Sales books – winter fireside reading

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If you are like me, interested in what’s emerging in the sales world, then there’s some really inspiring books to get your hands on for a spot of fireside reading.

My top 3 sales books

I loved these three books and for many different reasons, but my #1 is The Challenger Sale…

The Challenger Sale, how to take control of the customer conversation – by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson of CEB. I love the whole book and carry it around with me, still. It’s so on the customer agenda of today, it’s scary. The biggest takeaway for me is the way sellers need to link to what people normally do and then reshape what’s possible to deliver greater and unexpected returns and learnings. I’m next going to read their Challenger Customer book (see below).

Sales EQ, how ultra high performers leverage sales-specific emotional intelligence to close the complex deal – by Jeb Blount. This flows really nicely from The Challenger Sale and the first quarter pages are especially rich with buyer insight and the psychology of selling really well laid out.

The sales acceleration formula, using data, technology and inbound selling to go from $0 to $100m – by Mark Roberge. Really inspiring to see how Hubspot was grown into the success it is today. In particular their bespoke buyer persona/buyer’s journey matrix (which illustrates the different personas and stages of the buyer’s journey) and shows when marketing leads are originated and scored, and when its the right time to hand them over to sales. An excellent read to show that firms need to invent their own systems and make them work in their unique environment.

Other recommended books I have on my reading list for the coming months

The Challenger Customer, selling to the hidden influencer who can multiply results – by Matthew Dixo, Brent Adamson, Pat Spenner and Nick Toman at CEB.

The way we’re working isn’t working, the forgotten needs that energise great performance – by Tony Schwartz (with Jean Gomes and Catherine McCarthy. Looks at how to re-energise your life to be more satisfied and productive.

Sales management simplified, looks at how to get the best out of sales teams as a leader – by Mike Weinberg.

Happy reading!

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Engaging your future leaders, for selling in tomorrows world

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Developing a future leader sales development programme is essential for any professional services form today. Simply having a sales methodology isn’t enough. Providing tools and coaching across key accounts and proposals isn’t enough.

Sales programmes need to be in fun, yet modern, formats which engage debate and the sharing of issues and experiences from your most senior leaders, down to your most junior staff.

Benefits of having a future leader sales programme

  • Address the common challenges and inefficiency in your go to market approach so everyone knows whats working and how different people are successful in delivering it (in their own style).
  • Pull on your strengths consistently across the business, based on common client feedback themes so people know exactly what you do well and what you need to improve upon.
  • Build awareness of relationships and delivering client value so people can see how  to develop understanding and trust, so they can also challenge and innovate.
  • Bring your sales methodology and tools to life and encourage junior fee earners to get involved earlier in their careers.

How to navigate the market complexity for tomorrows sales environment

Considering key market drivers in order for your future leaders to progress, they MUST have a wide and strong network of client relationships, be organised on which accounts they focus on, know how to unlock value for each unique client, and have interesting topics to debate with clients.

Market disruption impacts long-held client-supplier relationships, opening the door to competitors who can quickly build new relationships, often before incumbent firms are able to organise themselves. But leveraging the right opportunities is getting harder. Speed to market with bright ideas needs focused and fast development to maximise first-mover advantage.

All firms are modernising digitally, so competitors are increasing and emerging from all over the globe. Providing differentiated solutions that speak to individual client motivations, objectives and situations in language they understand is at the forefront of winning in the market.

People typically work across several industries and employers during their career, meaning clients roam and need a bigger network of advisers for insight and delivery support. This means future leaders must be good at keeping in touch with their external peer networks if they are NOT currently billing them. Although new online social platforms enable them to initiate and hold conversations with clients sooner and more often, it can stop your future leaders from developing relationships in person – developing rapport and actively listening and probing.

Link sales training to career development and what client say

Your future leaders need an immersive sales development environment, not a classroom experience. They should be able to express frustrations and have myths busted. They should be able to problem solve and hear stories of what works for different people and clients themselves. Most of all they need SMART action plans to start developing their skills gaps, now.

All firms conduct interviews in order to promote their staff, and there will be common sales and relationship issues that stop people from progressing their careers. Being able to quickly home-grow more talent is essential, in order to respond to the market. Advisers who are able to build solid relationships and challenge clients to think beyond the obvious to deliver multi-line solutions, will succeed in developing consultative relationships.

And you can’t develop consultative relationships on your own. Many junior fee earners are unaware of the importance of internal peer relationships that extend beyond their immediate team. Those that foster a collaborative approach to problem solving, are more successful.

However, everything has to be based on client evidence and advice. Often described as ‘the customer journey’, understand your end-to-end client feedback to spot the trends of when you are successful and when you are not. Ask clients what they value when advisers try to build relationships with them, and what stands out when people get it wrong – you will find the feedback refreshingly honest and down to earth. Whether this information comes from your brand surveys, or client feedback across various channels, its very important. This forms the basis for your future leaders development and what they should prioritise in their development. Celebrate the good stuff and fix the bad.

The most debilitating aspect is fear of the unknown creating inertia. Hearing how others faced their fears and insecurities will dispel the myths as you reframe fears into opportunities. By countering excuses so people know what IS and IS NOT expected of them, you will inspire and challenge your future leaders to think differently. Likewise, understanding the ‘mood music’ among your troops is core to this. I often hear things like: “I never realised how important BD was, until I was looking for promotion” or“I’m unsure how and when to contribute in client meetings or when/ how I’m allowed to develop my own relationships when there’s so much client delivery to see to”. Know what the mood music is among your troops, so you can say – we listened and we did something about it!

TOP TIP: All future leaders need to artfully balance IQ with EQ (eg speak their clients language) because clients buy for their own reasons (not ours). If you want some good reading on the new psychology of selling, check out Jeb Blount’s book ‘Sales EQ’. The first few chapters are especially good.


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Want to leave a long lasting and positive legacy on sales and relationships performance with your future leaders? Contact Edler Consulting for an initial conversation about how you can make sales and relationship building ‘business as usual’ and fit for tomorrows world.

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How to FOCUS on achieving your pesky end of year sales target

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Common known fact: it’s 8 times easier to keep existing clients happy, than it is to find entirely new clients. I’ve spent my whole career helping firms FOCUS on the right clients. So why is it so hard?

Professional services firms need key account programmes. There’s no getting away from it.

The most important clients need protecting, nurturing and investing in. They need to feel special. They need to be excited that you have exactly the right balance of constructive challenge, ideas and innovation, you completely understand (and are passionate about) making their goals a reality, and most of all – you deliver clearly defined value to their business.

But what comfort do you have that your personal revenue target will be a walk in the park, rather than an Ironman challenge? And, what if you grow your client accounts single-handed, plugging in the right subject matter experts, but personally maintaining a single point of contact for everything from scoping to invoicing across all services provided? Life can get quite complex, and for some, this means managing 100 to 200 clients.

That’s a long tail, creating a fertile environment for things to slip through the cracks.

So, how can key account principals influence such a huge personal portfolio? And, how can today’s business development principals you to FOCUS?

 

The tip of the iceberg

Consider the portfolio approach and unlock clients, time and revenues to focus on end of year sales targets, pipeline and plugging the leaky bucket.

Anyone that plans a blanket 3% growth across their client portfolio is going to find it hard to achieve, even in a buoyant market.

Obviously you can raise your prices, but there’s a lot more to consider if you want to maximise revenue and know what you want to keep, stop and start doing.

How much revenue is, with a solid degree of confidence, going to come in – across the different services your firm provides to this portfolio? Client by client. Group them as normal key account programmes do, eg grow/ maintain/ ignore. Plan who is (and isn’t) going to spend time with each group/ client.

How much £ churn are you expecting overall? Put a number on it. What revenue target are you chasing for the year? What’s the best way to fill the hopper with fresh clients to target?

What lies beneath the water

Now you can start the most important task – focusing on the right clients and really making an impact on their success.

When are you going to be busy pitching for new or repeat business? Map the likely month when each client will ask you for pricing/ proposal to contract for the next period. Know your busy delivery months compared to your busy pitching periods – flesh out time in between to focus on prospective business development.

Check your typical pricing and negotiation strategy for the key clients you expect to discuss commercials with – if you negotiate better to achieve a 5-10% improvement on new fees every time that’s a lot easier than finding new clients. Think about the tradables you can offer that cost you little but have significant value to the client. Consider bundling to introduce new services as a taster. Rehearse your new negotiation strategy with a more commercial colleague to ensure you don’t simply talk yourself out of a robust price and negotiation before you’ve even put it in front of your client.

Get your best clients at the heart of what you do – get ready for proposals by defining what each client values and the value you’ve helped them achieve so far. This can be done by seeking (and most importantly, acting upon and celebrating) client feedback – know your strengths and nip any issues in the bud.

Proactively seek to bring your most important clients in for an account session – discussing their business and future plans with a collective of partners to see if innovation, challenge and problem solving can be unearthed as a team. Relationships are important but clients of today want advisers who are passionately invested in their success and always on the look out to unearth fresh ideas, challenge for greater outcomes and focus on what matters most. Don’t just leave this to the key account programmes – if you have a really important client to grow, be at the center of helping them unlock more value than they thought was possible.

Spread the load – empower and mentor your more junior account team on the strategies they can use to support the accounts of mid and lower importance in your portfolio. They need to step up and manage/ spot opportunities to bring to your attention, ideally placing similar sector clients with the same person. Regularly challenge them on the insight they have developed across the accounts they are focusing on for you, help them prepare and participate with the direction they could tap into. They are your eyes and ears on your tail end accounts.

Fill the hopper – understand exactly what client credentials/ strengths you have and find similar new clients. Find more of your most profitable clients where you have a brilliant track record of delivering insight and value.

Improve your pursuit and conversion of new business – work on how you articulate differentiation, develop clearer value propositions, position your deep client-centric expertise around benefits and outcomes for them. Map your ratio of meetings to opportunities to converted sales eg how many meetings and opportunities need pursuing each month to plug the £ gap? Monthly or quarterly pipeline analysis keeps the team focused on what matters across existing clients and prospective opportunities and targets.


 

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Want to find out more about how this can help you focus on the right clients? Contact Edler Consulting for an initial chat about unlocking client potential and focussing on the right things to achieve your personal sales target. I’m available for one to one coaching, team development and management consultancy across sales and marketing disciplines.

Follow my blog on edlerconsulting.com.

Would you like to learn more about my Marketing & Sales Practice?