05 June 2015 14:01:42 IST

‘In the future, B2B buying will happen on social platforms’

Arun Dhaka of Cornerstone OnDemand talks about branding, tech and the future of sales

Sales people will have to be present on social platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn now, and convert themselves to brands, says Arun Dhaka, Country Sales Director, Cornerstone OnDemand, India and South Asia. Dhaka was a speaker at SHRM’s HR Tech Conference, and offered advice on how to excel in IT/tech sales. Excerpts from the interaction:

What are the issues you face while managing a sales team?

The entire messaging, in terms of concept selling and understanding the domain in which you are working, is the first thing sales people have to look at.

The second thing that has changed, and sales people have to recognise, is that, when a buyer asks for a particular technology he has already done the research. About 55 per cent of buyers have already done the background research for the product or services they want.

I think these are the two primary things sales teams have to understand. They also have to adopt ‘social media’. Sales people will have to use Twitter and LinkedIn now and promote their brand, which people are doing too. But the most successful people will be ones who have recreated themselves as brands.

When you say creating oneself as a brand you mean ...

It's all Twitter identity. The physical identity is diminishing to a great extent now. I think five years from now people will even say their names along with a tag! I would be called @Arun_Dhaka rather than Arun Dhaka. I think people who have adopted that platform and created their own brand, engaging with others in a similar way, are going to be successful in the market.

How do you keep your sales force motivated?

Nobody can encourage a sales person apart from him or her doing those numbers. What you can do is intervene and interject with the right learning, development, and coaching.

Benefits and money are temporary, not a long-term solution. If somebody is successful every quarter, they are motivated. You need to intervene on where the sales person is going from a coaching perspective, and in terms of their own learning. I think today social platforms do these things much faster.

What are the new trends for sales people in the coming year?

I personally am going to roll out a social selling programme for my sales team — on how you should be selling socially rather than face-to-face. Conferences and events may not even be there five years from now. People will be on social media platforms, and there will be virtually hosted sales sessions.

Buyers would rather visit social platforms than come to events. Conferences will be about creating thought leadership, and catching-up with old colleagues — much like a platform for engagement but actual buying will happen on social platforms. I think that's where (social platforms) investment will go in another 12-18 months.

What are the qualities or traits you look for in people while hiring them in your sales team?

Cornerstone has five traits we look for in people — a candidate should be cool, innovative, a team player, honest, and transparent. So, these are four-five broad parameters based on which we hire. If you are a great sales guy but not a team player, Cornerstone is not the place to be in. In the long-term, it's the team that takes you to another lever, not the individual.

Do you think what B-schools teach in class today is still relevant in the ever- changing business environment?

I think B-Schools should align themselves with industry. And it is happening today. There is a learning curve everybody goes through once he or she joins a firm but business schools give you the fundamentals of how you are going to perform later. People say it is not so much alignment with industry, but there is an amalgamation or marriage happening between the industry and business schools. A lot of people are now working on how to take the talent to the next level, and what is being taught in the schools is absolutely necessary for this.