to the need to greatly expand the traditional hunter/farmer conception of sales and to consider a wider range of sales-related functions that are more in line with how customers buy in today’s complex environment. This research has involved scores of companies and thousands of incumbent sales professionals across a wide range of industries. Below, are tabulated the success profiles of the various sales categories that emerged from the analysis. The first 3 are described at length below: The last 2 are described in another article which can be accessed here.
- The ‘Traditional’ Sales – New Business and Account Development
- Sales through Service – Account Service Specialist
- The Collaborator – Consultative Sales
- The Subject Matter Expert – Technical Sales
- The Knowledge Broker – Strategic Sales
The ‘Traditional’ Sales – New Business and Account Development
The New Business Development category is the one that probably most comes to mind when one thinks of the “traditional” sales profession. Often referred to as the “hunter” model, these professionals are often responsible for developing new business from new customers or accounts. They create opportunities by initiating contact with prospects, often through cold-calling, in order to generate interest in products or services. New Business Developers persuasively present their value proposition, find ways to get past initial resistance from prospects, and negotiate effectively to close sales. Therefore, this category of sales typically requires the more “traditional” sales competencies, such as influencing and persuading, building relationships, negotiating, remaining resilient in the face of failure/rejection, and negotiating win-win solutions. Top performers in this role also need to be selfstarters/self-motivated, so a strong desire to achieve goals, the tendency to initiate action on their own, and the ability to manage their time effectively are critical aspects of performance.
The other “traditional” sales category that emerges from our analysis is Account Development, or what is often referred to as the “farmer” sales model. While individuals in this category are still required to move others to make decisions and take action, they are typically not required to be as assertively persuasive or ego-driven as their “hunter” counterparts. Rather, they are often charged with maintaining and strengthening relationships with current customers and working to develop new relationships through introductions or referrals. In addition to the “traditional” sales competencies related to persuading, developing relationships, and negotiating, top performers will exhibit strong organisational savvy. That is, top-performing account developers are able to effectively collect and leverage information related to the organisation’s formal and informal communication channels and power relationships. They tend to operate effectively within the context of the company’s culture, which allows them to accurately identify and get to the true decision makers and key influencers and predict how new events or situations will affect those individuals and groups as well as affect the attainment of company goals.
Sales through Service – Account Service Specialist
This category of sales professionals often finds success by providing strong service to existing customers/accounts, while strategically taking opportunities to cross- or up-sell at the appropriate times. Top performers in this category build rapport with clients, identify their needs, offer tailored advice about products or services; and create additional opportunities to generate business by coming through for their customers. Therefore, this category of sales typically requires sales competencies related to enhancing the overall customer experience and ensuring actions and decisions are supportive of service as well as in the best interest of the company.
The Collaborator – Consultative Sales
This category of sales professionals reflects somewhat more recent trends in the world of sales, in which more and more customers expect to partner collaboratively to develop solutions to pressing business problems. Top performers typically win business by consulting with customers in order to understand their true needs and provide solutions that effectively address those needs. They establish and strengthen working relationships based on mutual trust and shared accountability, which allows them to ask probing questions and to systematically uncover root causes of stated issues. Through this process, they provide compelling proposals, which allows them to close sales that turn into repeat business. Top-performing consultative sales professionals, in addition to the typical sales competencies of persuasiveness and resiliency, exhibit a range of competencies that reflect the desire to develop common goals and objectives with the customer. Related to this, they exhibit the motivation to provide insight or create tangible value in some way relevant to both the bottom line of the company and the organisational status of the primary decision makers. The competencies that support performance in this area include strong interpersonal sensitivity, active listening, and relationship building. In addition, top performers show a strong sense of accountability, whereby they take full ownership of issues, problems, and opportunities, and they convey that sense of accountability to their primary contacts in the customer organisation in order to generate a sense of shared purpose.
Find out how leading Indian companies are using psychometrics for profiling candidates that fit into various types of Sales Roles.
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