I was talking to a group of students about the best strategy to build sales teams, and there came an unexpected comment: “In my ideal team everyone would be like Messi.” (Ed. For us North Americans who play football with an oblong ball, Lionel Messi is a pre-eminent Argentine round footballer. Soccer, right?)
Although dangerous, the comparisons with soccer can help us understand some important aspects when we discuss team configurations in business. In this case, the discussion revolved around about the importance of having talented or gifted sales professionals versus others who are not so talented, but who respond very well to training programs. In the end, both can end up giving very good results.
In sales, as in soccer, professionals with a lot of talent but who ignore training and refuse to adopt techniques and practices end up delivering inferior results. Especially when compared to professionals who aren’t born with the same level of talent, but who compensate with discipline, organization, education and the use of automation.
Companies often seek sales professionals who have average actual sales skills but appear to have great subjective talents such as experience, presentation, ease of expression and relationship, and charisma. These are the personality traits of people who know how to argue, persuade and negotiate with other people. Companies believe that with these “superstars” they will build winning sales teams. And good results may even happen on occasion, but with no consistency or predictability.
What companies are starting to learn is that it is increasingly common to find that sales professionals with less gifted subjective aspects will present consistent, sustainable results. These sales professionals value education, are open to learning, have discipline, and often use technology to their advantage.
The final point – technology – is interesting, particularly sales automation. It is common for sales professionals who rely only on their talent to strongly reject any attempts to impose automated processes or methods. They reject software apps such as CRM, stating that it will decrease sales because they sit in front of the keyboard rather than meet with the customer.
Has the science of selling replaced the art of selling??
The answer is definitely no. But things are changing – the customer’s buying behaviour is in fact changing. Which means sales people have to adapt.
Today, companies can no longer ignore sales methodologies, sales best practices and sales automation tools. Look for talent, always, but do not neglect to train them, prepare them, and equip them. Celebrate the art, but do not accept resistance to a strong sales foundation on its behalf. Predictability and assertiveness are also very important qualities for those who want to get results. And the good news is that they can be acquired and developed with methods, training and automation help.
In these last months of the year when you start planning for the next cycle, do not forget to consider this matter in your investment guidelines.