After exploring the region’s key drivers of change for Sales leaders, our next question for our panel of regional and global influencers was: “What skill sets will Asia-Pacific Sales leaders require over the next three years, in order to keep pace with change?” From customer engagement gurus to data-driven business transformers, an exciting range of skill sets will electrify the Sales hiring space.
Top advice for hiring in Sales
1. Rise of the CXO and the engagement guru
It’s official: customer engagement leaders are in hot demand. “You see a lot of companies placing huge focus on hiring roles such as the chief experience officer (CXO) role, or customer engagement or customer experience lead – which didn't exist in the past,” describes PageGroup’s Anurag Garg. “What customers are expecting is engagement,” he notes. “And brands need to be able to pull that off with a good strategy on how to engage the customer, remotely or directly. Speed is the key.” Ronak Marolia from Aon sees similar tweaks in leadership roles: “At the senior level, companies are starting to talk about chief revenue officer or chief customer officer – away from the previous chief sales officer. These new leaders not only look at the sales channel but also ask, ‘How do I keep my clients, how do I continue to create a stream of revenue that's reoccurring and repeatable? And how can I make sure that my customers stay happy and my operations are in place?’”
2. Strategic data teams kick-start your sales strategy
According to Johnstone of Salesforce, many companies assume that CRM tools alone will provide them a technical backbone to streamlining your sales performance. He stresses that this will only happen with the right hiring. “Unless you bring in smart data-driven sales operations leadership and start working things from that front, you won't get the best out of your sales organisation – either from a motivation perspective around making money from the sales reps; or from that from that yield-per-sales-rep perspective for the organisation,” he says. “That's definitely a gap in most sales organisations,” he notes. “Though they've got the tools, they haven't bought in the smarts or the planning muscle; or haven't injected that that more critical nature, to go ahead and ask the questions that are going to take them to the next level.”
3. Help digital natives to navigate your business
For many senior sales leaders, today’s role is increasingly to assemble the newly skilled ‘tribes’ to facilitate brand introductions – and then enable them to unlock greater innovation. “I am here to vision the business, together with people that I was not used to working with,” notes Heineken’s Anna Campagna. “My responsibility I believe with this new generation of digital natives is to make sure that they understand how to work in an established company like Heineken, which has some established principles. Culture yes, but also sometimes heavy processes to go through,” she notes. “I need to make sure that these guys challenge the status quo, but at the same time adapt and settle in the new reality – in order for them to transform it.”
4. The dollar matters, but brand and career are catching up
Research suggests that for graduate level sales people, non-financial factors are becoming more relevant as an incentive to remain with a brand. “If we look at the population joining the salesforce these days, with Millennials and the next generation, they are more keen to learn and will value career opportunities, a company brand value, and things above and beyond just the remuneration package,” notes Marolia of Aon. “We did an APAC exercise which surveyed all the sales people back in 2016-2017, and the interesting insight was that they were more likely to stay with the firm for better career opportunities or a better brand, versus a slightly higher dollar take on the commission plans or incentive plans.”
5. Keep an eye on developing your top two percent
In sales-oriented businesses, another key for senior leadership to address is whether you have a clear strategy for the top two percent of revenue generators in your business. According to PageGroup’s Garg, if you don’t, someone else may be talking to them. “Are you confident today that the top two percent of people in your business by any measure, whether its Sales or Marketing or Finance, have a clear development path? Do they have their plan and someone who they’re supported by within your business? And are they are paid maybe in the 80th to 85th percentile of your industry?” His message on talent retention is clear. “If not, then someone else is talking to them about exactly these things at the moment.”
6. Bend your company to accommodate the skill sets you need
Your strategic sales hires should no longer be the ones needing to adjust to old-school organisational structures. Today’s change imperatives demand that instead, our companies are the ones that must flex. “I think in the past, we were looking for people that could adapt to the environment that we were inserting them into,” says Heineken’s Anna Campagna. “That's not exactly what we need to do now,” she stresses. “We need to look for the skills and expertise, and then just adapt to make sure that the organisation itself can welcome these people.” She describes a role she was looking for recently, a mid-market Sales manager: “It's not the way we used to mean mid-market five or ten years ago,” she explains. “The digital dimension is now a consistent part of the conversation; it’s about transforming the route to market itself,” she notes. “Even for the most traditional roles, we really need to have a new way of looking at it. I can't even think about a person that is either old-fashioned in their way of thinking, or whose learning agility is not high.”
7. Discipline crossover is becoming the norm not the exception
Where it was once less common to request profiles from other disciplines or with non-traditional skill sets, today’s Sales leader finds this cross-pollination far more common. “We're seeing much more crossover,” says Garg from PageGroup. “In the past the broad business lines used to be very much operating in silo. Which isn't the case now.” In an environment where digital transformation is changing so many business models, an increased focus on technology, insights and digital profiles is transforming numerous sales teams. “The sell is very different. These companies, when they go out to hire, want people who are process-driven but agile. Compliant but flexible. And the shelf life of their services is very short.”
8. Agility is key to navigating complex companies
The days of pure task specialists in sales looks to be all but over, as workforce agility in Sales becomes paramount. “As we are looking to hire skill sets, we want people who are able to collaborate between teams and tribes – and make sure that they are on top of that omni-channel experience for the customer,” says Aon’s Ronak. “They must have the ability to translate information; make sense of information for the client — and translate that into a strong continuing relationship,” he notes. What does that look like in terms of in-demand roles? “I think relationship management, insight sales and digital sales – those kind of roles and skill sets are being talked about a lot more.”
Massive thanks to those who made Future of Sales happen: in particular those who’ve provided technology leader insights: Simon Johnstone, director customer success ASEAN for Salesforce | Ronak Marolia, Director and Regional Leader, Salesforce Effectiveness, Aon | Anna Campagna, regional sales director, sales excellence and capabilities, Heineken | Anurag Garg, Associate Director, PageGroup Singapore | Wee Hee Ling, CEO, Euro-Asia Holidays | Bryan Goh, co-founder of travel startup, Native |
Plus our huge thanks to PageGroup’s Sales leadership team throughout Asia-Pacific.
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