Conference 2016 in quotes


Andrew Hough, CEO of the APS, makes four major announcements

On professionalism

We have delivered today a continuous professional development framework, the first one that has ever been delivered in sales. Andrew Hough, chief executive officer, Association of Professional Sales

There needs to be another level of professionalism, not brought in by outside consultants but from within the profession. That is truly novel. We are so interested in this idea you at the APS have started here, we are talking about this back in the United States. Tim Riesterer, chief strategy officer of Corporate Visions

We can’t be amateurs. We have to be professionals, we need to be in our customers’ shoes, talking to them about their business. Bobbi Heath, director of field enablement EMEA, F5 Networks Inc.

If I saw that a candidate was registered with the APS and in its continuing professional development programme, then that, for me, is absolutely huge. I would be drawn to them. It shows they have invested in themselves. Chris Bishop, talent acquisition leader UK, Ireland and Europe West, EMC

We live in an era where how you sell is much more important than what you sell. A good sales force is a much greater competitive advantage than having a good product. Professor Neil Rackham, author, consultant and patron of the APS

On salespeople


Prof Neil Rackham

Consultative selling is creating value through future problem-solving and expert advice. It is YOU that is being bought, not your product. If you haven’t planned and done your homework, you’re dead. Prof Rackham

These days a salesperson is required to have the typical capabilities that would once have been associated with a chief executive. We have to start looking at individuals who bring to the role a wider range of skills. Dr Javier Marcos, Cambridge University’s Judge Business School

Top sales professionals spend 25 per cent more time on research and preparation. They send 148 per cent more LinkedIn connection requests. Vernon Bubb, sales solutions leader EMEA, LinkedIn

Telling the customer about your product will fail if the customer already knows more about your product than you can imagine. You add no value that way. But about one third of people working in sales are still trying to do that, and it’s having less and less impact. Prof Rackham

On market trends


Dr Javier Marcos

Some people say that we are moving towards consultative selling, but I raise a caution about this. Products and services are increasingly being viewed as commodities, making price the main factor for differentiation. Dr Javier Marcos, Cambridge University’s Judge Business School

In the last five years sales has polarised. There are many more customers buying transactionally, but they are doing it in a different way and they have gone away, which is why so many sales jobs are going to disappear. The rest are consultative customers, who want more expertise. Prof Rackham

[To use the new sales methods] it’s vital to invest in coaching and sales process. It’s a big step for older sales people, who may have been going round with the same PowerPoint presentation for 20 years, to go into a chief financial officer’s office and put the fear into them, activate their lizard brain, and then engage in that value proposition. Chris Newall, vice president global accounts EMEA, Ciena

On the new sales skills

Vernon Bubb

Vernon Bubb

The cold call is pretty much dead, and has been replaced by the warm introduction [on social media]. Vernon Bubb, sales solutions leader EMEA, LinkedIn

One buyer told me that if he fell in a pit, there were 100 salesmen who would sell him a ladder, but only one who would show him how to stop falling in, and he’s the one he wanted to talk to. Prof Rackham

We have to be able to operate in a highly commoditised environment, but also to shift quickly to a co-creation mode. Dr Marcos

In reality, most salespeople engage too late. Claire Edmunds, CEO, Clarify

Sellers need to use the current state / future state effect, as this is the kind of contrast that means something to customers, not comparisons between your company and your rivals. Tim Riesterer, chief strategy officer, Corporate Visions

…And on the lighter side


One of the favourite tools of salespeople is the competitive matrix, where you compare yourself with your competitors, but you have loaded the dice because the things you put on there play to your strengths and their weaknesses. You’re saying [puts on squeaky voice]: “I’m Mighty Mouse! Here I come, to save the day!” and waiting for them to go [puts on swooning, girly voice]: “My hero, what took you so long?” Tim Riesterer

I think bringing sales teams together is always a powerful and productive time, so long as it is structured – otherwise they would spend most of their time in the bar. Ashiq Hassanali, vice president advisor relations Europe and Africa, Wipro

After situation questions, problem questions and implication questions, I wanted to call the fourth type of question value questions, but that would have given my sales method the acronym ‘SPIV’. People in the US couldn’t see the problem, but I had to tell them that it doesn’t go down too well in the UK where I come from. Prof Rackham, author of SPIN Selling