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How Embracing The Science Of Selling Will Set Your Business Apart

I have assessed hundreds of candidates who are up for promotion to more senior roles in professional service firms and I am yet to come across one whose burning desire is to become the top salesperson. Experts in their field, trusted partner to their clients, yes. But not a salesperson. The word ‘sales’ is rarely mentioned. Client management, business origination, occasionally business development, but sales? No, we’re a little more sophisticated here thank you!

And yet the reality of success in these organisations is having the ability to generate revenue and put the expensive experts in the team to work.

The best consultancies take their pick of the brightest candidates from the most prestigious universities across the UK. Once in the business their technical skills are honed through mandatory professional qualifications so that they can provide the very best advice to their clients, whether they are accountants, lawyers  or some other highly qualified professional. As they progress in their career their people management skills are developed and further polished through a range of leadership programmes so that they can lead larger teams on increasingly complex client engagements.

I tend to assess individuals who are on ‘Partner track’. They are the best of the best. The majority will ace their panel interview and present a compelling business case. But the one thing that scares them is the prospect of having a sales target to deliver. Sure they are used to being given metrics to achieve, but in the past these have measured the things that they can control. They’ve never had their neck on the line for sales performance. And yet at no point during their career have their sales capabilities been formally assessed or development areas clearly identified in the way that their technical or people management skills have. They worry that, often for the first time in their career, they won’t have what it takes; that they’ll be found wanting. Welcome to the world of strategic selling.

If professional services firms want their Partners to sell effectively (whether that is originating new business, cross selling to existing clients or simply maximising the opportunities in front of them) they have to invest in the sales skills of those that find themselves on the Partner track. They can’t expect technical experts to be great at selling.  Why should developing sales capability be any different to the way that these firms support the development of an individual’s technical and leadership skills?

Don’t wait until they become a Partner to find out if they can sell. Evaluate their sales skills in advance; use this as a criteria for promotion. Support and train those with potential to maximise their sales capability and acknowledge that some people will never be top salespeople (and provide them with an alternative route for success). No amount of batting practice is going to convert Jimmy Anderson into a Joe Root, but the team needs both.

Acuity, from Bloojam Consulting, defines the critical capabilities that are statistically proven to be exhibited by star sales performers. These individuals deliver c25% more sales than their peers.

Jim Bloomfield is a Director of Bloojam Consulting with 20 years’ experience of using business psychology to develop salespeople and leaders. He is a member of the Association of Business Psychology (ABP) and the British Psychological Society (BPS) and has successfully helped some of Britain’s best-known businesses exceed their sales goals.

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