On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the BtoB Summit, I had the pleasure to talk with Annie-Paule Abihssira, CEO Development and Franchising at Booster Academy, "the first intensive sales training center" and consulting firm in sales efficiency, management and customer experience.
On the agenda of this interview: the evolution of sales practice over the last decade, the transformation of the position of Sales Director, the reasons for the shortage of sales profiles in France and the place of technology in the sales function.
Before we start, can you tell us a little about your professional background?
After a scientific education and a degree in international business, entrepreneurship attracted me. At 23 years old, with my diploma in hand, I was witnessing a major upheaval in sales methods with mass consumption and the emergence of brands. I developed a central purchasing office for multi-brand fashion products for professionals and a network of two brands, Pym's and Pluriel, which I sold in 2004 with excellent reintegration conditions for the employees.
After this first entrepreneurial experience, I created MPA Conseil, a consulting firm in brand development and strategy. I mobilized my entrepreneurial experience and my desire to help employees grow at the service of Booster Academy.
In light of the SalesTech craze, would you say that the sales function is heading towards a "scientification" phenomenon?
Companies that take a scientific approach to sales grow 2.3x faster than others. The reason? New tools, methods and processes, Data is everywhere, but the Human has not said its last word. Yes, you need tools, data and information transfer, but it's always the human being who makes the final decision. Selling is above all a process that aims to provoke a purchase. The customer is the master of his decision, which means that the work must be done very early on. Technology is there to support the sales person, not to replace him. The difference lies in the salesperson's ability to appropriate the tools, content and sales material, to deliver a message in his or her own words, to be both authentic and congruent with the prospect.
The action of the employees goes beyond the simple identification of the need. It extends to understanding the prospect's environment, strategy and market. The salesperson will be able to rely on these variables to identify the unexpressed need, personalize his or her sales pitch and propose an offer in line with the expectations of the prospect in front of him or her. Sales is about technology, but it is also and above all about heightened curiosity.
According to Michael Page, there is a shortage of about 200,000 sales profiles in France. What are the reasons for this structural shortage, in your opinion?
Several parameters can be advanced to explain this shortage. First of all, a demographic variable with the evolution of the age curve. I would also like to mention the business school programs that do not necessarily train in sales per se.
The development of Business Developer programs must be accelerated. Contrary to what one might think, companies are not looking to recruit the five-legged sheep. They are looking for curious profiles, with good listening skills and a certain creativity, capable of being part of the company's strategy and of appropriating the tools of SalesTech.
What do you think are the decisive factors that have changed the practice of Sales in the last ten years?
The hegemony of customer satisfaction has changed the practice of sales over the last decade, whether in B2B or B2C. Then, I will talk about the well-being of employees, which is becoming a decisive criterion. It is now necessary to give managers the keys to accompany their employees in an individualized way, with a certain proximity and an ability to mobilize their soft-skills to detect possible frictions and act accordingly.
The mastered Customer Centric approach has changed the practice of Sales, with the generalization of the NPS and its three stakes: the evolution of customer satisfaction, the recommendation rate and loyalty.
Let's focus on the Sales Manager. How do you see this position evolving in the last decade?
This is not an evolution, but a complete revolution! The Sales Manager of 10 years ago was expected to have hard skills and reporting. Isolated in his office, he juggled with figures. Those days are over! Every revolution creates opportunities.
New era. New players. The modern sales revolution is creating radical differences between those who master the new technologies and those who don't. The Sales Director must be the regulator of the company's human capital, to help his employees progress, both to meet their expectations and to catalyze the company's overall performance and bring ROI.
It will be a matter of leaving behind the posture of a "knower" and adopting the posture of a manager-coach, with of course performance as the ultimate goal. This will be his challenge!
Sales is the school of meritocracy: efforts and desire to have an impact will finally be rewarded. The acquisition of these new skills will change your professional life.