By the time a sales person calls a technical expert into a meeting to discuss implementation, they may have spent 6 to 16 months in qualifying the customer and getting past innumerable hurdles, from unhelpful gatekeepers to competitors trying to swoop in and steal your thunder before the contract gets signed. (Note: This article continues from What Makes a Great Sales Person? Part 1)
From the technical expert’s standpoint, it may seem as though customers just regularly show up, without any effort required to draw them in. It may seem as though the customer just arrived with a very good knowledge of the product – without the help of the sales person who answered dozens or hundreds of questions before. The job seems easy because the technical expert only sees the end of the process, where the final pieces can come together very quickly. They don’t see the effort that goes into it.
What makes a great sales person? You have to earn it
Since technical experts don’t often understand the work that goes into the sales process, they also have a skewed understanding of the reward. They think the sales person earned their commission after weeks or even just days of putting a deal together. It seems like easy money. But when a technical expert tries to instantly transform into a sales person, they soon realize the safety and security that they had in doing a technical job. They see how much that guaranteed salary means to them.
Meanwhile, the sales person who earns the commission truly has to earn it, often through long sales cycles and typically only by carefully cultivating existing clients. Most (good) remuneration packages for sales are structured to keep the salesperson hungry – so that they EARN the commission. That’s what I know from many years as a sales consultant.
It’s not impossible for a technical lead to trade in their steady paycheck for the relatively risky world of sales; but they need to go in aware that it takes more than a great skill set – to truly succeed in sales, you need more than familiarity with the product: you have to be a sales person.
Can the Newly-Minted Sales Representative Handle a Target?
Most of the time, as soon as you put a target. You create a quantifiable, transparent and unambiguous number as a KPA. That’s when the technical support turned sales person crumbles. The same resilience required to handle rejection after rejection in sales is also required when the whole company knows you are only on 20 percent of your target with 4 months to go. A lot of the time, this is the element that sets sales and the rest apart.
Many don’t appreciate what makes a great sales person. The next time your product manager says they want to sell, ask them how they feel about achieving the target. Their answer might just tell you all you need to know.
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