In the late 90’s and through the Tech Boom of the early 2000’s, Ottawa was a hot bed of technology and technology startups. Burgeoning companies like Cognos, JDS Uniphase, Corel, and NewBridge Networks were full of world class engineering and R&D talent, many of whom came from Nortel. And still, other small companies sprung up around them, led by some of the brilliant engineers from those early breeding grounds of Nortel. All of these organizations were very much technology driven; similarly, all were severely challenged in bringing their “game changing” technology to market, in short, selling. Companies would evangelize to investors their incredible technology but the vision required to market it and the talent to sell it was as rare as Haleys Comet. That skill was and is a continued obstacle for IT companies both big and small.
Flash forward 15 plus years and global technology heavyweight based out of Ottawa, Shopify, have voiced their concern about hiring new recruits or graduates in Sales to support their coming growth plans. The Conference Board of Canada notes Sales has one of the top 5 specializations in highest demand, consistently in the last decade. Companies like Dell Canada, IBM, and Google Canada all are participating in a Canada-wide program to promote Sales to students as a viable and rewarding career choice. For most companies, sales are the proverbial “front-end of the ship” yet we continue to see people who backed in to Sales because they were a big personality, or were a really “likeable” individual. Sales is a far more sophisticated and evolved profession that is no longer 3 parts personality one part product knowledge. With newly empowered buyers (see: the Internet!), successful sales people now require an ability to consume data and analytics, be critical thinkers and problem solvers, forecast correctly and more than ever have advanced business and interpersonal communication skills both verbal and written.
So the question begs: Why, in an era of literally hundreds of college and university programs and in a struggling economy that tells us how critical developing tech companies need sales people, are we slow to getting on board in terms of educating and developing sales as a skill? Most of the top universities and even most MBA programs offer few sales- related courses. Additionally demographics tell us the same story we have heard across many functions in the business world — 40% or more of senior IT sales talent is set to leave the workforce, putting significant strain on companies to recruit a declining supply of sales talent. The academic world is now waking up to this realization and has begun to instill in their Business programs at the undergraduate level and beyond sales courses befitting the requirements of a modern sales professional. The days of glad handing your way to a successful sales career are in the past as we realize how critical revenue generation is for companies. After all… “nothing happens if nobody buys anything .”