“You’re sending a 2019 seller into a 2021 firestorm and that’s a kill box for them…”

A quote from the ‘Sarah Connor’ of modern Sales, Maria Boulden, in the recent Gartner webinar ‘8-questions to prepare CSOs for post pandemic success’.

I’ll put the link below, if you are in Sales/BD or a Leadership role it’s a must listen

So, you feel you need to hire a Sales / BD professional. I see a lot of adds for people such as this on LinkedIn and elsewhere, this is a summary of what they are looking for…

  • High calibre individual
  • Responsible for driving sales and revenue
  • Managing key accounts
  • New business development
  • Market strategies and initiatives
  • Enhancing customer relationships
  • Growing market share
  • Pricing
  • Negotiation
  • Good working knowledge of the sector
  • Strong external relationships
  • Experience of selling in the vertical

The same uninspiring list of basic requirements from Sales job adverts for 20 years ago.

“Car wanted must have steering wheel and engine…”

The most significant evolution of buying and selling in the B2B space is right on our doorstep and, it has taken enormous leaps forward in the last 18 months across all sectors, yet it’s ignored by hirers and those advising them. 

Hirers and those advising them...missing the digital point!

If we are hiring Sales & BD people in the 2020’s we must be sure and hire people who have the digital skills to network, prospect, grow relationships and create commercial interaction online. If not, we are hiring yet more people who will plug in and fail to deliver, all whilst happily increasing your overhead.

But where do you start?

You start at the beginning...

We need to change the whole process and quickly rewrite it.

Do a full Commercial Risk Assessment of where your Sales and Marketing is right now. Not an hour in the conference room, take as long as it needs and make sure you have Quality, HR, Ops and finance involved.  

Bring a Social Selling & Influence expert into the mix (if you don’t you will go round and round with legacy sales and marketing trying to advise you on something they generally don’t understand).  

Get into the real nuts and bolts of this and be bold, this is important so treat it like an investigation. We must understand how to navigate to where our buyers and prospects are on digital and how they want to interact with us.

Out of this Risk Assessment will come a series of actions but, we are looking at hiring new Sales and BD people in this example.

Getting hiring right in 2021!

For the advert:

We are looking for someone who can demonstrate they have all the digital skills required to win work digitally, people that are going to elevate us, so let’s lead with that.

Candidates should be able to demonstrate that they have all the digital skills required to prospect, network and close commercial interactions in an online environment.

Next, training. 

We are looking for people who have gone the extra step and educated themselves in this art and science.

Candidates should be trained in Social Selling & Influence and Strategic Social Media in the B2B space.

Have they taken a course with Google, Hubspot or even any of the LinkedIn Learning courses on digital transformation…? Have they even read a book on Social Selling?!

Next, evidence. 

We need to check that they can do what they say they can.

Candidates should be able to show evidence of how they built digital verticals and closed business on Social Media.

These are a few of the sample question we’ve already developed for Sales and BD search. These are just the start...

Then we are off to interview.

Start with their Social network.

If the candidate has a small LinkedIn network, ask why.  This is a red flag.

If they have a reasonably sized LinkedIn network, ask them what percentage of that network is relevant to your industry and your business. If the answer is low, it’s a red flag but it might be able to be worked around.

We can ask about content. “your content for the last year has been focussed on ‘X’, outline how you will you convince your network that you are now into ‘Y’ and how will you gain credibility…?

What have they done to take advantage of the new digital landscape in Sales and BD?  Here you are looking for answers that support someone’s claim that they know they way around Social and realise things have changed. Such as,

  • “I run a podcast interviewing senior people from this industry”
  • “I’ve grown my social network by 2000 people in this sector in the past 6 months”
  • “I do a regular live stream with 2 other people focussing on elements of this industry with special guests many of whom would be prospects for this organisation”.
  • “I write a weekly blog on this industry topic which is posted across multiple channels and has quite a good following”

Yes, these are they kind of indicators we are looking for from ‘New Sales’.

We can ask how this person would create a digital/social capture plan to allow us to take prime position in a tender scenario.

We can ask how this person would create a digital territory access plan that would allow us to take out products and services into new countries without having to travel.

Again, these are just the start of where we should be focussed and what we should be doing to ensure we are brining the right people into the organisation. People that can help us operate well today and are prepared to evolve further to take us in to tomorrow.

Gartner say it like it is in this webinar. There is no messing about….

“When you set your expectation, people will self-select out of you organisation, you need to let them go, even though this is a really hard time to find talent, you are better off letting people go if they don’t have the skills they need to compete in this environment and won’t learn it”.

Willingness to adapt, be coached and be bold is required.Digital Dexterity and Learning Agility is what is needed.

We meet with Heads of Sales from across industry and the globe, we haven’t met one yet who isn’t staring at significant change in how their clients buy, the leadership team are looking at them and expecting answers…

One of the answers is creating an environment where to whole team has the digital skills they need to network, prospect and close business in a digital buyer’s world.

If you need any assistance with modern Sales & BD candidate selection, lets talk.

I’ll leave the closing line of this article to Maria Boulden of Gartner.

“You need to look in non-tradition places for filling open positions and assess them on the skills you need for today’s selling versus experience. Because there is nothing about the past that is teaching us how to sell today…”.

Live Social ‘21

Eric Doyle

Crux / DLA Ignite

8-questions to prepare csos for post pandemic success