Sales Professionals... An Endangered Species?
There was a time when sales professionals roamed the earth in great numbers. In recent years, I’m struck by how challenging it is to recruit professionals with a strong sales acumen. With the onset of digital commerce and other technological advances, some business experts hypothesized that the extinction of the salesperson was imminent. After all, when you can research nearly any product or service under the sun online and make a purchase with a click of a button, why would you need a human in the process? And while demand for salespeople has decreased, supply seems to have followed.
Yet sales remains the lifeblood of nearly every industry from hospitality and manufacturing to information technology and professional services. So why is a skill set so critical not celebrated more often or taught more vigorously?
While marketing has been embraced as a discipline broadly worthy of study, sales – its lessor admired cousin – has been pushed to the margins. Marketing is heralded as highly strategic and even intellectual, whereas sales is often viewed as tactical and transactional – I’d go so far as to say pedestrian. Respected marketing scholars like Michael Porter and his Five Forces Model have become required reading in marketing programs around the world. But the reality is that while marketing may set the stage it is sales that is most closely tied to revenue. The skilled sales professional of today has evolved and adapted to the impact of technology on purchasing decisions and must be highly strategic in their approach to succeed.
However, there is some cause for optimism about the trajectory of the sales profession. The number of business schools incorporating sales into their curriculum has increased in recent years albeit not to the degree I would have hoped for. For years, Gerry Pond, one of the most respected business leaders in Atlantic Canada, identified the lack of post-secondary sales training to be a barrier to growth for companies in the region. He offered a substantial financial funding incentive and in 2018 the University of New Brunswick took up this challenge and offered an MBA in Business Development and Professional Sales. They recognized the critical role sales plays not only in the success of a business but in the health of an entire region.
So, to the employers who share this realization – that the need for skilled salespeople is critical while the supply is limited – your concerns are not unfounded. However, as someone who has been recruiting sales professionals for more than two decades, I can reassure you that they do still exist.
"And to those early in their career as well as the seasoned professionals who are navigating their next career move and wondering if there are still strong career paths to be found in sales the answer is an emphatic yes!"
Kevin Stoddart, Managing Partner, KBRS and Meridia
Negotiations are a daily occurrence. Sales is everywhere. It is so ubiquitous in our daily lives that we often don’t even realize we’re selling or being sold to or take time to recognize the positive impact when it is done well. I firmly believe the art of professional sales is among the most essential skills one can develop in business. Sales is a field worthy of study, celebration, and growth and I hope our team can continue to help organizations and job seekers alike keep sales professionals off the endangered species list!
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