Nathalia Parra, a power woman in an “all-boys” aviation field, shares her view on the changing responsibilities of sales professionals, including shouldering the responsibility to identify their strengths and areas for development.
Xtatio: Please tell us about yourself, touching on your professional experience.
I have an electrical engineering degree in Colombia, followed by a masters in applied science in electrical engineering and computer science.
I started off as a flight simulator hardware-software integrator and validation engineer but I eventually became a project manager. Working at a small-size organization gave me the opportunity to learn about the business and I was given more responsibilities, including leading various teams in a rapid organizational change context.
This led me to my decision to advance my knowledge in non-technical areas by attending the Global Executive MBA at INSEAD.
After 10 years in the aircraft simulation industry, I dedicated one year to marketing and strategy consulting with my brother in Colombia, expanding the vision I had with regards to sales and business development. To date, I am still involved on a part-time basis, and we look forward to continue growing the business.
My passion for aviation still runs deep, which is why I joined the Diagnosis, Prognosis and Health management (DPHM) division at Pratt & Whitney Canada. As a customer support manager, I am in charge of channelling customer requirements to other parts of the organization, coordinating and managing service and product-related projects. Ours is a highly committed team under exemplary leadership that embraces hard work as much as it values its community and employees.
Xtatio: What is driving the future of sales?
I think that the future of sales is driven by better understanding of individuals, communities and societies. A business would either create a new necessity or identify one that can be satisfied in the “best possible” manner. This “best possible” evolves with the advent of new technology and should constantly be adapted to evolving markets.
The focus of sales is changing from being product-driven to customer-driven. You hear more about the importance of factors that trigger customers’ decisions, such as the purchasing experience, symbolism behind a brand and so on.
Xtatio: How will sales professional responsibilities evolve through the next 5-10 years?
I believe that sales professionals are becoming more involved in the “closed loop” process. What this means is that they aren’t only about closing deals; they also look at opportunities to retain customers and feed the organization with all sorts of valuable information from customers and incumbents.
Responsibilities will keep evolving where eventually, I think, business professionals will become more participative into the structuring of business and product development strategies.
Xtatio: What new skills will be in demand in today’s climate? Are there any that will be less relevant?
In my opinion, data analytics and data interpretation are skills that one needs to have. It is about understanding how quantification of relevant parameters in the business talk to us and help us find root causes, trends and potential risks. Being able to take advantage of data, knowing how to utilize the latest technology and making decisions based on them will be valuable.
Besides that, sales professionals should be curious about topics like neuromarketing, negotiations psychology and so on.
How has social media and digitization altered the nature of salespeople’s interactions with its customers? Do you see it eventually substitute for face-to-face interactions?
Social media and digitization have revolutionized the way marketing, sales and customer support work these days. With so much information and offerings online, it can be overwhelming and thus ineffective IF other forms of interaction are not used to earn the customers’ attention and trust.
With a larger demographic, we should use tools at our disposal to reach as many customers as possible. I believe that they are complement, rather than a substitute, to human interaction.
People cannot be replaced when a high level of confidence is required to make a transaction.
Xtatio: With the advent of individualized digital training and coaching platforms, how have/do you see a change in sales leaders’ responsibilities in terms of developing and managing talent?
Individualized training is a much welcomed concept: we all have different areas for development and traditional training normally doesn’t address these specific needs.
Regardless of field of expertise, I believe that we each should assume personal responsibility in the identification of strengths and areas for development, as much as we should seek mechanisms for personal growth.
We should be open to receiving feedback and feel comfortable providing feedback to those who ask for it. It is important to see that talent development requires self-awareness and external assessment.
How will deployment of digital technologies affect sales training effectiveness?
Digital technologies allow us to capture and access information that, if channeled in an adequate manner, can benefit anyone. If you can visualize your route to success, whatever you define it to be, it is very likely that your efforts to adjust your trajectory throughout your path will bear fruit.
Empower your sales team with a handy tool to identify their strengths and areas for development via customer and peer feedback, and self reflection. Find out more here.