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The changing face of sales in financial technology

Lee Harding

LinkedIn regularly features articles written by sales people and sales trainers discussing how the approach to sales has evolved in recent years and how salespeople need to adapt to survive. Much of it of centres on the expectations of those being sold to and how the archaic tactic of kicking down doors and closing deals in a swashbuckling, take-no-prisoners manner has been consigned to history. 

But how does this actually stand up in the world of financial technology today?

Many of the sales managers we work with today forged their careers in an era where banks and buy-side firms enjoyed a golden age of success and often had far less concern for reining in technology spend compared to today. Yet the message we are getting from our clients is that they want salespeople who are aware and able to embrace a modern version of sales that has now become the norm.

It involves giving something away for free in order to engage with the target customer base. This isn’t referring to the age-old strategy of a free trial but could be content, information, advice - anything for that matter that can start the conversation without immediately introducing a product or service.

We have embraced that at Harrington Starr too with our Financial Technologist Magazine, salary surveys, morning networking events and so on which allows us to offer something before we approach our target audience for business.

Solution selling is nothing new, but it is certainly becoming a prerequisite skill whereby sales people need to act as problem solvers rather than product shifters. In fact, for a smaller vendor in today’s market, being able to find a problem that they can solve for a prospective client can be a valuable stepping stone towards bigger things.

One of my clients told me how they had closed a small piece of bespoke development work with a tier 1 investment bank, barely worth the effort for the value. However, after impressing them with what was delivered, he managed to nurture it into a far larger, global account worth many hundreds of thousands of pounds a year to the company.

Being able to engage with prospective clients as a problem-solving, content-providing, consultative salesperson is now key to being successful. I think the rhetoric on social media, combined with what our clients are looking for in salespeople is now strong enough to suggest that this isn’t a fad but is now the norm in sales.