Dragging Sales Development out of the Dark Ages - Highlights

We recently ran our latest event titled "Dragging Sales Development out of the Dark Ages".

The rationale for the event was the fact that for far too long now, organisations across the world have invested significant sums of money in sales development programmes without getting the value from their investment that we think they should. This is largely down to outdated approaches to development that were formulated in the last century but are no longer fit for purpose in the 21st century.

We believe that it is time for this to change and so we gathered a crowd of over 40 like-minded sales leaders together in London to share insights and ideas on how we think this will happen.

Expertly facilitated by Andy Williamson, we firstly shared findings from analysis we have carried out over the last 18 months as to why, despite the best of intentions, sales development programmes still fail to deliver. This fell into 4 categories:

  • A lack of focus on commercial knowledge and understanding.

  • A pre-occupation with sales methodologies and therefore a lack of focus on developing the requisite emotional maturity and strength.

  • Unsophisticated development methods.

  • A lack of rigour in tracking progress.

This culminated in a panel discussion where senior leaders shared their experiences of sales development while working with organisations such as GE, Dow Chemical, First Data, Vocalink and Disney.

This was then followed by:

David James from Looop sharing insights as to how technology can best play a role in the development of sales capability. He talked about the importance of the YouTube approach to learning where people want to know what they need to know, in an easily digestible format, at the point in time that they need it (as opposed to their opportunity for learning being constrained by their organisation's training curriculum and delivery formats). The encouraging aspect to this from our perspective is that while it is still critical to have interventions that challenge people to push through their existing comfort zones, technology has advanced to the point where this can be complemented by short, sharp, highly effective bursts of content that fit seamlessly into day to day working life.

Andrew Hough, CEO of the Association of Professional Sales then talked about their aim to “advance and promote excellence in the sales profession”. We are delighted to be working with the APS and wholeheartedly share their vision for changing the perception of sales from one that many consider to be a ‘dark art’ with a questionable reputation to one that is a respected, honourable profession that reflects the importance it has for any organisation. Of course every organisation needs to do their bit in this regard however having a professional body supporting the industry is a wonderful addition to the cause.

Jeff Wolfin from Humanicity then shared how to approach the task of enhancing sales capability so that it has a direct and tangible impact on improving sales performance (why else bother investing you may ask!). This included the importance of:

  • Clearly articulating the value your proposition offers over and above anyone else and in a way that will resonate with senior execs.

  • Moving away from a pre-occupation on methodology to focusing on how to build the emotional buy-in and commitment to buy.

  • Rather than concentrating on making sales managers expert coaches, focusing on the multiple strands of leadership they need to demonstrate in order to accelerate their sales team's performance.

The conclusion from the day

This is an exciting time for the world of professional selling. That fact that 1) it is becoming harder and harder to differentiate, 2) competition is more aggressive, 3) customers are more 'buying savvy' and on top of all that, 4) the technology and social media revolution has exploded onto the scene in recent years all make the need for top class selling capability absolutely critical. For those that want to excel in the role, that want to be the best they can be and are willing to work hard and ‘take pride in the jersey’, they have an outstanding chance to succeed.

With a change in mindset and approach to how we develop sales excellence, this is entirely within reach.