1630: Andrew Hough, chief executive of the APS, presents 19 awards to member organisations and APS stalwarts for their support and loyalty.
Joe Terry of Corporate Visions concludes the proceedings of day one by inviting delegates to drinks and canapés in the Mermaid Theatre’s Upper River Room.
The conference live blog will return tomorrow for the second day of the conference.
1500: What can you read into a customer’s shoes? Sometimes rather too much, warned Michael Thompson of EY, as the panel discussion on Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) tackled the subject of unconscious bias.
The APS’s D&I Community has published a white paper on EY research which found a solid business case for recruiting in an inclusive way. Diverse sales teams, which mirrored the variety in their customer base, made six per cent more transactions than homogenous teams and outperformed them in sales terms by 10 per cent.
Yet too many organisations are still lacking inclusivity. Another panellist, Karen Jackson, managing director of CPM, said that while building her career she had come across too many examples where relationships were built and business done in predominantly male environments such as the golf course.
One delegate asked whether diversity was something that only large organisations had the resources to tackle.
Claire Edmunds, CEO of Clarify and chairman of the D&I Community, said that the most important thing was for the head of an organisation to project leadership on the issue, and here small and medium-sized businesses could be more agile and responsive than larger corporates.
Simon Porter, IBM’s head of commercial sales Europe, said that the main cost was time, and that small companies could afford to spend the time if it was important to them.
Ms Edmunds revealed that the community is to publish a diagnostic tool for any company or individual to check what their unconscious assumptions were, as pre-conceived notions can alienate customers.
Mr Thompson light-heartedly revealed that he had had to acknowledge and allow for his own unconscious bias towards people with smart shoes. As an African-American who did not play golf, he too had experienced being left out from business and bonding sessions while working in California.
Replying to an audience question about diversity quotas being “forced” through, Derek Rocholl, Royal Mail’s head of product management, said: “I think we have to force ourselves as organisations to make [inclusiveness] part of the way we behave going forwards. The more we can share experiences of these issues and the tools we use to address them, the better.”
1415: Tim Riesterer throws down the gauntlet by revealing that his LinkedIn Social Selling Index score is an impressive 69. The UK average is 31. (“Very good!” comments Vernon Bubb, of LinkedIn.)
“I’ll buy a drink tonight for the first person with a higher score than me,” promises Mr Riesterer.
1410: Cold calling is dead as a sales practice, and in its place sales is witnessing the rise of the warm introduction through social media, says Vernon Bubb of LinkedIn.
The change is part of general social trend towards personalised services tailored to the individual.
Research by LinkedIn showed a strong correlation between sales success and how talented a sales professional was in using social media as part of their job, to identify and cultivate prospects.
He described how LinkedIn calculates a Social Selling Index score for sales organisations and individuals.
Data harvested from social media by programmes such as LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator could help sellers to identify critical changes in buying intent within their prospects. Mr Bubb described how within three days of being alerted that a good client had recruited someone with a previously cool relationship with his employers, he was able to contact them and arrange a meeting to reassure them.
1235: Sales professionals need to offer a range of skills more akin to those of a chief executive or a general manager than a traditional seller to operate effectively these days, warns Dr Javier Marcos of Cambridge University’s Judge Business School.
Changing customer behaviour, the impact of technology and competition from cheaper suppliers in emerging markets has rewritten the job description.
Dr Marcos said that he saw sales polarising into short cycle, transactional sales and long cycle, complex, strategic sales, which required quite different skill sets – yet salespeople were often required to be flexible enough to be across both.
He outlined a vision of the seller as a co-creator with the customer, able to think innovatively and to co-ordinate with other external organisations to arrive at a solution of value to all sides.
Dr Marcos also delved into the definition of value, arguing that these days it lay more in the use that a customer derived from a product or service, to reach a desired goal or end.
1100: Have sales techniques moved on since Professor Rackham revolutionised the field of sales with his classic 1988 international bestseller SPIN Selling?
Yes, Prof Rackham reveals. SPIN is based on four types of questions that the seller asks the buyer: situation questions, problems questions, implication questions and “need payoff” questions. Of those, situation questions and problems questions need to be curtailed and changed because busy buyers no longer have time or patience to explain their needs.
“The new rule of thumb appears to be that if someone has time to talk you then they are not worth talking to,” says Prof Rackham.
He also reveals that his book came close to being called SPIV Selling, because the fourth type of question is really about value.
“My America colleagues couldn’t see the problem with the word Spiv, but I had to explain that it doesn’t go down too well in England where I come from,” said Prof Rackham.
1020: What do you say to a customer when you’re selling in the new era of differentiation? Tim Riesterer knocked down some of the time-worn wisdoms about the practice of selling.
He also has a warning: current estimates are that the number of sales professionals is set to fall significantly in the next five years. The types of sales job that are going to be lost are order takers, expediters and navigators, warns Mr Riesterer.
But sellers who could be typified as counsellors are going to see their opportunities increase and to become more important.
Counsellor sellers would do well to respond to current research that shows that traditional techniques – opening with diagnostic questions, and quizzing a customer in depth about their current critical business issues – are becoming counter-productive.
Effective sellers will already know the customer’s existing needs, and will attract attention and interest by identifying needs that that their client has not yet considered. “Lead with the unconsidered need,” said Mr Riesterer.
Instead of opening with diagnostic questions, they will present insights that will have an “anchoring effect” on the conversation.
0950: The need to professionalise sales dates back at least 2,500 years, APS patron Professor Neil Rackham tells the audience. He tells the story of a upstart thinker called Thrasimachus – “a cross between Donald Trump and Boris Johnson on a bad day” – who believed he could beat the celebrated Athenian philosopher Socrates in an argument.
Socrates explained that it was best for everyone to have their own place in society according to their talents: farmers on the land, soldiers in the army and so on.
“There’s a flaw in your argument. What do you do with people so incapable and incompetent they can’t take on any of those professions?” asked Thrasimachus triumphantly.
“That’s easy,” said Socrates. “You send them into the marketplace to sell the products that other people produce.”
0940: Andrew Hough has launched the 2016 APS conference with a roadmap to the future of professionalising sales.
He makes a number of major announcements:
- the first ever framework for Continuous Professional Development for sales
- an initiative with the government to introduce sales apprenticeships, led by Louise Sutton
- professional registration
- the first ever sales code of conduct for the profession
“Anyone who signs the code of conduct will go on a register that is searchable by customers,” says Mr Hough.
0919: We are moving into a new, key phase of the APS, says APS chief executive Andrew Hough as he welcomes delegates into the auditorium for the start of conference.
0001: Good morning, and welcome to the live blog of the Association of Professional Sales’s annual conference 2016. We will be bringing you news and pictures as some brilliant speakers discuss how we professionalise sales in the new era of differentiation..
Watch out too for four major announcements which will be made from the conference platform.