Sales skills – typical sales profiles and why they matter

I have attended countless training sessions and read many self-help books and all of them agree on one thing: knowing your strengths and weaknesses is key to making a success of whatever it is you choose to do. Over the years I have found this to be very true yet so many people I meet could not actually tell me what their strengths and weaknesses were.

This is particularly apparent when it comes to ensuring you have the right sales person for the job you need them to do. Hiring, managing and motivating your sales staff is always a challenge, but it is even more so if you have the wrong person in the job. Many managers and business owners, who are not sales people themselves, might be confused by this idea of sales styles, just like so many tend to bundle all promotional activity under the banner of marketing.

Another challenge I come across, is in well established companies who may have long established sales people who have been in the role more than anyone can remember. The company may have acquired other companies which landed them with additional sales people. It might be a combination of all of the above, but the result is the same in many cases: you end up with the wrong sales profiles and that can have a devastating effect on your growth.

So, what are the different sales profiles you might ask. There are a few ways to look at it but put simply there are two main profiles to consider:

  1. Farmers: Just like real farmers, these sales people are skilful at looking after their land. In other words, they are good at looking after existing clients, ensuring they are satisfied and therefore continue to place business with the company.
  • Strength: nurturing relationships through loyalty and care
  • Weakness: Responding to rapid change, approaching unknown entities, working fast, thinking on their feet, spotting new opportunities
  1. Hunters: These sales people are skilful at identifying targets and approaching them. There is nothing that pleases them more than closing a new deal. They are very often demanding and controlling, sometimes fly by the seat of their pants and not known by their attention to detail.
  • Strength: Identifying strong opportunities and developing them into a sale
  • Weakness: Working to a plan, adhering to rules, compiling paperwork, listening

Of course, this is very black and white and there are many sales people, me included, who are a hybrid of the two. However, painting the two profiles in this way allows you to immediately see what I mean: if you require new business development and you have a team of farmers, they will struggle to deliver and vice versa, which is why considering this is so key to your teams’ success.

But what if you have inherited the team and they are what you have? I think that you can develop and hone different skills within your team. People are creatures of habit and often choose the path of least resistance. With the right training, some KPIs and support, you can deliver different results. With some rapid change affecting the UK market next March, it might be something to consider sooner rather than later.

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