(by Freddy Mangum) Technical sales professionals are the unsung heroes of technology sales. Without them, high-tech sales don’t happen. But despite their critical role, technical sales professionals have to make do with fragmented tooling — Excel, PowerPoint, Word and general-purpose CRMs — and fight for more training to refine both their technical and sales skills.
Fortunately, I predict attitudes about technical sales will undergo a radical change in 2021. Based on various conversations I’ve had with C-level executives and boards of directors at both public and private companies, I think we’ll see additional investment in tools and support for these sales workhorses who contribute to the success of so many companies.
Here are my top 10 predictions for technical sales in 2021:
Companies will invest more in hiring, training and scaling technical sales professionals, rather than spending more on marketing, such as conferences and tradeshows, which are no longer an option during a pandemic. They will also more closely scrutinize hiring quota-carrying sales representatives before they determine if they can leverage technical sales to gain more efficiencies with the people they have. MORE FOR YOU!
Here’s why: If you look at one technical sales practitioner who earns a median salary of $166,000 per year ($120,000 base and $46,000 variable) and has the capacity to support three sales representatives who each have a $1 million quota, you essentially see a technical sales professional having a direct impact on a $3 million quota target. If additive investments can be made in tooling and training to increase technical sales’ capacity to support an additional $1 million of quota, that would allow technical sales to support one additional sales representative carrying a $1 million quota or increase the sales representative quota capacity to $1.25 million each.
Technical sales will continue to play a crucial role in accelerating TTV (time to value) by streamlining the sales funnel across a broad set of products, solutions and services.
The pandemic has forced technical sales to meet with clients virtually, but in a post-Covid world, I believe technical sales professionals and, more importantly, buyers will adopt virtual habits that will become the new normal. Not only that, but it will be hard to rationalize the need for travel and related expenses if sales can be done without that additive cost.
Technical sales are the hub of technology sales because they interact with a broad array of internal constituents (product management, customer success, sales and marketing) and external ones (buyers and resellers). The C-suite and board of directors will mandate a deeper analysis of technical sales activities to identify growth inhibitors and accelerators.
Improved tools that are purpose-built to streamline technical sales’ day-to-day work will emerge and go far beyond what Excel, Word, PowerPoint, email and general-purpose customer relationship management systems can offer. These new technical sales tools will yield greater technical sales efficiency and provide a greater convenience level for the buyer.
Sales organizations will codify best practices in technical sales to do more with less and repeat processes that are known to win business.
The stages of technical sales that include discovery, presentation, demonstration, solution, services and evaluations are typically a black box to most go-to-market leaders, C-suite executives and boards of directors. That will change in 2021. As macro-economic factors drive the need to optimize all aspects of the sales process and funnel, the C-suite and the board will mandate that technical sales’ role and processes be demystified to better understand the value of technical sales actions to improve sales funnel conversion efficiencies will also get executive sponsorship.
Executives will allocate greater investment to understand the skill and knowledge gap of technical sales. The goal is to help develop both technical and sales skills, thereby enhancing technical sales productivity.
Companies will revamp internal and external selling processes that rely exclusively on tribal knowledge or general-purpose customer relationship management systems to help technical sales productivity.
Technical sales professionals showcase the strengths and manage the weaknesses of solutions, services, software, hardware and SaaS products. As such, they will have a much greater influence on product road maps as they improve their ability to better contextualize product strengths, sell around product weaknesses and prioritize requests for feature enhancements by mapping dollar amounts to capabilities that must be addressed by product management and engineering.
In 2021, technical sales professionals will no longer be unsung heroes. The go-to-market team is like a football team: Sales reps are the quarterbacks, and marketing professionals are the promoters. But technical salespeople are equally important. They are the running backs, special teams and offensive and defensive lines. Without technical sales, you can’t play the game, let alone compete for the win. I predict this is the year that technical sales will get the appropriate attention from the C-suite and board of directors, and we will see the game improve. Get ready!