The Salesperson of the Future: A Profile

Last Updated Apr 24, 2010 6:56 AM EDT

I recently asked some CEOs and sales experts to name the characteristics that successful salespeople will need to succeed in the future. Their response suggests that the stereotype of the fast-taking "sales guy" is woefully obsolete.

Here are the best answers that I got.

The salesperson of the future will be...

  • ...introverted rather than extroverted. Traditionally, most of the people drawn to a sales career have been of the "interesting extrovert" variety but, today, the "interested introverts" often do better because they tend to be curious about the customer and more willing to let the customer dominate the conversation, as opposed to the extrovert who is constantly trying to prove how interesting he or she is. Source: sales guru Tom Hopkins.
  • ...a collaborator rather than a communicator. With the Internet, the customer and the sales rep typically knows a great deal about each other's firms. As a result, the selling process becomes a matter of filling out the details and coming to a deeper understanding. Rather than providing information, the seller participates in a mutual educational process between the supplier and the consumer of a product or service. Source: Bob Carr, CEO of Heartland Payment Systems.
  • ...a negotiator rather than a convincer. Traditionally, selling was seen as a way to change the preferences of a potential buyer so that he or she is more likely to buy. Over the past 20 years, however, this has undergone a big shift, so that sales is now seen as a negotiation skill that helps people reach agreement. Source: Max H. Bazerman, Professor, Harvard Business School.
  • ...an expert rather than a generalist. Because sales jobs are becoming more specialized and professional, it is easier to teach the sales process than it is to teach business knowledge. For example, companies that provide process control systems to refineries now look to hire individuals who have been refinery managers, while companies selling ER management software look to hire ER nurses. Source: Jeff Thull, CEO of Prime Resource Group
  • ...a professional rather than a tyro. Business schools are taking sales more seriously. Universities are definitely adding sales into the curriculum, even though in the past it was not considered theoretical enough. Sales as a profession has gained status as people, both in business and in academia, realize that sales engagements are much more complex than in the past. Source: Linda Richardson, author of Perfect Selling (McGraw Hill, 2008)
READERS: What do you think?