Willis Turner, President and CEO of SMEI, Sales and Marketing Executives International, Inc., joins me on this episode.
Willis says the single biggest challenge facing sales reps today is taking time out to sharpen the saw and keep up-to-date on the newest technologies and education.
Organizations want sales reps to educate themselves. There is a trend toward self-directed learning, investing their own time and money. A sales professional is in charge of their own career.
Work is becoming more flexible and outcome-oriented. Individuals need to keep up with industry education. Sales may be going in a direction of independence, as manufacturers’ reps often are today.
SMEI was founded as a nonprofit in 1935. They follow their founding principles of career advancement support by certification for people in the sales and marketing profession and provide career readiness support for college graduates.
SMEI offers four certifications by testing: CSE for sales managers, SCPS for salespeople, CME for marketing managers and SCPM for people working in the marketing department. Certification is a validation of individual producers.
Certifications test for knowledge, not competence. There are pre-requisites which imply competence. To be certified you need experience in the field. A certification starts with a detailed job analysis and a bank of tests.
Andy would like to see basic sales skills covered in sales courses at the university level, to prepare graduates for professional selling and sales management. Willis adds his list of theories and topics that should be taught academically.
SMEI continues to update the certifications, based on their detailed job analyses, which are refreshed every four to five years. The core competencies include principles which are not trendy, as well as technologies, which are developing.
Customers who are certified themselves in some discipline are the first to notice the value of a sales certification. This drives demand.
Hiring managers could add certifications to job postings to help mitigate the risks of hiring salespeople. SMEI issues digital badges as part of the certification. The badges plug into LinkedIn profiles and at career centers.
Willis explains the cost for individual certifications, including an online exam prep course, and annual renewals.
Willis has not seen any movements toward government regulation of sales. He would like to see self-regulation by peers. People taking the certification recognize why they lost certain deals in the past.