Here is an old article from the Sydney Morning Herald back in 2006.
The Title was Brave New World by Owen Thomson
This is so true and is a solid reminder today.
The way we buy has changed and the role of the sales professional has evolved as a result, writes Owen Thomson.
Money-making opportunities abound in the world of sales, so it’s hard to imagine a shortage of eager professionals looking to capitalise. But according to experts, that very scenario is one of the challenges facing Australian businesses.
The number of sales positions has increased markedly in the past year, aligning with the growth in the economy generally.
James Fennessy, managing director of sales performance improvement organisation Huthwaite Asia Pacific, says there are often more sales positions than there are quality people to fill them. The biggest issue facing organisations, he says, is not only finding, but also retaining top sales staff. “Competitors are coming in trying to throw them an extra 10 or 15 grand a year to attract them away,”
Fennessy says. “We’re seeing that right across the board, whether it’s in health care, financial services, IT or the telecom sector. Job prospects are absolutely excellent.”
Lenga agrees that the skills shortage at the top end is a real issue; expert salesmanship is a vocation, he says, demanding several key attributes. “It’s a particular skill-set that’s required, involving a lot of relationship building and a lot of comfort around numbers; the ability to make cold calls; the ability to sell as well as the confidence to sell.”
As if talent shortages weren’t enough, Fennessy says all industries are also having to take a different approach to selling. In an overcrowded market, products lose their individuality, so winning over customers is not as easy as it once was.
“What’s happened over the last five or six years is that products and services have begun to look more similar, so the importance of a quality sales force has become more important,” he says. “One of the big challenges in the sales game is now creating competitive distinct value.” Because the nature of the sales role has also evolved enormously in the past five years, many sales reps who were successful in the old world are ill-equipped for the new one. “Five or six years ago, all sales guys needed to be was a talking brochure because their products had something unique about them,” Fennessy says. “Today, salespeople need to create value through their ability to help customers understand problems, issues and challenges that they don’t know they have. Customers are looking for a different kind of relationship. What they’re saying is, ‘Don’t sell me a product, be a business partner.’ “
Peter McKeon, managing director of sales training and solution development company Salesmasters International, says it’s not only salespeople who need to move with the times. “I think that many organisations lack the necessary accountability and discipline in their sales forces,” he says. “It’s, ‘Here’s your car and mobile phone, go out and sell.’ Most are under-trained and simply not maximising their opportunities. We need to get a lot more customer-centric: ‘Here’s me and my car, dropping into do a PR call’, as opposed to a true sales call.” McKeon believes many who are already in the sales field need to improve their game. “The vast majority of people in the sales fraternity in this country, if you were to rate them on a scale of one to 10 … I would suggest that the majority of them would be running at around a four or a five,” he says.
“I think people could do a lot more with their customer base than what they’re currently doing.”
CASE STUDY: CHRIS LAMBETH, PHARMACEUTICAL SALES REP
Chris Lambeth has been a pharmaceutical sales rep for drug company Aspen Pharmacare for 12 months. A former vet, the 30-year-old Sydneysider switched careers after realising his original choice wasn’t for him.
“It was a brand new challenge, completely different to anything I’d done before and so I just ran with it,” he says of the change in direction. These days Lambeth spends a lot of time on the road, visiting medical professionals in his prescribed
territory and keeping them up to date about what his company has to offer.
“I do part of the inner-west, extending down south a little bit and also part of the city,” he says. “I take care of all the GPs and hospitals in that area. We also have a country territory where we go for a week or two a couple of times a year.”
Lambeth’s favourite aspect of the job is the independence. “You’re in charge of your territory,” he says. “From Monday to Friday, you plan your week, how you
structure things and how you make appointments. You have quite a bit of control over the way you do things … while at the same time, you’re constantly seeing people and meeting new people as well.”