With so much economic uncertainty, more and more people are either looking to change jobs or, looking for a new job after being let go. While there are endless industries and skillsets out there, we were lucky enough to pick the brain of a global sales exec who oversees a multinational territory, each with its own sales team. We had 5 major questions for him and his answers could very well help you both land your next job and excel at it once you do.
What has been the biggest change in how you do business since the start of the pandemic?
Sales is all about relationships and human interaction. I’m personally used to flying at least 200K miles per year to see customers as well as my own team. All of that is off the table now and frankly, we are not sure if it will ever return to the way it was. So, phone calls, video calls and email have become your literal lifeline to your customer base and to your own colleagues. It has been a huge adjustment and there are people who adapt and continue to get the job done and there are people who have no idea how to manage through this “new normal.” Being proactive with setting formal meetings, making the calls and pushing your agendas forward is much harder when you cannot look eye to eye with your customer base. But, it’s the way it is right now and if you are used to having a few dinners a year to get by and keep your relationships going, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Has this changed what you are looking for in new hires?
Absolutely. There are a lot of sales people out there who get by on their contact lists and tell a really good story during an interview. The new way of working sales really exposes those people who are frankly, full of shit. You have to be a super aggressive and completely proactive or you will fall on your face. The activity is everything now. In many industries, the markets are struggling and it is a war of attrition out there. You have to work for every penny you earn and sitting back and waiting for customers to call you or send you something new to work on is just not happening. Customers are focusing on increasing their bottom lines which means cutting costs and looking for new options. The new product development in many industries is on the backburner during these times. I want people who are going to work, who are going to have measureable activity and who understand that the activity is what leads to the number.
What has this done to your industry?
Well, like any industry it has exposed which companies had their shit together and which ones were propped up on a couple key customers or projects. We are seeing companies circle the drain because they were reliant on a few cash cows and when the market changes, they have no safety net to land on. Think about what we have witnessed in literally 6 months: airlines, hotels, theme parks, the entire hospitality industry, sports etc. The list goes on and with each of those macro industries; there are several micro industries that count on those markets. Take an airline…you have airports, airport parking, food and beverage in the airport, maintenance, security, jet fuel, mechanics, construction companies, suppliers of the construction companies (lighting, flooring, wiring). I mean, it is literally an endless list. This thing has been a snowball. If it teaches you anything, you have to practice risk management both personally and professionally. You cannot live hand to mouth and you have to diversify.
What should candidates highlight during an interview to make them more appealing during these times?
Look, there are millions of people looking for a sales job so they can enjoy the business class seats, the jet setting and the expense account. Bottom line, that shit is gone and while it may not be gone for good, I do believe the days of boondoggle business trips and conventions are over. So, you need to love the hunt, you need to love numbers, you need to be ready to be held accountable and you need to be completely savvy in remote sales activity and technology. Be ready to answer how you plan to grow business without the ability to shake a hand or buy a dinner. How will you keep your market share without being able to invite your customers to your corporate getaways? Come loaded with a plan and make it a 30/60/90 day plan and also, prepare to walk through a normal day for you should you get the job. The last thing I would want is another task so you better be able to run, run fast and run without me chasing you.
Any other advice for people out there looking?
Everyone’s situation is different. If you have kids and a mortgage and a million responsibilities to others, you need to think about what industries are basically pandemic-proof and get after it. Certain industries are always going to be here even if things slow down. Do what you need to do to make a buck but at the same time, respect yourself and any potential employer enough to only take a job you could see yourself at even if the world comes back to normal. If you have more flexibility and do not have other lives depending on your paycheck for survival, there will never be a better time than now to take a chance and chase a passion or an idea you have. The time is ripe for you to go out and take a shot because the rest of the market is not on fire. Most importantly, remember this will not last forever and continue to work to add value and differentiate yourself during these times. Be patient but be ready because things will bounce back.