How can we explain the shortage of sales profiles that has been growing over the last ten years? How has sales practice evolved over the last decade? What is the major difference between the DirCo of the early 2010s and the DirCo of today?
Sacha Kalusevic, Senior Director at Michael Page Technology, gives us some answers in this interview!
Before getting to the heart of the matter, can you tell us about your professional career in a few words?
My career path is made up of coincidences and encounters. At the beginning, I was predestined for a career in market finance. The financial crisis of 2001 led me to start my career in financial auditing (PwC) before joining Michael Page, in Strasbourg, by chance, to become an expert in sales recruitment. Michael Page is an agile, dynamic and ambitious company in which I have flourished for 19 years now.
Our expertise in recruitment, especially in the commercial field, means that we are able to deal with the major problems of companies on a daily basis. We bring our skills, our tools and our vision to help them recruit the best sales profiles in a context of shortage.
Michael Page estimates that there is a shortage of over 200,000 sales profiles in France. What are the reasons for this shortage, in your opinion?
There has always been a relatively high turnover in the sales function. It is true that today there are far more vacancies than potential candidates in the sales function. About ten years ago, sales jobs were already less valued by young business school graduates. Those who were interested in the sales function wanted to go directly to the managerial position without necessarily going through the field. I think that the image of the sales function has improved relatively over the last few years, but there is another parameter that comes into play.
As the 5-year degree has become commonplace, students are more inclined towards communication, marketing, management, etc. This is why the constant growth in the number of graduates does not necessarily benefit the sales function. Companies are vying with each other to enhance the value of the sales profession with new ways of doing things, efforts on the work environment and possibly on remuneration. However, there is still a certain latency between the expectations of companies and the profiles of candidates, which exacerbates the shortage even more.
What do you think is the major difference between the Sales Director of the early 2010s and the DirCo of today?
I think that the notion of leadership has moved to a new paradigm in the last decade. The sales managers of the early 2010's shone above all by their (strong) character, their talent in leading and motivating teams and their management style which could be quite directive, with sometimes a management by emotion.
Today, I think that DirCo's adopt a soft power leadership, with a role of conductor, in a collaborative mode. More anecdotally, I think that today it will be more difficult to visually distinguish the DirCo on a photo from the sales team.
Let's zoom out from the DirCo for a moment. What do you think are the three key factors that have changed the practice of Sales in the last decade?
I think that the emergence of a better informed and more demanding customer profile has profoundly changed the way salespeople do business in recent years. Today's customers give less chance to salespeople who do not master their subject. Prospects want to be reassured about the technical skills of sales people (expertise), but also about their reactivity, their ability to take ownership of their needs and to answer them in a relevant way.
I also think that customers expect salespeople to be versatile, because they don't hesitate to ask them for help on subjects that don't necessarily fall within their scope. The salesperson must be able to step outside his or her own area of expertise to provide that little extra that makes the difference, by recommending a solution that complements the company's offer, for example.
How do you see the profile of the Sales Director and the Sales function evolving in the next 10 years?
I think that the collaborative model will eventually become the norm in all sales teams, under the responsibility of the Director of Sales, who will have to mobilize his or her soft-skills to establish this collaborative spirit and personalize his or her managerial approach to the maximum. We will accelerate the transformation of the sales process, which will be more hybrid, more "phygital". The "physical" customer meeting will take on a whole new meaning. I also believe that the sales work environment will be more "liberated", with greater physical and geographical flexibility and a managerial approach refocused on performance and results rather than quantity and volume of work.