Peter Irwin, head of the Canadian Professional Sales Association, says that investing in sales training is a way to develop a competitive edge
TORONTO—A competent sales staff is crucially important to a success of a business, and yet, companies in Canada are having difficulty finding talented salespeople.
A survey conducted for the Canadian Professional Sales Association (CPSA) by Abacus Data found that 83 per cent of businesses identified a lack of sales skills as the primary barrier to hiring.
A Gold Standard
Peter Irwin, president and CEO of the CPSA, believes that a lack of industry standards contributes to this gap in sales skills.
“Sales is one of those professions historically where people have entered into the workforce from different areas, perhaps from an area of specialization, and there haven’t been a lot of standards set around what defines certain competencies within the industry,” Irwin said. “We haven’t done as good a job historically in promoting those competencies.”
He says the lack of professional sales industry training also contributes to the sales skills gap in Canada.
“We tend to not invest as much as we should in the training and development of our people,” Irwin said. “Compared to the U.S. and other western economies, we really don’t invest as much as we should.”
Behind the Learning Curve
According to the Conference Board of Canada, only 31 per cent of adult Canadians participated in some form of non-formal job-related education in 2009. This is well behind countries like Sweden—61 per cent—and Norway—47 per cent.
The same study also found that Canadians who participated in job-related training in 2009 also received fewer hours of instruction—49 hours—than peers in Denmark—105 hours—and Belgium—85 hours.
The CPSA is working to close this gap by providing more in-depth training programs for sales professionals, with a renewed investment in programs and certifications taking place over the next 12 months.
“We’ve launched an extensive range of webinars, local events across the country, podcasts, all with a mind towards making information more accessible to people who have taken sales on as a career,” Irwin said.
Irwin says the goal is to help frontline salespeople do their jobs better.
Invest In Your People
Irwin implores anyone with a product to sell to seriously consider investing in their sales staff, be it at the frontline or managerial level.
“If I was a manufacturer looking for a way to truly develop an edge, I would take a few extra dollars and I would invest them in my team,” Irwin said.
According to Potential: Human Capital Development, a corporate training services provider, investing in sales staff can increase your sales by up to 6.5 per cent and increase your profit margins by 24 per cent.
The same study finds that employee development can increase individual employee productivity by 5.2 per cent, which translates to an overall productivity increase of 21 per cent.
“A high-performing, well-trained, competent salesperson is worth a great deal of money, and a big piece of the profitability equation of any company in this country,” Irwin said.