Thought articles

Selling: Putting the back office at the forefront

Some of your best sales people may not have ‘sales’ in their job title.

In some sectors, this has always been recognised. It seems however, that many more organisations are beginning to fully comprehend the part that their ‘technical experts’ can play in building closer customer relationships and in securing profitable new business.

As a result, some ‘technical’ roles are rapidly evolving and this seems to apply to a multitude of sectors impacting, for example, underwriters, lawyers, loss adjusters and consultants.

The industry professional who once worked behind a salesperson is increasingly expected to play a ‘frontline’ role. More businesses are likely to expect these people to have much more than technical expertise in the future; these expectations will come with further demands. They’ll need to: understand and practice consultative selling, really recognise customers and their needs, identify and adapt to different customers’ styles, develop relationships and rapport, present solutions clearly and distinctly and negotiate effectively.

There seem to be a number of catalysts for this change:

  • Increased customer demand for access to knowledgeable decision makers
  • Organisations seeking to set themselves apart in crowded markets by fielding experts who can really engage with their customers
  • Changes in the role of business development managers – with more focus on managing the interface between ‘technical experts’ and customers rather than being the sole point of contact

Newcomers to a technical role may find this transition attractive and a chance to broaden their skill sets.
Some, however, will struggle with this transformation. We’ve seen many senior ‘technical experts’ resist their baptism into what they may perceive to be the world of ‘selling’.

So what’s required to enable this metamorphosis?

Learning new skills is probably the easy bit. From our experience the more difficult challenges are likely to be centred around three things:

  • How technical specialists feel about taking on a broader, more commercial role
  • How this can be anticipated and managed
  • How to change well rooted habits that may have served team members well for most of their careers

We’ve developed a lot of experience in helping our clients get the best from their people by developing programmes that go beyond training, and which are designed to embed new commercial skills and behaviours.