Never having been an analyst that thinks he knows it all, I periodically attend external conferences as a mere delegate (no speech) to learn something new and network. I was at last week’s conference of the Association of Professional Sales (APS) in London with over 400 other marketers, sales enablement professionals, sales training companies and even sales executives to discuss

“The New Era Of Differentiation”.  

What you sell is not enough but how you sell it is everything: What you say, what you do, what you offer and who you hire into sales.

The APS was formed two years ago by enterprise sales executives at EMC, EY, SAP, Wipro, WorldPay, and Royal Mail, and now has well over 1000 members. Its objective is to raise awareness of sales as a profession (one speaker opined that hairdressers and butchers are more appreciated than salespeople) – by providing accreditations, training, certifications and codes of conduct.  The word “profession” is usually attributed to occupations like lawyers or doctors in the English language so these aspirations are high.

One of the sponsoring partners for this initiative is Corporate Visions Inc. – kudos to Tim Riesterer, their Chief Strategy Officer in recognizing the potential of the Association. Tim was a keynote speaker and, as usual, he presented eloquently about effective sales conversations.  Neil Rackham, most famous for the now 30-year old book “Spin Selling” is also involved in the APS and he spoke too; as did leaders from Royal Mail, IBM, EY, CPM, Wipro, SAP, EMC, Clarify, F5 Networks, and Ciena. The other sponsor of the event was LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

Both Tim (a couple of times) and Claire Edmunds, CEO of Clarify, a business development outsourcing provider, cited some Forrester research in their talks. Tim even made me stand up and wave – you cannot beat that type of PR so I was pleased to do that and I collected many business cards. The reports I then shared were our now-infamous “Death of the B2B Salesman” report – which Tim summarized very fairly and rationally, as well as Laura Ramos’s research about what executive buyers expect from sales conversations.  Mary Shea’s Sales Force Digital Reboot report was already the subject of an article in the Q1 2016 edition of the International Journal of Sales Transformation, who is the Association’s media partner.     

Did I learn anything? Oh yes, our selling archetypes are right on and the consultative seller model is vital for future success of most companies. And that the sales organization actually has an inferiority complex!  I also noted a different perspective about the business millennial – the true challenge is that most businesses now have people across FIVE generations: all with different attitudes, preferences and points of view.  Something for us to explore in future research.

Always keeping you informed! Peter