Sales Is Merging with Science
The U.S. Department of Labor forecasts that next year U.S. employers will need to fill an estimated 2.5 million job openings in science-, technology-, engineering-, and math-related occupations, so-called STEM fields.
With millions of job opportunities available in software development, information management and security, for example, and average salaries of $85,000 per year, you would think that there couldn't be a better time for college graduates with STEM degrees to jump into those career fields. So why, then, are so many STEM graduates going into sales?
With today's best salespeople using data and predictive analytics to drive deal-based decisions, the need for "scientists" in sales is intensifying, according to Byron Matthews, president and CEO of Miller Heiman Group.
And the research backs him up. Sales is currently the most popular non-computer-related role for STEM grads in the United States and the seventh-most-popular role overall, according to the latest statistics.
While 750,000 STEM graduates found employment last year in computer- and information-related positions, such as software developer, computer systems analyst, and network systems administrator, wholesale manufacturing sales representatives of technical and scientific products accounted for nearly 350,000 new jobs.
"We are seeing thousands of jobs across the United States in which sales teams are looking for people with STEM-related skill sets," reports Scott Dobrosky, community expert at online job search and review site provider Glassdoor. "We've seen a huge spike in postings for positions that blend sales with STEM skills, job titles such as sales engineer, technical sales engineer, technical sales representative, and sales data analyst, just to name a few. Sales engineer and sales data analyst are the two in highest demand; those did not exist several years ago."
In fact, data scientists and sales development representatives are the second- and third-fastest-growing positions in the United States, respectively, according to new research from LinkedIn.
Though unrelated, it is worth noting that customer success managers are fourth on the list of the fastest-growing positions.
Data scientist positions are expected to grow by 6.5 times, sales reps by 5.7 times, and customer success managers by 5.6 times.
The same research identifies sales in general as the second-fastest-growing field in America overall. Among the skills that are most in demand, sales ranks second on the list and marketing ranks fourth.
Matthews, though, points out that the merger of sales and science isn't really a new phenomenon, just a redux of an old trend that started in earnest in 2008 and picked up again in 2010 and 2011.
"Just showing up to ask questions suddenly isn't good enough, because buyers already have information about you and your solutions. They already know what they want," he says. "Now sales is based around inspiring [potential buyers] with information they don't yet have, trying to get them to think about unrecognized problems or unanticipated solutions. Whether it's analytics, numbers, a case study, or a story, [the sales rep should be] providing both data and content, something that gets a buyer thinking differently. Once they start thinking differently, then [buyers] will pay more attention [to sales reps]."
The career trends also support a new discipline called sales enablement, according to Matthews, who identifies it as one of the hottest trends in sales. "Sales enablement's job is to sophisticate the current sellers and help them transform, to formalize the sales process and arm sellers with real-time insights and data so that they are more equipped to work with today's more sophisticated buyers."
To support this change, sales managers' roles also need to change, Matthews says. "Front-line management can no longer be about managing a pipeline; it has to be about coaching and deal reviews and helping the old guard evolve to be better sellers."