Masters students discuss “Pushing the boundaries”

12th December 2019 |   Journal Of Sales Transformation

Alumni from Consalia and Middlesex University’s Masters sales transformation programmes joined other business leaders at this year’s Global Sales Transformation Conference to explore the fast-changing business landscape. Security was tighter than normal in the face of Extinction Rebellion protests as delegates gathered at the London Stock Exchange on 15 October for a packed day of discussion around the topic “Pushing the Boundaries: This is not business as usual”.

Antarctic explorer

One speaker who is no stranger to pushing boundaries is explorer and ex-Royal Marine Regimental Sergeant Major, Barry Gray – better known as Baz. In 2020, Gray is due to attempt one of the last great challenges of polar exploration to trek unsupported across the ice shelf from one side of the Antarctic continent to the other. Gray, an admirer of early 20th century Antarctic pioneer Sir Ernest Shackleton, is planning to set out in his hero’s footsteps in November 2020. Well placed to discuss resilience and positive mental attitude, a topic that is so relevant in today’s chaotic and fast-changing world, Gray encouraged delegates to follow whatever path inspires us, saying: “Everybody has an adventure inside.”

Stuart Leven
Stuart Leven: Focus on differentiation.

©All photos:
Nick de Cent

Samantha Wessels
Samantha Wessels: Road less travelled.
Barry Gray
Barry Gray: “Everybody has an adventure inside.”
David Norris
David Norris: Aligning sales organisation with new value proposition.
Simon Quinton
Simon Quinton: “Agility is what makes leaders successful.”

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is another quality much in demand in the current business environment. Simon Quinton, VP Strategic Accounts EMEA at Infor took delegates through his final Masters dissertation: “The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Driving High Performing Sales Teams”, which looked at the impact of EI on winning large deals.

Positive mindset is key to performance, he told the audience, and don’t overthink things. “EI is a crucial competency. Professionalism and listening skills are key.” Agility is what makes leaders successful: you need the ability to alter your style at speed and in the moment, and change your conversations at the point in time this is required. He noted three critical EI elements for high-performing salespeople:

• Having a positive mindset
• Agile behaviour
• Transformative culture

Fee-based contracts

David Norris, SKF Sales Director IM Sales & Marketing UK & Ireland, shared his insights on what it takes to align the sales organisation with a new value proposition, based on the digital transformation taking place at SKF. One of the world’s largest manufacturers of bearings, seals and lubrication systems, the group has been operating for an impressive 112 years. You can find SKF product in anything from Formula One race cars to manufacturing plants and anywhere in between.

Today, however, there is an increasing emphasis on preventative maintenance and whole-of-life costs which has prompted the introduction of fee-based contracts in recent years, which in turn has required a significantly different approach to product sales.

Challenger brand

Royal Caribbean Vice President EMEA and Managing Director of RCL Cruises Ltd, Stuart Leven explained how the company focuses on differentiation in its operations and marketing. In many of the countries in which it operates, the company is not the market leader, so seeks to behave like a challenger brand by being different: for instance, every ship incorporates iconic features to enable them to stand out from the crowd.

Taking risks

Samantha Wessels joined Elastic as VP Sales a year ago, an opportune time with the company recently navigating a successful IPO. She described her role leading a fast-growing sales team across Europe and shared her perspectives on sales leadership for the specialist search engine that is embedded in apps such as Uber and Tinder.

Mentoring and coaching are key activities for sales leaders, while diversity and an inclusive workplace are vital for performance. While individuals need tenacity to achieve their goals, they should also consider the road less travelled and take some risks. You can learn from failures; business is not just about successes, Wessels emphasised.