I don't know about you, but I'm getting discouraged with the increasing number of self-proclaimed sales experts out there-and their endless and shameless self-promotion. (Having 15,000 Twitter followers and 10,000 LinkedIn contacts does not make someone a sales expert.)
My concern is that unsuspecting sales leaders and their reps, in desperate need of sound advice about how to improve their situations, are actually following the blatantly wrong things some of these people are writing and saying. It's come to the point that even hanging out in LinkedIn discussion groups has become a burden. There is just too much noise.
I decided to do something about it. I interviewed Richard Lane, partner at UK-based durhamlane, a relatively new player in the sales effectiveness space. He and his partner, Lee Durham, are two experts who know what they are doing. (ESR has vetted them, and they've passed the test. Here is ESR's sales effectiveness provider profile and evaluation of durhamlane if you'd like to learn more.)
During the interview, Richard and I discussed a number of subjects including business acumen, selling for non-salespeople (one strength of the firm), and their non-traditional approach to sales performance improvement.
Here is the interview:
Dave Stein: You stress the difference between sales people and business professionals. Please explain.
Richard Lane: Well, in our view the old style sales person is antiquated. Unfortunately the term "sales" carries negative baggage, especially in the UK. At durhamlane we're proud to be sales professionals and it is our ambition to raise the bar of the sales profession; to have our profession taken more seriously. We believe we should be regarded as equals alongside other professional service people. In order to excel in this new economy we must think and act as business professionals. We need to develop a deep interest in our customer's business, be interested to be interesting and always consider business fit, business value, and the development of long-term relationships when engaging with any client. We must be credible. To achieve credibility we have to work hard and develop ourselves so that we can deliver best practice advice and present solutions that make a tangible difference. One of our mantras is "Professional, humble, courteous" - a code for how we conduct ourselves.
DS: I know your firm helps non-sales people become more effective? How do you do that?
RL: We believe everyone in an organization has a responsibility to sell. When a company develops a positive sales culture across its business the results can be dramatic. They may not have a sales target, or work directly within the sales organization, but by listening and engaging in conversations around them, and by asking pertinent, focused, and business-orientated questions, non-sales people can play a major part in identifying new business opportunities for their company. It is also often the case that many client relationships are owned by non-sales people. Think of an engineering firm. It is unlikely any of the sales people are on-site and working with the customer as often as their engineers are. Granted they may not be in daily contact with decision makers, but they can learn about what's really happening in the business, from the frontline. We help our customers to create strategies and embed processes that help information to be gathered then fed back to the business, particularly to the sales organization. We're successfully working with a range of businesses where our remit is to upskill and inspire non-sales people to think more commercially. This includes re-shaping mindsets and helping people understand the value of developing "conversations with purpose." For example, in our work with, Industrial Technology Systems (ITS)-a UK based automation systems integrator-we're empowering engineers and technical staff to think about business fit, to pro-actively introduce sales into other parts of the business, and to deliver back intelligence and even leads to the business.
DS: What impact do you believe can be achieved by increasing the sales skills of non-sales people?
RL: The impact can be dramatic. When all of your staff, no matter which department they work in, are geared up to listen out for new business opportunities your organization takes on a new level of capability. It's probably worth saying that we do not expect non-sales people to become sales people. Rather our goal is for everyone to understand how important the commercial aspect of business is to the future of their company. We work hard to de-mystify the sales process, we encourage interest in the customer's needs and challenges, and we create strategies that ensure information is passed back to the relevant person within the business.
DS: You're running a relatively new sales performance improvement firm. How do you approach a new client engagement in order to make maximum impact and how is this different from a more traditional approach?
RL: We appreciate every client is different. As such we tend to take a customized approach to any new client engagement. We have developed a really successful Sales Process Review service which, in just one day on-site with the business, allows us to rapidly understand the client's situation and delivers back a comprehensive report that includes a range of short, medium, and longer-term recommendations designed to improve the sales culture and performance of the business. Following this process we are able to build training and coaching programs that really make a difference-a measurable difference. We prefer to build short, sharp, engaging programs that allow skills and knowledge to be practiced in real-time, reinforced, and embedded. We believe this is the only way to deliver lasting positive change.
About Richard Lane: As a co-founder of durhamlane and the recently launched hybrow, Richard is clearly passionate about sales. Now a respected sales consultant, trainer and coach, Richard is driven by a desire to raise the bar of the sales profession in the UK. Having worked every sales role, he has an instinctive ability to relate to both business owners and their individual sales staff; motivating, increasing confidence and providing inspiration. He is a blogger and a fellow of the Institute of Sales & Sales Management (ISSM). Here are some links for additional information:
- www.durhamlane.co.uk (360° sales performance solutions)
- www.sellingatahigherlevel.com (durhamlane blog)
- www.hybrow.co.uk (creating a new generation of sales professionals)