Smart ways to close the skill gaps for a rewarding career in IT sales

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When most students come out of colleges, they don’t know what their skills are, whether they fit into the sales role, or what industry they need to choose. Doing sales in each industry is different. The way you do it in FMCG company is different from the way you do it in automobile or IT company. In this Skill Talk, Enoch Pakanati, founder and CEO, The Smarketers, discusses some of the smart ways of closing the skill gaps in selling and launching yourself as a rockstar salesperson in the IT industry.

Getting into a sales role in IT company

When it comes to sales we have two different categories, one is inside sales, which is lead generation, we have Business Development which is a combination of lead generation and actual sales activities, in addition to pre-sales. If you are already driving lead generation, qualifying the leads according to the sales cycle, and working with pre-sales and technology teams to come up with a good proposal. With the sales role you can negotiate with the client and close the sale. Then manage the relationship with the client. You start facing new challenges.

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Marketing and sales alignment

However, I see a great need for aligning marketing with sales. Start with identifying what is the industry, who is your customer, who is your end user, creating content based on buyer personas, trying to drive inbound traffic and leads. Most of the companies- startups and mid-sized – are not able to grow because focus has always been on sales by using traditional methods like calling prospects on phone, cold calling and getting appointment, this process has changed.

Today, customers are more informed, they can research on the Web. So, by focusing on traditional sales methods alone, companies won’t be able to reach out to the right prospect and convey their value. At the same time, they have to be focused on marketing. This is where marketing and sales alignment comes into the picture. In most cases, the two teams don’t work hand-in-hand with common business goals. They have parellel agendas. If something goes wrong, they blame each other. Most important – they should be very well aligned. They have to work together to achieve their goals for the year and define the SLAs.

Sales skills can only be groomed and refined, that cannot be taught from scratch. If you are self-driven professional, a go-getter with high levels of self-motivation, just go for it!

The real sales person

Technology companies push their internal technology teams into pre-sales, and sales roles. But, that’s not a skill that they possess. A pure sales person is usually a hunter. Which means they have to go out in the market, they have to scout and see where opportunities lie, where the prospects are; sales persons never wait for opportunities to come their way.

Communication and relationship building

It’s a well known fact that selling needs good communication as a prerequisite. Sales guys should be able to convince the prospective customers, create a rapport, build long term relationships. Each one of us may be a born sales person, but will it work in a professional set up? Not everyone can be groomed to be a good sales person. Here, you have to understand the process involved. Although the process can be taught, the qualities of an actual sales person cannot, that has to come from within. The best sales people are always self motivated and self-driven. They are not told by someone what to do. They are top performers, they know who to go, they don’t really like someone telling them what to do. They make the right fit for sales than someone who needs constant feedback, pushing, and being made accountable.

 Recruiting and training sales persons

In the IT industry, sales persons are the highest earning people in the organization depending on the way in which they close projects.

To identify and groom them we do lot of training, help them learn the process involved in the sales cycle. The way we approach different customers. We train them in solutions, products. Help them understand about technology. This usually takes six months, because most of them don’t even understand what software is all about. We give them small tasks to work on, working closely with them, helping them step up and take more responsibilities.

So if you are not from a B school and want to start small and grow into sales, they should start with lead generation or BD role and then make sure that you are performing at your best. You can take up much larger roles

Skill gaps and training interventions

The colleges should identify their interest and start training them according to the industry. This is the biggest skill gap we see because these students do internships in different places before they come into jobs. That internship will be completely irrelevant to the job they want to take up. So we have to teach them everything from scratch. Unless they understand the basic process they won’t really understand what it needs to succeed in that industry. So we spend a lot of time trying to understand what they are lacking, do they understand technology, industry,

Sometime the training needs to be further customized for the same set of employees. That’s big challenge and that’s a reason why many companies don’t hire sales people, who have worked in different industries. They look for someone in that specific industry.

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