New business selling – a dying skill?

Over the last few months we have seen a steady and consistent increase in all ICT sales positions being posted.

However there is a very clear winner in that more companies are now advertising for New Business Sales (Hunters) to join their business rather then account managers (Farmers);  and this is clearly looking for people who can manage the full sales process from customer prospecting through to closing the deal and signing the contract.

In our view this is an area that most companies have neglected recently and so the skills and experience required are just not out there in the numbers they previously were.

To be sure, our clients tell us they have new business as a priority in their company, and the people who manage and are targeted to win this, but our experience suggests that this is just not the case! In reality ‘New Business’ has come from existing clients, or companies have brought in people with a Rolodex or they have specifically looked to attract the senior Account Directors for names accounts from their competitors (hire to hurt?).

In the past the first question we were often asked about a candidate by our clients is; ‘Who do they know? Or ‘Who have they done business with already?’ or ‘what doors can they open?’

Now our clients are starting to ask us for people who have a track record of opening doors from scratch or who have opened up new territories, or started operating in a completely new area where there is no existing business and it is getting more and more difficult to find people who know how to do it themselves or people who have actually done it themselves.

Too many times when we speak to candidates who say they are New Business developers, the first question they ask us is, ‘Does our client have Lead Generation?’ or ‘Will they provide a prospect list?’ or even ‘What accounts will I be given?’

But there now seems to be a real desire to attract people who are skilled hunters again, perhaps because it is getting increasingly difficult to find people with a Rolodex! Since the recession a lot of people have dropped out of the market, they have found new areas of business and so there is just not the same contact base as there used to be.

There will always be a need for people with the right contacts, but even these people are going to have to start prospecting for clients themselves again.

There are tried and tested processes for identify and attracting people with rare skills that are in high demand, check out our series on Managing Critical recruitment