Gary Williams looks at the impact of investing in sales ability
Winning more than your fair share of the ‘pie’
A recent McKinsey article focused on the ‘Sales secrets of high-growth companies’. It wasn’t focused on any particular sector, but when thinking about professional services, there are some interesting ideas about how to drive organic growth through the development of people. Having worked with thousands of professionals over many years, we have recognized that you can’t turn an engineer/lawyer/surveyor into a sales-person (or extremely rarely), but you can equip them with the tools, techniques and confidence to make an impact in their markets.
McKinsey surveyed more than a 1000 wide-ranging companies and found that a rigorous focus on sales training is a clear differentiator between the fast and slow-growing companies. “Just under half the fast growers spend significant time and money on sales training, compared to 29 percent of slow growers.” What was really interesting though is that among the high-growers there was a feeling that they still needed to do more in areas such as ‘Understanding customers specific needs’, ‘Pipeline Management’ and ‘Account Planning’.
One of the surveyed organisations tried a new approach to improving sales performance after years of fruitless initiatives: “Instead of focusing solely on what sellers had to do, the program also devoted significant attention to building the talents and capabilities to enable them to do it, making a substantial investment in teaching skills and enforcing their use with specific goals.” The result? A 25% improvement in productivity across all regions within 18 months. More impressive still, the gains stuck, and two years later performance was still improving.
Selling skills training for senior people
Help your team achieve a better win-rate, higher fees, greater margins and improved cross-selling
So what can professional services firms take from this insight?
A significant weapon in a firm’s arsenal when fighting competition is the ability of its people. Not just their technical ability (which is important), but their selling ability as well. It used to be that one or two very well connected, very able ‘Rainmakers’ would create work for their juniors simply by working their network and being in the right place at the right time. Today’s world is different; yes, you still need to be well connected, but no longer can a firm really drive growth by relying on a few people to bring in the work. The successful modern professional is an all-rounder with the following attributes:
- Good technical ability, keeping up with advances and changes.
- Has a business and personal development plan encompassing objectives for both business targets and personal brand.
- Has a strong and growing reputation (either for quality, niche player etc.) both online and offline.
- Is a relentless networker who eats and drinks where her clients gather, writes articles for publications her target market reads, speaks at events where her chosen audience attends.
- Understands the sales process and invests (or demands their firm invest) in learning skills and techniques for continuous improvement.
“Ultimately, those firms that invest continuously in developing sales and client management skills are those that will win more of the ‘pie’ than their competitors!”
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