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Over the past six months, I have been working tirelessly to get the sales organization up and running here at KnowledgeHound. During this process I have spent A LOT of time researching how to build and sustain a world-class sales organization. Before joining KnowledgeHound, my background was originally in consumer insights. I spent years as a manager inside Procter and Gamble’s Consumer and Market Knowledge function and, as a result, had no direct sales experience before joining the team at KnowledgeHound. It was clear I needed to learn and learn fast. So, armed with the Internet and a few external resources, I dove in headfirst. I spent countless hours reading books and blog articles, watching talks from famous sales professionals, and listening to sales podcasts. Yet, as I went deeper and deeper into this new world of sales I began to realize something…many of the skills exhibited by incredible sales managers were similar to the skills I had developed during my time in consumer insights. In fact, I now believe whole-heartedly that anyone in consumer insights could make a fantastic sales person. Here are a few reasons why:
1. They understand that everything starts with the customer
The first step in creating a process for your sales organization is defining exactly who you are selling to. Developing your ideal customer profile is absolutely critical as it will shape your outreach efforts and messaging strategy. Fortunately for consumer insights professionals this is one of the core responsibilities they often own inside their organizations. They are the voice of the customer and always make sure each decision is made with him/her in mind. With this sort of background, insights managers are likely already better equipped to execute this critical task than most people working in sales today.
2. They know how to ask questions and get to the “real truth”
One of the hardest skills for most sales people to learn is the ability to ask the right questions that will get to the heart their customers true wants, needs, and intentions. Luckily, great consumer insights managers know exactly how this should be done from the countless focus groups and interviews they have conducted for qualitative research over the years. They are experts in active listening and asking open-ended questions, which are critical skills to help truly understand your customers.
3. They are data driven
Great sales organizations track EVERYTHING. In today’s world, it’s possible to improve your sales process and messaging strategy via data drive decisions and not just one’s “gut feel”. Consumer Insights professionals are the internal champions inside their marketing organizations for making data drive decisions. They are always looking at the numbers to help determine what the best course of action might be for that next campaign, or product launch. This constant immersion in data has already given them the background and analytical capabilities needed to effectively design, iterate, and improve any aspect of your sales strategy.
So is a switch from consumer insights to sales really as simple as I’m making out to be? Not exactly, but the basic building blocks that lead to a truly great sales person are there. Certain skills like handling objections, identifying key decision makers, and handling complex negotiations may be missing but with a little bit of experience and hard work these can be developed. After six months on the job, I think my background in consumer insights has set me up to have quite a successful sales career. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go close some deals.