Comedy and coaching culture at APS conference

25th June 2019 |   Journal Of Sales Transformation

Two half-day programmes explored the interrelated issues of performance and talent.

Driving improved sales performance via strategic insights and best practices was top of the agenda for delegates at a morning conference for APS members and guests at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers on 16 May. An afternoon conference focused on developing sales talent. Speakers included a mix of company sales leaders and consultancy experts. APS founder and C0-CEO Andy Hough introduced both sessions.

Hosted by TV journalist Penny Haslam, now a visibility coach and trainer, the morning sessions included presentations from senior executives at Royal Mail, Tata Communications, IBM Services, and SAP plus Nicci Take, a talented stand-up comedian and business leader who introduced herself with the line: “I used to be a boy, but I’m okay now.”

Penny Haslam

Penny Haslam: hosted the conferences.© Nick de Cent

As CEO of M62, Take has spent 25 years as a deal coach and boasts an 85% win rate, with her clients claiming average win rates of over 75%. Perhaps controversially, she downplayed the importance of a sales process, offering a key takeaway: “It is not a process. If you deploy it as a process, you will fail. If you chase everything, you don’t do anything smart or clever.”

Returning for an afternoon session on developing sales talent, Take focused on the importance of an inclusive, diverse workplace calling this “a strength and a competitive advantage”. She told the audience: “Women collaborate and nurture. They make great managers. If all the people you look at, look the same, you’re not doing your job. My win rates now are 85% because I’m working in a more feminine, more collaborative way. It’s about encouraging the conversation with everyone. If your win rate is falling you have a bunch of men who are focused on winning; it should be a collaboration. We should all work together so it’s a win-win situation.”

Andy Hough

Digital revolution

Tony Boniface, Ecommerce Desk Sales Manager at Royal Mail kicked off the morning by talking about how, in a world of social media, online reviews and one-click service, customer-facing salespeople are more important than ever. Following the digital revolution, it had been important to update the voice and culture of an established sales team to keep focus on the customer, he explained.

Boniface leads the Bristol sales centre for Royal Mail, which delivers 1.6 billion parcels a year. He was clear: “We don’t talk parcels, we talk delivery. It’s about people buying things and delivering customer experience; that’s what matters.”

Nicci Take

Nicci Take: Is sales a process?© Nick de Cent

Enrico Bonatti

Enrico Bonatti: Sales manager.© Nick de Cent

During her session titled “The Futures Sales Manager”, Global Chief Operating Officer, SAP Innovation Services, Cathy Ward asked delegates to close their eyes and think about the future. “Imagine it is the year 2030, just over ten years from now. What do you see?” she asked. “Beach and retirement!” shouted one delegate from the conference floor. “We’re really getting into this,” she joked.

Ward looked at the pressures faced by sales leaders. “We need to make the numbers and build for the future with a pipeline to create a sustainable business, and we need to manage the team.” However, with fast-paced technologies, we can often feel stuck in a “VUCA” world – one that is “volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous”. Ward imagined a time machine to help resolve the challenges of technology, the future of work, and keeping your customers happy and engaged.

“We want to perform and maximise our performance, but stress over the long term is not a good a good indicator of driving high performance. “At SAP we’ve built up a very strong mindfulness practice, and I would encourage people to explore what that means. How to engage in that, for yourself, to get your energy right, to get your headspace there, but also for your team, as well.”

Cathy Ward

Cathy Ward: Imagining the future.© Nick de Cent

Enrico Bonatti, now Senior Vice President Strategy and Sales Operations at Tata Communications, previously gained 20 years’ experience at Microsoft with several sales and marketing roles. He explored key aspects of being a frontline sales manager. He discussed how managing the present through nurturing the identify of your sales teams will create a strong future.

Following on with a session called “Comfort Zone or Trouble Zone”, Adrian Barnwell, IBM Services Sales coaching leader for Europe, MEA and Latin America offered a different perspective from Nicci Take. He told the conference that winning salespeople and sales organisations, like winning sportspeople and teams, consistently do basic things better than their competitors. His coaching experience started in hockey and transferred to business; he examined how good coaching creates a winning mentality. Adrian offered tips on a structured approach to coaching to create a valuable coaching culture.

Adrian Barnwell

Adrian Barnwell: From sport to sales coach.© Nick de Cent

Hiring and developing talent

During the afternoon conference Richard Simpson, VP Sales, Poq focused on the “art, science or hunch” of recruiting key salespeople, highlighting the £30bn spent each year on recruiting people. He stressed the importance of accurate performance data when hiring sales talent.

Rachael Satchwell, UK Head of Sales, Domino Printing reminded the audience what it was like to start in a new sales role with her presentation “The Journey of the New Sales Person”. Her 20 years’ experience in sales, starting out with a local inkjet-cartridge manufacturer, played into her description of her progression at Domino over the past five years where she has been developing new starters to contribute more quickly and effectively to the numbers.

Tony Boniface

Tony Boniface: Sales in a digital world.© Nick de Cent

Nick Holbrook, European Sales Training Manager at Toshiba TEC, who has spent the past 15 years building and delivering sales training and sales leadership workshops in Europe, the US and South America, offered tips on improving the best sales talent.

Lance Mortimer, Director Sales Training and Ben White, Senior Manager Sales Training at telecoms specialist GTT, reviewed the changing landscape of learning and talent development in organisations and what this means for salespeople. They discussed how to use data to help salespeople on a path of self-development and how to identify, retain and develop sales talent in order to achieve objectives.

Presentations from both the morning and afternoon conferences are available to APS members through their Client Share account.