Out Now Issue n. 78 of ipcm® International Paint&Coating Magazine

Date: 29/11/2022
Categories: ipcm

Read the latest issue of the magazine dedicated to surface treatments and organic and inorganic finishes. Special issue on ACE & Off-road vehicles and industrial cleaning technologies.

Over the past year, numerous ipcm® advertisers have asked our editorial office for the names of potential candidates for their sales and, more specifically, technical sales job openings. I deduce that our customers are probably convinced that the editorial office of an international magazine is informed about a lot of job offers and applications. Actually, this is not the case. Of course, it happens, but only sporadically, all the more so when it comes to sales professionals.

Together with our own difficulty in finding salespeople with an “editor's soul” to employ in ipcm®, this has certainly been highlighting the critical nature of the search for sales personnel, which is a crucial part of a company’s staff as it is directly linked to the development of business volumes. In turn, this prompted me to reflect: how much has the role of salespeople changed in the last twenty years?

The profile of a salesperson is extremely articulated and constantly evolving, mainly because it is very difficult to draw a precise list of proficiencies that, regardless of the industrial sector, certainly include a combination of soft and hard skills.

I still believe that the main one of them is a natural aptitude for selling, a sort of innate talent for public relations and for negotiation, an inclination to connect with people. However, specific technical skills are also indispensable, especially in the light of the digitalisation process that is spreading across all sectors and, as far as the industry is concerned, of the advent of i4.0-oriented productivity.

Back in 2016, Forrester Research[1] stated that 1 million traditional “salespeople” in the US would lose their jobs by 2020[2]. This is happening because salespeople can no longer just be the ones who know the products, the company, and the customers: they must act as consultants, focus on technical sales, and use social networks as sales channels – especially because, thanks to digitalisation, cognitive computing, machine learning, and predictive maintenance, they are no longer required to collect orders, which can be recorded automatically. Their role is therefore to support customers in making choices, solve their problems, and provide information and insights to guide them in carrying out their work.

For the salesperson role to evolve in this way, candidates must therefore be specifically trained (university masters courses on sales techniques have multiplied in recent years), know at least two languages (in non-English speaking countries, English should be considered a commodity and no longer a plus), and have a deeper knowledge of the product (or service) they are selling than their own customers.

The latter point is the most complex, because only a thorough apprenticeship at a firm can enable a resource to become a salesperson 4.0. This means that a salesperson should actually be trained over time within a company, rather than being sought after externally. This is the only way to create, over the years, a breeding ground of young people who will grow from technicians into salespeople, becoming a strategic resource for their company.

You may wonder why I chose to reflect on this in the editorial of the last issue of 2022, a year that has seen our industry keep on growing strongly and portfolio forecasts remain positive despite, once again, the rising energy costs and the difficulties in sourcing certain raw materials and components?

Because the numerous reports and articles that you will find in this issue, traditionally dedicated to surface treatments for the ACE and commercial vehicles sector, deal with technical and innovation projects that have involved many young people who have understood that “selling” is synonymous with “growing”.

Happy reading and best wishes for the holidays!