The art of sales

The other day I went to a fascinating event hosted by Clarify Solutions. It was a guest panel discussing issues around how to build and measure high performance sales and marketing teams in software. This was actually quite an interesting experience in its own right, both in terms of the people present at the event and the people on the panel, all highly experienced and able individuals. One of the most interesting questions that came up was whether an outstanding sales rep is born or trained.

I’d recently had a similar conversation with a colleague who almost took offence at the concept that their ‘art’ of sales could be trained. Having gone through gruelling IBM sales school training myself I have certainly seen individuals who have a natural flair for the role but also tools and techniques that can be used by anyone to improve their success rate.

There is certainly something about individuals who come across as ‘natural’ sales people – outgoing, pushy, always seem to end up convincing their friends to go to their favourite bar or eat at their favourite restaurant. But my view, and that expressed at the event, is that as naturally charismatic as someone is, at the Enterprise sales level the ability to manage the sales process and ensure there is alignment at all levels (from executive to technical) within the customer is far more important. Not only that but the software business is moving away from the second had car sales approach, and more of a consultative model – understanding the customer’s business problem better than the customer themselves, and aligning the suppliers product at all levels in the organisation to the business issues.

That opens up another challenge – how do you gauge this and identify the skills required to be a good sales individual in a 60 minute interview? This was another question posed to the panel but the answer will wait for another post…

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