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Why Good Salespeople Are Great in Other Roles

By Emily Sider | July 18, 2018
Why Good Salespeople Are Great in Other Roles

Last week, we brought you some of our findings from our Talent Trends: Sales Professional Edition report, taking a deep dive into what makes a great sales candidate. You can read the blog post here.

[Read the report: Get the full version of the Talent Trends Report: Sales Professional Edition here]

Today, we’re taking a closer look at the research (both internal and external) that finds that good salespeople are great in other roles. We’re convinced that you’re going to want to keep these findings on your radar; after all, between 400 million and 800 million employees around the world could be displaced by automation by 2030 and need to find new jobs. 47% of today’s jobs will be automated by 2034. Will sales and quota-carrying jobs be some of them? Maybe.

There are certainly aspects of sales that are automatable, such as reporting, tracking relationships, scheduling, and lead prioritization. It’s no wonder that McKinsey found that, in sales and related professions, nearly 50% of day-to-day tasks could be automated.

There are also critical parts of sales that are distinctly human. For instance, a robot cannot yet replace in-person connection and authentic rapport and relationship-building. 

The point is, it’s hard to say how sales will change as processes become increasingly automated. Perhaps automation will result in the decline of sales roles - but there is no reason to assume this will translate to massive job loss. After all, 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been invented. It is very likely that the future of work will involve the transference of people including those in sales and quota-carrying roles — into net new roles based on transferable skills (at Plum we call these talents, and they’re how we measure human potential). And a good way to prepare for that migration is to gauge and quantify the talents of your workforce now (FYI, that’s what Plum does).

We speculate that people with sales and quota-carrying experience will be some of the most highly effective workers in these new and unpredictable fields of work. Here’s why.

They have an entrepreneurial spirit

Starting with a career in sales, especially at an early age, can lead to lifelong business success. Over 17% of leading CEOs, across all sectors, started in sales. In the food products industry, it’s the number one CEO background.

That’s probably why 44% of employers agree that industriousness is the most important trait for a sales role. Industrious sales people drive to meet or exceed sales targets, persevere to overcome objections, and are motivated to continuously improve their sales process. Industrious sales people often exhibit talents such as execution, adaptation, and innovation.

They’re relationships-driven

A corporate study showed that 60% of female and 51% of male sales people were found to have a ‘farmer’ personality. In sales, this means they were good at both developing and maintaining customer relationships. And 80% of business-to-business sales come from sales relationships rather than simply low prices.

Whether it’s with the customer or interoffice, communication and teamwork will be vital talents in the future of work.

They’re diamonds in the rough

Besides industriousness, our own research found that organizations want more sales people who have high levels of orderliness and stability. Stability and orderliness form the foundational makeup of talents like execution, adaptation, conflict resolution, and managing others.

Although stability and orderliness are critical for most sales positions, sales applicants don’t often score high in these traits. In fact, according to our research, stability and orderliness are often sales applicants’ greatest weaknesses. Since these traits are so rare in sales applicants, finding and retaining this kind of talent is critical.

Execution, adaptation, conflict resolution, managing others...not only will these talents translate to top performing sales professionals today, but any individual who exhibits these skills will likely transfer smoothly into new roles in the future.

Execution, adaptation, conflict resolution, managing others...not only will these talents translate to top performing sales professionals today, but any individual who exhibits these skills will likely transfer smoothly into new roles in the future.

Talent Rediscovery is one way that Plum is seamlessly transitioning individuals (sales professionals or otherwise) into net new roles. Talent Rediscovery is a feature on the Plum platform that allows you to quantify everyone in your Plum database employees and all past applicants and measure their potential to succeed in any other role. As long as you have the Match Criteria (i.e. the behavioral needs) outlined for the role, you can measure an individual’s fit in just a couple clicks - regardless if the role has ever existed before.

For some actionable ways to find and attract sales talent that will thrive in your organization, read our full Talent Trends: Sales Professional Edition report here.

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