Regardless of the shape of the economy, organizations – regardless of size, location or function – need salespeople.
Companies usually pare their staffs during slow and recessionary periods to cut operating costs, but hire salespeople because they fatten the bottom line.
Sales professionals are the essential cogs in virtually every organization’s operational machinery. Products and services don’t sell themselves.
Regardless of industry, the long-term employment outlook for salespeople, according the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, ranges between 16 percent (wholesale and manufacturing sales reps) and 22 percent (insurance sales agents).
Yet organizations, large and small, struggle to find qualified salespeople.
For the past eight years, global staffing company ManpowerGroup has listed salespeople on their annual Talent Shortage survey among the most difficult positions to fill. In 2013, it was second (skill trades was first); in 2012, it was number 4; in 2011 and 2010, it was second; in 2009 and 2008, it was number 5; and in 2007 and 2006, it was ranked number one.
Historically, sales attracted people from mixed backgrounds. It attracted liberal arts grads, as well as engineers and technical people because it was one of the higher paying professions.
Today, corporate decision makers are pulling their hair out trying to find competent salespeople. The culprit, ironically, is technological innovation, the single factor responsible for changing the way we work, and that impact every facet of our lives, according to Dave Mattson, CEO of Sandler Training in Owings Mills, MD.
Thanks to technical innovations, such as social media, sophisticated technology, which made texting easy and available to anyone with a cell phone, the millennial generation lost their ability to communicate, said Mattson. Companies find that the new applicant pool for sales positions – especially the millenials – lack communication skills.
“Organizations find that they have to teach basic communication skills which they never had to do in the past,” said Mattson. “The lack of basic communication skills is a major obstacle in filling the pipeline with new salespeople. The one critical skill that salespeople must do well is communicate. The single greatest asset for succeeding as a salesperson is the ability to communicate effectively.
The result is many qualified young people stay clear of sales because they lack confidence in their ability to communicate. No matter how capable and smart potential candidates are, products or services can’t be sold by texting. The majority of sales are made in person, over the phone, and increasingly by video conferencing. But that’s not the whole story. In my next blog, find out why sales’ tarnished image, myths and stereotypes have turned students and career changers away from pursuing sales careers.