2 February 2016

The world is changing – to compete do your sales people need a mini-MBA?

Entrepreneurship thought leader John Rosling explains why the neglect by corporates of broader human intelligence and critical business intelligence skills in the relationship management community is leaving the door wide open for challenger businesses.



Why the neglect by corporates of broader human intelligence and critical business intelligence skills in the relationship management community is leaving the door wide open for challenger businesses.

The CEO of a highly successful mid market business was recently asked about the relationship with the Bank. ‘Very good’ she answered. Surprised, the interviewer asked her about her view of the strategic value her banking team offered her. ‘I’ve no idea’ she replied ‘I’ve never met them.’

 

This simple exchange cut to the heart of the fundamental problem most large service providers face in creating sustainable relationships in the mid market. Technical, product-focused relationships are fine. Strategic relationships often don’t exist.

 

It’s a huge problem. From the perspective of mid market customers, the services of banks, accountants, technology businesses and even lawyers look increasingly commoditized. If all the customer is getting is product and no value what is to stop them switching? Where is the sustainability of a real relationship?

 

Corporates have done a great job at giving their client-facing teams technical training. They know their product. Yet there is little competitive advantage in that anymore and less sustainability. The neglect of broader human intelligence and critical business intelligence skills in those who seek to service the mid- market is increasingly telling.

 

Those who realise this and upgrade their sales teams to have the knowledge and confidence to offer genuine strategic insight and challenge to customers will clean up in this market place. They will find a ‘mini MBA’ will yield dividends.

 

This is a fundamental rethink of how customer facing teams are trained and rewarded and therefore how they behave with customers. “We made a decision to invest in the people, not the product” says the head of a UK Challenger Bank. “In recruiting we looked for people who were good listeners and were patient, who were willing to understand the needs of the business. We attribute our 700% growth to the relationship approach not the products or the price”

 

But this is just the start. In a fast-paced world, CEOs want more than just relationship. They want challenge, perspective, insight and support. To quote a CEO ‘you’re never going to get anywhere if you don’t challenge your client”. And to offer that credibly, salespeople need far more commercial acumen than they do a good knowledge of their product.

 

Single-mindedly developing salespeople’s human intelligence skills - and their strategic understanding of how small business really work commercially – can pay immediate and tremendous dividends. In global research of 600 managers who had been exposed to just two days of personal and business education followed by some on-line support, over 95% reported winning new clients immediately or shortly after the training and, remarkably, 93% reporting winning significant new work from existing clients.

 

All of which means that HR and Learning are on the front line in the war for customer acquisition and growth.  In this new market place those who win the strategic value and relationship battle will win the war.

Prolific writer and speaker John Rosling is CEO of Contexis and an expert in entrepreneurship.


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