Impacted by the unbridled digitalization of the business, by the shortage of talents and by societal evolutions, the practice of Sales has come out of its historical conservatism in the last 10 years. To discuss this, I had the pleasure of speaking with Romain Zacaï, Director of the "Sales", "Digital, Marketing & Communication" and "Retail" divisions at Page Personnel.
Could you come back in a few words on your professional career?
Of course. I did a Bac S, a preparatory class and then a Master's degree in a Grande Ecole of Business. At the same time, I did a series of internships in sales, notably at Lenovo and Coca Cola. I am therefore a pure Sales product!
My very first sales experience was with Page Group, which I joined in 2010 as a Consultant - Business Developer in the Page Personnel subsidiary. I then held the positions of Executive Manager and Practice Manager before being appointed Director of the "Commercial", "Digital Marketing & Communication" and "Distribution & Commerce" divisions.
It is estimated that there is a shortage of 200,000 salespeople in France today. How do you explain this shortage, which is becoming structural?
Indeed, there is a shortage of between 100,000 and 200,000 sales profiles in France today. There was already a shortage before Covid-19, but the pandemic has reshuffled the deck. Companies had to catch up after the pandemic, which only accentuated their need for sales resources.
The exponential increase in job offers in Sales is inevitably accompanied by an increase in the requirements of candidates. This shortage can also be explained by a decrease in the attractiveness of sales jobs to young people in favor of marketing, the world of finance, consulting firms, etc. Business schools do not necessarily train hardcore salespeople. Perhaps we need to market the sales professions so that they can attract people again.
On the other hand, it is important to remember that project leaders who embark on the entrepreneurial adventure must start selling to get their startup off the ground. Sales also allows for great career development. Today, we see more and more sales profiles reaching positions in the General Management of large groups, which was not necessarily the case before.
Beyond compensation, what can companies do to attract and retain sales talent?
Of course, compensation remains a key element in attracting and retaining employees, but it is not the only one. We realize that well-being in the workplace has become very important, especially after the pandemic.
Also, the sudden emergence of distance selling has accentuated this expectation of flexibility in the workplace among sales people.
Today, it is hard to imagine a salesperson doing distance selling being approached by a company that does not offer this option. We also talk about training and support, especially when the profiles do not necessarily have a purely commercial background. There is also the leverage of BSPCE (instruments allowing the employee to subscribe later to company shares at a pre-agreed price, editor's note).
In your opinion, what are the three major factors that have changed the practice of sales over the past 10 years?
The digitization of sales has allowed salespeople to meet up to five prospects or customers in a day. When you're a field salesperson in Paris, the average is one meeting in the morning, then another in the afternoon. Remote selling has therefore benefited the productivity of salespeople.
Secondly, customers are increasingly well informed and aware. The availability of content allows them to master their subject. As a result, salespeople no longer sell alone. They have to collaborate with other profiles specialized in sales bricks. The hyper-informed customer expects the salesperson to provide experience, emotion and a bond of trust.
The last decade has also seen a rapprochement between marketing and sales teams. We have seen a gradual breaking down of silos in favor of alignment. We see less and less sales people who only do cold calling. Marketing feeds leads to the salesperson to enable him or her to do what they do best: the relationship, the exchange, the listening, the search for solutions to meet a need, etc. Moreover, the Sales Director is gradually becoming the Sales and Marketing Director.
How do you see the evolution of the Sales Manager in the last decade?
Based on my own experience, I would say that the Sales Manager of the 2010s was more focused on day-to-day KPIs with day-to-day business management. I also think he had a more uncompromising management style.
Today, the Sales Director has to put a lot more emotion into managing the teams. He has to inspire confidence, make sure he gives meaning to the work of the sales people and choose his words to get his message across. As profiles are increasingly difficult to find, it is important to maintain a loyalty mindset. We know who we have today, but we don't know who we can get tomorrow. I would also say that the Sales Director's approach is now much more personalized according to the profiles that make up his team.
What about the Sales teams? How have they evolved over the last ten years?
I think that sales teams have had to adapt to the specialization of the sales bricks. Companies are no longer satisfied with a single profile to acquire customers. You have the SDR, Inside Sales, Business Developer, Account Executive, Account Manager, CSM, etc. The sales act has therefore been compartmentalized throughout the last decade to better align with the new requirements of buyers.
What are the skills that will qualify the best sales people in the next 10 years?
Data is a key point in this global evolution of the sales profession. We are now in a position to arrive at a rather impressive level of detail, which allows salespeople to better adapt their approach. However, I think that emotion will remain the key factor to do business. You can use all the technology you want, but it's always the emotional intelligence in front of the customer that will make the difference. You need knowledge, know-how and interpersonal skills to succeed.
I also think that Social Selling will definitely become part of the salesperson's toolbox in the coming years. We should also see the emergence of more advanced remote sales tools than Zoom and Teams for example. Sales people are expected to be involved in this as well. Finally, I would say that salespeople will be doing much less administration to go further in the personalized support of their customers. The craze around Sales Enablement is a good example of this.