What has changed in sales in the past 10 years

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BY SONYA MELOFF | September 14, 2017

This month, our company Sales Talent Agency will be celebrating a very exciting 10 year milestone as a business and,  in honour of the occasion, I spouted my mouth off in a meeting (as I'm so apt to do) that it would be fun to put out a content piece reflecting  what has changed in the world of sales over the past 10 years.  Working with hundreds of companies every year to help them hire their best salespeople, we've had front row access to seeing what has changed in the profession and discipline of sales and, though some changes seem remarkable, it feels like things are at a pivot point and only now starting to change at warp speed.  We can only imagine where the next 10 years will lead us.

Here’s a breakdown of 7 fun changes we’ve seen in the past decade of sales, as seen through the eyes of Sales Talent Agency!

Sense of Community!

Grassroots organizations supporting sales people are popping up everywhere, creating a community for sales people to connect with each other to share and learn best practices.  Networks like the Enterprise Sales Forum (now in 80+ cities),  SalesTO based in Toronto, and conferences like SalesMachine are doing a brilliant job of elevating the profession and creating an eco-system where sales professionals can come together to network, learn and share best practices with each other.  

Prestige and the Rise of the CSO

It was around 2009 that we started hearing the title Chief Sales Officer popping up more and more.  As sales organizations grow, so do the opportunities and layers of management needed to support these teams.  Sales went from being the accidental profession, to recognized as one of the highest paid job and most valuable roles with an organization, and now the fastest path to CEO. 

One of my favourite stories of an original door-to-door salesman is the story of Bill Porter, a top-performing sales rep who worked for Watkins Incorporated selling soaps and mops door-to-door for over 40 years. He suffered from cerebral palsy and the movie Door to Door featuring William H. Macy does a brilliant job of showing that with hard work, discipline, positive nature, and some good smarts, anyone can be successful in sales. Today, thanks to greater education around sales as a profession, people are graduating university and college and choosing to go in to sales.

Some of the notable CEO's that made their rise through sales include: Marc Benioff from Salesforce, Mark Cuban of Shark Tank and Larry Ellison from Oracle.

Technology has invaded

Back in the day, sales people could get away with keeping their leads in excel, but when customer relationship management (CRM)  software came on the scene, thanks mostly to category creator Salesforce.com, it helped to provide a systematic approach to pipeline management and provided salespeople a proper tool to ensure their activities were being done.  This helped hold sales people accountable and provided sales managers with insight they so desperately needed to do their job effectively as well.

Today, the SalesStack as it’s come to be known, includes tools well beyond CRM– everything from datascraping tools, to tools that can unleash the contact details of any prospect a salesperson is trying to reach, to auto-dialers and software that records the tone of sales calls providing predictive data on how the calls went, to sales automation platforms that literally set every next step for a sales person in the sales process.  Finding leads has gone from scraping newsletters and press releases to specially curated lists via tools such as Sales Navigator from LinkedIn to Pitchbook.  SocialSelling is a term that has entered the vernacular as sales people look to leverage social media tools to also drive leads and foster connections.

The Rise of Inside Sales

Ten years ago, 75% of the sales jobs that companies were hiring for were outside sales roles, meaning that the sales reps were on the road, dressed in fine suits and expected to be meeting with clients and prospects for face-to-face meetings. They were equipped with car allowances, flight reward packages, and much time was spent shmoozing at lunch or on the golf course.  

Today, one could well write a book called The Vanishing Outside Sales Rep, as more companies invest in building inside sales teams that are equipped with top of the line video-conferencing and communications tools. At the most recent annual conference of the American Association of Inside Sales, the worldwide sales leader of Microsoft gave a keynote that laid out their plan for building a myriad of inside sales teams around the globe, effectively eliminating their channel business. Today, it would be safe to say that 75% of all sales are done from an inside sales perspective, with sales people rarely having to leave the office.

Cold Calling Didn't Die

Around 2010, marketing automation started to dance a little closer with sales, and it was around this time that chatter started popping up everywhere that cold-calling was dead. The thought of never having to make a cold call is still music to many people’s ears, but the reality is that just isn’t the case.  We always found it most ironic when the marketing automation companies themselves would call us to help them hire cold-calling sales reps, and eventually things settled down and everyone acknowledgement that cold-calling was an every day essential.  Today, the expectation is for it to be strategic and precise, and sales reps have no excuse not to be well informed on the prospects they are calling. Can I Google that for you?

Books we are reading

If you've ever been to a sales conference, you know that sales people love their books!  I can’t think of another profession that has so many books on how to be good at your job and as business evolves, so do salespeople. In 2007, everyone was reading Good to Great, which was quickly followed and eclipsed by The Challenger Sale which remains an extremely popular book and methodology used by sales leaders today.

The Next Generation

Possibly one of the most exciting changes that we’ve seen in the sales profession over the last 10 years is the excitement and enthusiasm for sales among new graduates, and the opportunities that are being created and fostered for entry-level sales jobs everywhere.  We are seeing more interest by Academia towards the sales profession and courses are popping up across Universities and Colleges that focus on educating students about sales as a career.

As founders of The Great Canadian Sales Competition, we’d like to think that we played a small part in sparking the conversation around how awesome new graduates can be in sales!

For the love of Sales!

10 Years of STA: The Sales Revolution

Sales Talent Agency opened its doors in 2007. Back then, sales was the accidental career. Today sales is one of the most sought-after jobs in every company. In the last 10 years almost everything has changed for a sales professional...

It has been an amazing decade for Canada's biggest sales recruitment company. More than 8,000 recruitment projects and 4,000 sales hires. Thanks to the smart sales leaders and rockstar sales people who helped us get here.

Globe and Mail feature: Educational institutions should help prepare students for careers in sales

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By Sonya Meloff | June 2, 2017

Canadian university and college students want to be entrepreneurs, marketers, teachers ... the list goes on.

One thing is becoming clearer than ever: If we want the youth unemployment rate in this country to decrease – it’s double the national unemployment rate of 6.2 per cent at 12.4 – we need to realistically prepare students for the job market by opening their eyes to a career that they may never have previously considered.

Throughout my 10 years as a sales recruiter, CEOs and business leaders have expressed how eager they are to hire talented, passionate college or university graduates to sales roles. This desire lines up directly with a study from the Conference Board of Canada, which consistently lists sales as one of the top-five highest-in-demand specializations.

So why are we not preparing Canadian students for the jobs that are out there?

Positions in sales at flourishing companies, particularly at up-and-coming technology companies, are not getting filled for two main reasons:

  • Not many students dream of being in sales when they grow up, because of misconceptions about the industry (used-car sales, commission-only, door-to-door, etc.).
  • Select new grads applying to these roles are not qualified. There is a big gap between what students are learning in the classroom versus the needs of employers.

Sales people are capable of climbing the corporate ladder. My business partner Jamie Scarborough and I have found that about 20 per cent of the CEOs we encounter have come from sales positions.

All of these discoveries inspired us to take on a big project in 2014: the Great Canadian Sales Competition (GCSC), an initiative aimed at shedding light on the opportunities in B2B sales with the help of faculty members at universities and colleges across the country. We wrapped up the third and largest year GCSC in March, as more than 2,100 students learned about a field that likely never crossed their mind. Of the contestants surveyed, only 11 per cent of them initially wanted to pursue a sales career. After participation in the GCSC, 98 per cent would considering it.

Over the past three years, our program has grown from just 215 submissions to 2,187. Educators are starting to realize that sales is a career that is not being highlighted to students; in turn, they are not being properly prepared for modern job opportunities.

Bruce Anthony is the program head of the Professional Sales program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), a postsecondary institution offering a Professional Sales Diploma. He says the program originally had 18 students enrolled in 1980, and today graduates an average of 50 students each year, with three companies hiring per one student enrolled. Moreover, they teach selling skills in other programs, including Engineering.

Since 2014, we have built awareness on campuses and spoken with college administrators across Canada. But these efforts would be much more successful if they were mirrored by program directors who can prioritize the creation of programs that focus on sales education.

Another advocate is Linda Traill, a professor and co-ordinator of the B2B Corporate Account Management Graduate Certificate at Centennial College in Toronto. She’s also the brains behind the Marketing: Corporate Account Management program advisory committee (PAC) at the School of Business. She’s aiming to raise the profile of the sales profession through a graduate certificate program and by exposing students to opportunities in the field.

Derek Spence, professor at the School of Business and Management at Niagara College (Ontario), is researching what employers are looking for in future employees and how schools can better prepare students for their future. He says that once students go through the program, about 60 to 70 per cent of graduates land sales roles. Their opinions about the career shift positively from when they first start because they understand the opportunities. Our goal is to ensure that students across the country are landing jobs right after graduation – jobs they are passionate about, in organizations they can excel in.

Every post-secondary institution, particularly with business courses, should implement some type of B2B sales course or project element to their programs to pull the curtain back on this often misunderstood field.


Read the original article here.

Latest Student Newsletter

 GCSC 2015 Judges (from left to right): Duncan Bureau (VP Global Sales, Air Canada), Chris Adamkowski (Head of Industry, Google), Jamie Scarborough (Co-Founder, Sales Talent Agency), Erin Elofson (Director of Auto and Financial Services, Facebook) and Michael Back (CEO, HonkMobile)

GCSC 2015 Judges (from left to right): Duncan Bureau (VP Global Sales, Air Canada), Chris Adamkowski (Head of Industry, Google), Jamie Scarborough (Co-Founder, Sales Talent Agency), Erin Elofson (Director of Auto and Financial Services, Facebook) and Michael Back (CEO, HonkMobile)

Only 11 more days until Round 1 of The Great Canadian Sales Competition comes to a close. Remember that 50% of your scoring depends on the community vote, so it is in your best interest to submit your entry as soon as possible.

Don't forget about the amazing opportunity with Google! As a lead sponsor of The Great Canadian Sales Competition, Google is going to host 3 contestants for breakfast and a tour of their Toronto office (dates to be determined). You will be shown around their impressive facilities by an Account Executive and will be able to ask questions about the life of a sales person at Google.  To qualify for this lunch and tour, Google is asking you to submit your 30-90 second video pitch by Friday, January 23rd at 4:00pm EST. At that time, a team of Google executives will choose 3 strong submissions.

Know your competition! Check out the top 3 most 'liked' videos:

Video one

Video two

Video three

Submit your 30-90 second pitch today at: GreatCanadianSalesCompetition.com

Judges and Sponsors

Google, Facebook, Dell, Hootsuite, Texcan, Honk Mobile, G&K Services, Rheem, IBM, Purolator, Xerox, Compugen, Pattison, Bunzl, Canadian Professional Sales Association and Sales Talent Agency Highlights: $10,000 in prizes and the chance to land your dream job Referral program: refer the winner and receive $1,000 Already submitted a pitch and think you can do better? We will take your best submission, so go ahead!

Sponsor Highlight: Compugen

Number of Employees: 1,200+ Industry: Technology Website: http://www.compugen.com/en/ Highlights: Raised $600,000 for charity through the Green4Good program

Ask Josh! Josh graduated from York University in 2010.  Josh started his career at Compugen shortly after he graduated.  Josh is currently a Corporate Account Manager for Compugen’s Large Enterprise Customers. Below is his story:

After graduating from University and having worked several successful years as a DJ with a local Entertainment Company, I decided it was time to start getting serious in regards to my career. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to pursue, but I knew I had a real knack for consulting with family, friends, and previous employers, helping them with their technology decisions.  I decided to try sales out as a career; I began looking for junior sales positions at IT Companies. I was referred to Compugen from a current employee and was given the opportunity to interview for an Inside Sales position.  Through the interview process, the collaborative, family oriented atmosphere, and the clearly defined career paths Compugen presented to me, I was quite impressed.   I was fortunate enough to be offered a starting role as an Inside Sales Support.

As an Inside Sales Support I worked closely with the Inside Sales Representatives to ensure overall customer satisfaction with quoting accuracy, order placement, order fulfillment and escalations.  Although below where I had hoped to begin my sales career, this role proved invaluable to building a very solid foundation for my future.  I was able to develop my sales and communication skills and learn the different components and internal processes of the business.

After five months, through my hard work and determination, I was promoted to Inside Sales Representative.  In this role, I had the opportunity for much more customer interaction and the ability to learn about and sell a much broader range of products and services.  I found to really enjoy consulting with customers on their purchasing decisions and the rush and gratification of closing the deal.

In the three years since, I have received further promotions and I am currently entering my second year in outbound sales as a Corporate Account Manager.  Working at Compugen has been an amazing experience and I have been given several career growth opportunities over the past four plus years.  The culture of Compugen is to reward employees for their hard work and success and to foster personal career growth.  As a salesperson you truly do get to determine your own destiny and the sky is the limit.  Being in sales is the closest you can get to being an entrepreneur, without the risks of actually doing so.  You have the benefit of working your own hours and the financial rewards are boundless as long as you can achieve your goals.  I am grateful for the opportunity Compugen has provided me and very thankful I chose to start and continue my career at Compugen.

Sponsor Highlight: Bunzl

Number of Employees: 4,000+ Industry: Distribution Website: http://www.bunzl.com/ Highlights: Bunzl has worldwide sales in excess of $8.5 billion Ask Raj! Raj graduated from Sheridan College and Ryerson University. Below is his story:

I went to Sheridan College and Ryerson University for finance, and even though I enjoyed the program and was challenged by what I learned, I knew that finance was not my ultimate career path.  I chose to work in sales because it offers unlimited opportunities for growth, and there are no limits.  You can sell as much as you want and be promoted and compensated accordingly.  Sales can offer you a great career, given that you are with the right company.

I began in the insurance industry, and although I enjoyed my successes there, I decided to make a career move to a company that is global, profitable, has a good company culture and is a leader within its own industry.  Through networking and research I came across Bunzl and was really impressed because it met these criteria in more ways than one.  The company was exactly the kind of change I was looking for.  I began consistently emailing the President of Bunzl in order to establish a connection and relay my enthusiasm and desire to be a part of the team.   On the fifth try, my persistence paid off and I received a call to interview.  During the interview process I appreciated how they were selling Bunzl to me, just as much as I was selling myself to Bunzl.

I have been working at Bunzl now for the past 18 months as a sales rep and I have gotten the chance to learn from the best in the business. Even though Bunzl is such a large company, I get to communicate with and build relationships with all levels of management.  I’ve realized that this is a company that builds and molds young talent and has taken my skill set to the next level.

Throughout my short time at Bunzl I have received a Top Gun Award, and have been recognized as one of the top sales reps.  As a result of my sales performance I’ve received both rewards and recognition.

Looking back on my time so far at Bunzl, I’m amazed at how much I have learned and at the relationships I have developed with my colleagues and my clients.  I look forward to continued growth within the company and am thankful for the opportunities I have been given.


For questions, comments or concerns please contact Sheila Cassidy at sheila.cassidy@salestalentagency.com