There are few careers that are as central to the pace of change in business as sales – and the sector is entering a time of great opportunity and high risk. As Michael Page´s Katrien De Decker  explains.

“In sales one thing is for sure – people who embrace the opportunities available from the new digital environment, from leaders to key talent, a truly action-packed journey awaits.”

In this article Michael Page presents six trends for sales teams over the next three years – the drivers and candidate ‘hacks’ that can help transform your potential into tomorrow’s must-have talent.  

Drivers of change in Sales

What should sales professionals look for in a role – and how can you embrace hot trends to stand out from the crowd? Whatever direction you take, sales remains a dynamic springboard to push your career to the next level.

  1. An appetite for risk
  2. Guide relationships, solve problems
  3. Tell great stories and be creative
  4. Be mobile and learning-focused
  5. Always be engaging
  6. Be a native to change  

An appetite for opportunity

With the recent dawn in Europe of many ‘unicorn’ businesses, Michael Page’s  says opportunity is there for sales professionals with an eye for a growth business model and a desire to grow their careers. “Some people find it really appealing to go and work for a start-up that's agile and growing fast,” she says. “At the same time, not so many people have this ‘risk appetite’.  

While their CVs are well-watched, some of these sales high-flyers still prefer the safety of a larger brand and planned progression to a ride on the career rollercoaster. “But some people really take on a risk at the right time, join a brand when it's emerging, and then see the full story through. Those ones stand out. Obviously, there's massive potential upside – so it’s a calculated risk.”

Guide relationships, and solve problems

Ronak Marolia’s research into salesforce effectiveness for Aon Hewitt indicates that in terms of skillsets, sales professionals need traditional character traits and an aptitude for embracing new tools. “The core skills remain the same – they need to be great salespeople who are able to convince clients. That part is not going away,” he says.

Michael Page’s Katrien De Decker  says that in her view there will be less sales roles for people who only try to sell to prospects and don’t create trusting relationships. “People who can build relationships, who understand client problems and how to solve them with the product they have to sell, they are the ‘hot-property’ of the near-future,” she explains.

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Be creative and listen

“When I work with younger or more inexperienced people,” explains Katrien De Decker  of Michael Page, “my advice to them is to become the best listener they can and have great time management. As sales roles mix business development and marketing, being able to listen is one of the keys to success,” she adds. “That will help you to adapt your product or service to needs and requirements of the client.”

As Bryan Goh, co-founder of travel app start-up Native explains, some products require an eye for risk-taking and freshness. “The people that really succeed in our roles are people that are more creative – the really good ones come up with very interesting ideas. Some, you assume might be less effective: but to us, it's about “go ahead and try”.

Be mobile and adaptive to rapidly changing environments

In an international company, a sales career offers rich opportunities for people seeking to broaden their geographical reach and adaptive to new environments . “It’s about mobility to go places. And making sure you become empathetic with your target group, where internal or external,” explains Heineken’s Anna Campagna.

In business, salespeople should be open with their time, she explains. “When people stop working and start socialising and having fun, it's important for us that you have real passion,” she says. “If you don't have that passion for your product and what it unlocks in people, then you're less suitable for the job, and it can be painful.”

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Always be engaging

Whereas salespeople were famously urged to “always be closing”, the new mantra for the sales professional bolsters this by emphasising customer connection: “The salesperson is now more consultative than they were in the past,” says Michael Page’s Katrien De Decker .

“The way the markets are evolving, you need to be someone who sells across multiple channels – and engagement takes precedence over closing the deal.” Highly developed listening skills and open-mindedness are critical to the new paradigm. “You need to be someone who has a lot of data points when you go to your customer.”

Adventourious interest  

According to Heineken’s Anna Campagna, the skillsets that are relevant for sales careers in the digital age are those that help display high energy and an impatience to push into the unexpected: “I think the people who have the best rate of success are people that at this moment in time show a high curiosity, passion, and learning agility in every dimension – people that are actually welcoming change, as opposed to only adapting to it. I think this is super important.”

“As a sales professional you need to have an active interest in the company you are selling your product or service to,” says Katrien De Decker.  “That is more important than any sales pitch.”