The coming together of sales leaders in Australia

I recently had the opportunity to

attend the inaugural Optimising the Sales Force Conference, along with over 120

high level sales leaders across Australia. I was privileged to be part of

the panel of international and local experts presenting on sales effectiveness

where we explored the latest research on sales strategy, leadership, learning

and development, sales management, sales people, and current market trends.

This was the first time in Australia

we have had the opportunity to come together as a profession and share ideas

and discuss important matters moving forward. There have, of course, been

industry specific forums held for the profession of selling but not one that

brought industries of all kinds together to discuss sales specifically. It’s

hard to believe but this was the first time this has occurred in Australia and

about time to! It was really about driving a better profession. Many people

are unaware of just how skillful you need to be to run a sales team or lead a

successful sales career.

The conference was full of important

information and we also had the privilege of hearing from the elder statesmen

of strategic selling 78 year old Bob Miller of Miller Heiman fame, who pulled

no punches and reminded us of the foundations of our success. We also heard

from Tom Snyder who is world renowned for his expertise in creating high

performing sales teams.

Over the next few weeks I thought I

would share with you some of the insights and findings from the conference in

more depth but here is a summary of the topics we discussed and where our

attention was focused. This might give you some insight into where the

world of selling is heading.

  • Everybody

    is in sales:
    there was overwhelming

    agreement that everyone in business is in sales– You are either selling or

    supporting someone to sell. If your people are disassociating

    themselves with sales then you need to let them know in no uncertain terms

    we all live by selling something and they had better get with the program

    or get out.

  • New customer behaviours: the economic downturn has changed how customers conduct

    business and interact with suppliers, while this comes as no surprise

    there are now new customer behaviours we need to contend with. In

    particular, the increase in risk aversion was cited as being one of the

    most contentious issues. This risk adverse approach is leading to

    indecision by clients meaning that rather than losing to a competitor,

    nothing happens. So it is critical that sales people are

    able to work more strategically with clients and challenge them to help

    them make good decisions moving forward. This requires a more

    assertive, confident style of sales person.

  • The Challenger Sales Person: research by The Corporate Executive Board Company

    reported that we need to find and cultivate the ‘Challenger Sales Person’

    who is best suited for these markets moving forward. Some of the key

    characteristics of these people are that they always have a different view

    of the world, understand the customer’s business, love to debate, and

    challenge the customer’s ideas and perspective; in short they are at their

    best as commercial educators and bringers of new ideas and innovations to

    help businesses function better.

  • Coaching,

    coaching and more coaching:

    At least 40-60% of a sales manager’s job should be dedicated to coaching

    their sales people. Yet it still remains an area that is poorly

    executed. We were shown excellent case studies which demonstrated

    the financial return of sales coaching. Many of the case studies

    indicated that a blend of competent internal sales coaching by sales

    managers supported by external experts in sales coaching was very

    advantageous to their sales teams’ performance and productivity.

  • Role clarity and clear expectations: make sure salespeople and sales managers understand

    their roles and what is expected of them. Make it explicit and

    ensure people are adequately skilled to carry out their responsibilities.

  • Clear the dead wood quickly: sales managers spend too much time with people who

    produce too few results. Focus your attentions on those people who

    are already showing they want to do well and are actually doing their

    job. You have more hope in getting to your better performers to be

    much better producers than wasting your time on people who will never

    perform. As Tom Snyder said “Sales managers are guilty of thinking

    they can ‘save’ these people from themselves” – his advice is “get rid of

    them now!”

  • Insight and awareness: despite all the skills, tools, and processes around salespeople

    and sales managers need to be able to develop their own internal guidance

    and support systems. The ability to reflect on our own performance,

    be resilient, show empathy, and work ethically was high on the agenda.

    Personal insight and making a personal commitment to the corporate

    objectives is also important for ongoing success.

  • Connect strategy to activity: your strategy should translate into practical actions

    people can apply and see results from.

  • Marketing and sales unite: marketing needs to support sales and sales must

    support marketing. There is no in between. Hugh McFarlane from

    MathMarketing stressed the importance of making sure that all touch points

    and messages are in alignment.

  • Really connect with your key clients: Bob Miller pressed home the importance of being truly

    connected to your best clients, however he said you cannot have a

    strategic relationship that is only one way. Your clients must want

    it as much as you do and there is mutual agreement on the conditions of

    the relationship. He stated that most companies are very poor at managing

    this aspect of their business and it leaves them vulnerable to losing

    major accounts.

  • Corporate assets:

    today’s reality is that in addition to people, property, plant equipment,

    and IP some of the biggest and most often overlooked assets are companies

    strategic accounts. They need to be on the agenda of the ‘C’ suite

    i.e. the CEO, CFO, COO, etc.

I hope that this provides you with

some valuable information and insights into what is happening in sales today

and into the future. I will go into more depth in the ensuing weeks about these

and other topics we covered.

Happy selling.


'Selling is everybody's business and everybody lives by selling something' so says Sue Barrett, sales expert, writer, business speaker and adviser, facilitator, sales coach, training provider and entrepreneur. Sue founded Barrett in 1995 to positively transform the culture, capability and continuous learning of leaders, teams and businesses by developing sales driven organisations that are equipped for the 21st Century. Since inception, Barrett has worked with hundreds of Australian companies c...

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