STEM Talent May Have a Bright Future in Sales

STEM Talent May Have a Bright Future in Sales

“With more informed buyers to contend with and data as their most powerful sales weapon, sales teams are incorporating more STEM backgrounds within their ranks,” Jared Lindzon writes at Fast Company, in a piece exploring how data and technology skills are becoming as important as interpersonal skills for sales professionals, if not more so:

According to a 2017 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the seventh most popular career for STEM graduates in the United States and most popular noncomputer related role is in sales. … “We are seeing thousands of jobs across the United States in which sales teams are looking for people with STEM related skill sets,” says Glassdoor community expert Scott Dobroski. According to Dobroski the job listing and recruiting website has seen a huge spike in postings for positions that blend sales with STEM skills. …

The demand for STEM skills within sales teams is representative of a seismic shift in sales strategy. This transition has been enabled by technology and the availability of information, both on behalf of the buyer and seller. While the salesperson used to be the primary source of information for their products or services, buyers increasingly have access to specs, samples, and independent reviews. At the same time sellers are able to access information and insights about prospective buyers that would have previously been only accessible through personal interactions.

The nature of the sales role has indeed changed in today’s business environment, especially in B2B sales, where the typical buyer is now most of the way through their decision-making process before engaging with a supplier. This means salespeople need to be comfortable wielding more facts and figures, but also must be adept at managing relationships.

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Tech Companies Need More Than Just Tech Talent

Tech Companies Need More Than Just Tech Talent

New research from Glassdoor examines the job openings at major employers in the US tech sector to find out what roles these companies are hiring for. While tech companies have demonstrated an insatiable demand for digital-specific talent like software engineers, data scientists, and experts in AI and machine learning, they also require the same diverse set of skills and functions as other large, complex organizations. Accordingly, Glassdoor finds, 43 percent of open positions at tech companies are non-tech roles, accounting for almost 53,000 jobs. The ratio of tech to non-tech hiring varies widely, however, from one company to another:

Overall, Intel, Microsoft and Walmart eCommerce were hiring the highest percent of tech roles compared to non-tech roles, with 78 percent of their open roles being tech roles. Another tech company hiring predominantly tech workers was Amazon, with 72 percent of the roles on Glassdoor being categorized as tech roles. Despite having a large network of warehouse and logistics operations, tech giant Amazon is still mostly a tech employer.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, only 28 percent of Workday’s open roles were tech-related, with 72 percent being for more traditional non-tech jobs. The majority of job postings at IBM, Salesforce and Verizon were also for non-tech roles. Among Salesforce’s open roles, 41 percent were tech roles while 59 percent were non-tech roles. Similarly, Verizon had about 45 percent tech roles and IBM had 46 percent tech roles open out of their total openings.

The most common non-tech jobs advertised at these companies are account executives and project managers, along with a variety of sales, marketing, and management positions, but the tech sector is also hiring for a wide variety of other roles. Overall, Glassdoor found, most salaries for non-tech jobs range from $50,000-$90,000 per year, compared to $80,000-$120,000 for most tech roles.

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Auto Dealers Struggle to Attract, Retain More Women in Sales

Auto Dealers Struggle to Attract, Retain More Women in Sales

According to CDK Global, a provider of software and marketing solutions to the automotive retail industry, women make or influence most vehicle purchases in the US, but showroom employees at auto dealerships remain overwhelmingly male, and dealers are beginning to notice that the lack of women on their sales teams is hurting profits, Claire Ballentine and Jeff Green report at Bloomberg:

Women make up about 19 percent of U.S. dealership employees and most of those are support staff, according to the latest estimates from the National Automobile Dealers Association. The annual turnover rate for the few women who do sell cars is 88 percent, CDK says, meaning would-be buyers interested in negotiating with a female dealer may find themselves fresh out of luck. …

The lack of women on car dealers’ sales floors starts with lackluster hiring efforts. More than 60 percent of female dealership employees surveyed by CDK in May said their companies weren’t doing anything to help recruit more women. When women do get recruited, many say they find dealerships still aren’t a welcoming place. More than half who CDK surveyed have been in their current position for six or more years, suggesting upward mobility is an obstacle. And 57 percent reported experiencing gender bias, like having to endure boorish, sexist banter.

Dealers are taking a number of tacks when it comes to making these sales roles more attractive to women, such as introducing more flexible schedules and compensation strategies that lean more on salary as opposed to commission. As in other industries, auto saleswomen are more likely to succeed at dealerships with women managers, where they have access to mentorship and where management is more attentive to their concerns.

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Is It Time to Rethink B2B Sales Incentive Plans?

Is It Time to Rethink B2B Sales Incentive Plans?

The overwhelming majority of companies use individual, revenue-based incentive plans as part of their compensation package for front-line sales staff. For as long as there have been salespeople, commission served as the perfect motivational lever which kept them productive and happy—it could even make them quite rich if they got good enough at it. But now it’s time to re-evaluate this strategy given the recent changes in business-to-business buying behavior.

Strategic buyers are no longer dependent on salespeople for information on product and service offerings. In the information age, business leaders can consult review sites, online forums, social media, and professional networks to discover solutions for their needs. In fact, at CEB (now Gartner), our Sales and Marketing practice found that the typical B2B buyer is 57 percent of the way through their decision-making process before engaging with a supplier. The cold call isn’t dead, but it is no longer the most prudent way to introduce your product to potential customers.

As such, it has become harder to measure the value a salesperson has provided after a purchase is made. Previously, companies would arm their field teams with standard marketing materials and wait for the money to come in. Sales reps would cultivate leads, provide potential customers with all of the relevant information, and convert some of those opportunities into deals. The salesperson’s contribution was very clear: They were revenue generators. Today, now that customers wait until they know exactly what they want and how much they want to pay for it before reaching out to salespeople, B2B providers are getting their name out through some combination of PR, content marketing, social media, white papers, and the like. The best companies are doing it in a way that draws prospective customers into the funnel, recognizing the need for more institutional support in the sales and lead generation process.

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When It Comes to Incenting a Global Sales Force, Culture Matters

When It Comes to Incenting a Global Sales Force, Culture Matters

In a global business environment, cultural differences make a big difference in what successful management looks like in various parts of the world. These differences are particularly important when it comes to sales: What to sell, how to sell it, and to whom can depend to a great degree on the cultural habits and social mores of one’s target market. At Strategy+Business, Matt Palmquist goes over a new study he calls “one of the largest analyses of international sales to date,” which surveyed over 400 sales representatives in 38 different countries to investigate how their geographical and cultural context influenced the way they sold innovative products and what methods were most effective at motivating them:

The authors also analyzed four different societal factors in the surveyed countries that have been shown to influence how employees interact with supervisors and consumers. These cultural dimensions include power distance (the degree to which people in a given country accept that authority is unequally distributed in an organization or society), individualism (the importance placed on people acting on behalf of themselves, rather than the group), uncertainty avoidance (whether a society embraces or shuns ambiguity), and long-term outlook (the value placed by a society on future goals).

After controlling for individual reps’ selling experience and job satisfaction, as indicated in the surveys, and the societies’ differences in economic wealth and education levels, the authors arrived at several findings.

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Are Individual Commissions Just Not Working?

Are Individual Commissions Just Not Working?

To Frank Kalman, managing editor of Talent Economy, Wells Fargo’s fake-accounts scandal is an example of how commission-based compensation often fails to drive overall performance as an incentive structure. He compares Wells Fargo’s situation to a similar problem in professional sports:

In Wells Fargo’s case, bankers wanted to meet individual commissions targets based not on organizationwide performance but on amount of new accounts opened. After a while, a single employee figures out a way to game the system, opens a few fake accounts to meet a target, tells a colleague and the culture pervades. Soon enough, the goal becomes not helping Wells Fargo drive new business by creating fake bank accounts, but filling their own real bank accounts with commissions driven by bad behavior. The result: Wells Fargo owes $185 million in fines and has to fire 5,300 employees (not to mention the public scrutiny the bank will have to endure for years to come).

Professional sports are another example of performance-based pay run amiss — although the practice there usually doesn’t lead to criminal accusation. Most professional athletes are compensated generously in their base salaries, but many earn a good deal through performance-based bonuses. A baseball player, for example, might earn a certain bonus if they reach a threshold for number of innings pitched over the course of a season. Another might be rewarded extra pay if they hit a certain number of home runs.

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It’s Just a Matter of Time Before Chatbots Learn Corporate Jargon

It’s Just a Matter of Time Before Chatbots Learn Corporate Jargon

While Slack is banking on automated chatbots to help make it the king of workplace productivity software, that’s far from the only way in which this type of technology is making its presence felt in the workplace. A blog post at Knowledge@Wharton highlights how chatbots are likely to evolve in the near future with the development of natural language processing technology, and what these more sophisticated bots will be able to do:

The chatbots envisioned by the tech industry combine artificial intelligence with voice recognition that relies on the way humans naturally speak. The goal is to create a situation where customers feel they are communicating with another human, rather than a piece of highly intelligent software, and in an environment that calls for little to no human operator intervention. The goal of this chatbot movement is to reduce costs for companies in manning such areas as customer service. Indeed, research firm Gartner sees 33% of all customer service interactions as still needing a human intermediary by 2017, down from nearly 60% in 2014. …

Companies are currently using chatbots to largely handle customer service issues, but there are other potential applications where the technology can be used, [Gabriel Consulting Group founder Dan] Olds says. Chatbots, combined with the use of an online video service such as YouTube, may one day be widely used in e-learning, where the bots serve as instructors. He also points to the potential of using chatbots as employment recruiters, which would handle the first phase of the interview process by posing questions to applicants and evaluating responses. “This is where the technology can be potentially disruptive,” Olds says. “Its customer service use is more evolutionary than revolutionary.”

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