Skip to main content

Willy Loman Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Thanks to technology and more open-ended customer relationships, a career in sales has a whole new look

The sales function has become a lot more interesting and diverse in recent years, given the changes in how companies interact with customers and the tools they use to build customer loyalty. Mark Girvan, chief commercial officer of FreshBooks, discussed what these trends mean for people ready to enter the workforce or those early in their career. He spoke with Jim Hamilton, Distinguished Faculty Fellow of Sales Management at Smith School of Business.

Video Highlights

1:00     The range of sales functions, particularly in the technology sector, has expanded in recent years. “We have roles around the analysis of sales — sales operations supporting sales and the insights of sales. Customer success management is another area that’s really blossomed as people have gone away from the concept of “sell a product once to a customer” to something that’s much more of a product or service that people can rent or lease. It puts more pressure on providing value and continually selling and servicing the client, which is very different than what existed 10 to 15 years ago.”

2:50     It wasn’t that long ago when sales and service were two silos. “What bridged us to where we are today is this concept that we have to successfully onboard a client so that they use our products and get value out of them. We’ve evolved to the point where that value for the customer isn’t a one-time episode. People expect you to evolve the value that you’re providing to them. Therefore, the salesperson must understand the services side and, if they’re a service individual, they have to do the sales side. There’s much more crossover than we’ve ever seen.”

4:32     “Customer success management for us is defined as a role for someone to proactively talk to a customer after they’ve made a certain commitment to you, whether it’s starting a trial or purchasing a product. What we really care about is the first 60 or 90 days, how the customer is using and getting value out of it. It’s about seeing if you can mitigate that early phase of churn. It’s now been extended into different segments of churn: can we identify people who are churning out at year one or five years and then set up customer success teams to tackle those points.”

6:52     Traditionally, sales enablement was seen as a training function, but that’s only one slice of what we’re seeing people do. Enablement teams are becoming almost an extension of an analyst who supports the entire sales team: do you understand the strategy, do you understand how to segment the market, do you know how we interact with our systems to support the sales cadences that we need to set up? A lot of the sales enablement roles is to make sure the other parts of the business are supporting what sales is trying to do and vice versa.”

8:36     Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality “have roles depending on the type of product you sell or the sales culture or sales method you deploy. We’re starting to use a combination of machine learning and AI to cluster our customers, to point our customer success people in the right area to call customers when they’re ready to have an interaction versus Hey, let’s interrupt their day. AI and machine learning can help us with that.”