Check out a recap of The Great Acceleration: Digital Skills in 2021 panel discussion – the latest panel in BrainStation’s Digital Leadership Event Series.
To find out more about the sales industry and where it’s headed, BrainStation hosted a Future of Sales panel featuring experts from leading technology companies, including LinkedIn, Shopify, and Eighty-Eight. Our panelists talked about how the industry is changing, the unique challenges it’s facing, and what it takes to be successful in sales.
Sales Challenges in 2019
Technology poses new challenges for sales teams, as buyers are increasingly knowledgeable about products and services through online research and reviews – before ever speaking to a salesperson.
“With all the information out there, buyers are really educated,” said Eric Demille, Sales Leader at Shopify Plus. “As a salesperson, you really have to differentiate yourself and sell the value that your solution is going to provide.”
According to Fatima Zaidi, VP of Business Development at Eighty-Eight and Co-founder and CEO of Quill, differentiation is key in a market where buyers have no shortage of options available to them.
“How do you stand out from your competition and find your unique selling proposition? What are you doing differently from all the other competitors out there?” asks Zaidi. “To overcome these challenges, I don’t rely solely on outbound outreach. I rely on my personal brand, networking events, and building strong long-lasting relationships.”
Building Trust as a salesperson
Kalsang Tanzin, Regional Manager, Mid Market Sales Solutions at LinkedIn, emphasized that building trust is now crucial, as it is an unfortunate yet common perception that salespeople aren’t trustworthy. “77 percent of buyers said that they don’t think sales reps know anything about their business and aren’t in a position to help,” said Tanzin, quoting a Forrester article.
The way the sales profession is portrayed, whether it be on television or in the corporate world, doesn’t help when a salesperson is trying to build trust with their client.
“The biggest challenge is the way sales is perceived. It’s perceived as a slimy profession, which it’s not. The sales profession is a human interaction,” said Demille. “We always say, we need to work to earn [a client’s] business over and over.”
Zaidi put it best:
“The best way to be a salesperson is to not be a salesperson, and to build trust.”
What it Takes to be Successful in Sales
We know sales is important, and yet there is so little formal education or training that prepares aspiring sales professionals for the role. We asked our panelists what it takes to be a good salesperson, and what they look for in a candidate.
“A demonstrated ability to be curious and to learn is a must have,” said Tanzin. “What makes you successful? Your attitude, your aptitude, and your experience.”
“I’ve often found that the most unexpected people have surprised me with their ability to hustle and to be resourceful,” said Zaidi. “I usually go with my gut and hire for a personality type, but I like giving new salespeople a chance because you never know who’s going to surprise you.”
In sales, it’s not always about your existing skills, but rather your ability and willingness to work hard and to learn quickly.
“I like salespeople who can demonstrate getting better every day,” said Demille. “You can’t train someone to be curious or self-aware. It’s a strength to know what you’re not good at.”
How to Start a Sales Career
Our panelists provided insightful advice for both aspiring sales professionals, and anyone looking to get better at their profession. If you’re looking to pursue sales, this advice is for you:
“Don’t take rejection personally, and approach your sales quota analytically,” said Zaidi. “Be resilient and bounce back.”
Demille’s advice was simple. “Never stop learning. You need to work on it, you’re not going to be good at it the first time around.”
“The heart of sales is about understanding relationships, understanding who that person is and what matters to them,” said Tanzin. “Care about people.”