for sale sign on a vintage carYour next sales hire will be one of the most crucial hires that you make this year. However, there have been recent and quite systemic changes to the sales process that have may have perhaps crept under the radar—changes that should now start to inform the sales hiring strategy of your business, if they haven’t already.

For example, most of you will have realized that the door-to-door salesman type approach was totally insufficient for this new era of global markets, more sophisticated tastes and more complex product offerings. That’s why the solutions sales people have become the modern archetype for a successful sales person. These are the kind of brilliant sales specimens who can moonwalk into crippled organizations, uncover customers’ needs through questioning and develop a multi-faceted dream solution that would result in a check for services almost being written on the spot.

But, as many of you have experienced, the landscape has been shifting from one of certainty to uncertainty and these have created seismic waves that have totally destabilized the solutions process limiting its effectiveness, stopping the ‘moon walking’ solutions sales people in their tracks.

This has been highlighted recently in a portentous article in the HBR by the CEB titled, ‘The End Of Solution Sales‘ where they identified that the rug has been pulled out from beneath the feet of the solution sales person, reducing their effectiveness. You see, the most fertile sales ground for solution sales is within companies with a clear vision and clearly formed requirements, but in this increasingly dynamic and unpredictable world this fertile stable ground no longer exists or is in increasingly short supply. It is being replaced by a somewhat arid landscape for solution sales people, which are agile environments that have emerging, unclear demands and are in state of flux.

In the past you may have recognized when a solution sales person had hit this kind of wall, as they come back saying or would be regularly complaining that, “the customer doesn’t know what they want,” or even worse, “the customer is stupid.” There was a suggestion that the customer was at fault, but what is gradually surfacing is that the solution sales approach is not sufficient to deal with an uncertain, agile modern environment.

And what they found was that the top 20 percent of sales people (presumably those who don’t come back saying that the customer is clueless) are discarding solution sales and replacing it with ‘insight selling,’ which requires an ability to find out unrecognized and emergent needs that the customer doesn’t know they have; identifying problems that the customer may not have identified; providing provocative insights about what the customer should do and also coaching them through the purchasing process.

These insights should feed through to the hiring process as different questions are being asked of sales people today than 15 years ago and your current sales hiring process may be more solutions focused and not identifying the people who can answer these new questions. This leaves us with the burning questions, “Is it time for a new breed of sales person?” and “Are you still hiring yesterday’s sales people?”

I would like to hear your thoughts.

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