Two trillion dollars worth of transactions every day. Planet Earth is open for business. And it never stops. Businesses selling to consumers. Businesses selling to other businesses. The global economy is expanding rapidly, each year over fifty million businesses are created. It’s chaotic, hyper-competitive. From coffee to concrete, from jeans to jetliners, competitors are battling on a global scale. There are entrepreneurs somewhere in the world that think about serving your customers better. And they want to put you out of business. At stake? Jobs, wealth, and financial security.
What does this mean for sales? A great deal it would seem. Many sales forces have changed little since the 1960’s, but tectonic shifts are becoming evident in many developing economies, most notably the USA, where much of their manufacturing and service base has moved offshore. This leaves sales as a critical driver of the USA’s economic engine. But the very nature of sales is changing. A new breed of salesperson is required for dramatically changed markets.
Chally research clearly highlights the fact that sales effectiveness, which is based on the talent and skill of salespeople, as well as the resources and support provided by their companies, have risen to the top of the customers’ influence list, because the demand for 21st century sales professionals is far outstripping supply. Quite startling statistics are emerging from the USA. Noted author and sales researcher Neil Rackham says that there are 19 million B-2-B salespeople in the USA and that this number will drop to 10 million in the next 5 years and traditional 20th century salespeople will be replaced by fewer, but better educated, financially literate, better trained and more highly skilled salespeople. The question is “Where will these salespeople come from?”
Selling Power magazine reports that a recent survey covering 4.2 million college/university students, asked whether or not they planned to go into sales. Only 5% answered yes. Interestingly, 62% of graduates, irrespective of their discipline, entered sales. The Sales Education Foundation reports that over 50% of graduates, who enter sales fail, at an enormous cost (around $100 000 each) to their employers. At present, Chally research indicates that the demand for salespeople runs at 2.4 million per annum. With the retirement of most of the baby boomers and high levels of attrition, a disastrously large deficit is developing and academic institutions are not doing much to fill the gap.
In South Africa, not a single university offers a degree in sales. In America only three dozen of the 4000 odd colleges offer degrees with a major in sales. This number is expected to double in the next 2 years and double again in 4 years. The evidence is good that: sales graduates have a much shorter ramp up time, far lower levels of attrition and almost all students are recruited before they graduate. When will our academics take heed of this looming crisis and respond to the needs of the market place? The same may be said about the captains of industry, who should be ringing alarm bells about this pending disaster.
by Peter Gilbert
Peter Gilbert is Managing Director of HR Chally SA – an international sales consulting company specialising in Talent Management and Recruitment. Visit www.chally.com or contact Peter at email@example.com