With the growth in service-industries over the last thirty years, the study of the value creation process in professional services has also exploded. This isn’t surprising. In service-led industries, the sales force does not have a monopoly on customer contact and so it’s natural for academics and practitioners alike to ponder on how non sales-people or technical experts (TE), who ultimately hold the ideas, solutions and expertise in their heads, can add value to customers along the sales cycle.
Scientists, engineers, medics, lawyers, doctors, accountants and their professional brethren have spent many years training to become experts in their field. Traditionally, these groups view selling as anathema and when tasked with doing so, their reactions might range from sobbing in a darkened corner hugging their knees to sticking pins in a voodoo doll of the sales director. It’s out of their comfort zone. If you were paraphrasing: “Salespeople are there to do the selling bits. We’re there to deliver on what they’ve over-promised.” Or something similar.
Moreover, in some cases, the experts are unaware of their own role in creating customer value. My own research, at Portsmouth Business School, showed that in one particular heavy R&D organisation, even though the knowledge and expertise of the organisation was seen as the number one enabler of value creation, TE were significantly less likely to view themselves as adding value to the customer compared to other parts of the organisation.
But the tide is turning. Organisations such as ISMM and the Association for Professional Sales are illuminating the importance of professional sales and breaking down some of the myths and misconceptions. At Huthwaite International we’ve recognised for a long time that there are many ‘touch points’ in a customer journey throughout the continuum of the sales cycle with the opportunity to create value at each point.
We don’t turn TE into sales people because they don’t want to be sales people. What we do instead is regularly apply our evidence-based models to work with organisations packed with incredibly bright individuals who are looking to find more effective ways of uncovering their customer’s needs, shorten their sales cycles and build their ability to manage customer interactions.
Darren Whitehouse, Client Director, Huthwaite International