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Oct. 12, 2016

Last week at the FUZEnation Tech and Music Summit, Michael Litt, CEO and co-founder of Vidyard, addressed the issue of a major talent gap in the Waterloo Region as well as across Canada. Litt explained that the lack of experienced sales and business development executives is hurting our tech ecosystem. The Lazaridis Institute for the Management of Technology Enterprises’ research echoes these concerns.

The best technology idea in the world won’t scale up a company without an effective sales force. While having a winning product is an important factor, the key to success lies in understanding how to sell a business in addition to a product, and in recognizing that sales is also a science.

A strong sales organization can make all other business operations easier. Although a lot of focus is put on developing the product or service, building an effective sales organization is one of the big issues for Canadian technology company growth. Some may think the art of sales is magic; in reality, sales is data driven and as science-based as the technology that’s being sold.

Technology-centric founding teams have been forced to look outside of their organization for sales expertise, especially in the area of management. But there is a severe lack of individuals who have successfully sold modern technologies at high volumes and in rapid pace. For today’s high-growth companies, that sales expertise must also understand and have access to American and international sales channels. But searches for talent with proven, high-growth technology sales skill sets are often at best expensive, and at worst, fruitless.

Building a robust sales organization is a struggle, requiring a pipeline of talent that has not only the acumen but also the desire to pursue a sales-related career. Unfortunately, sales as a career path has been somewhat overlooked by Canadian post-secondary graduates, despite higher than average compensation packages and the transformation of the technology sales model.

Part of the reason might be an outdated perception of what a sales career entails. For today’s high-growth company, the key sales and marketing skill sets will be advanced customer segmentation, the use of big data, automated customer acquisition, search engine optimization, analytics, A/B testing, content marketing and digital marketing. Equally critical is the ability to complement these technical skill sets with an understanding of international markets, both in terms of their regulation and cultures.

Silicon Valley has succeeded at strategic planning around qualitative, predictive sales metrics. Canadian high-growth companies will need to replicate this sales approach to achieve the same level of success.

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