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Most of the people I work with have not had experience of being in a sales facing role, but as a Portfolio Executive they need to enable other people to buy. In preparation for becoming a Portfolio Executive, as you’re assessing your 2nd Half Career, I strongly recommend that you see if your existing employer can give you access to some of the skills you’re going to need to enable other people to buy.
There are three key kinds of training, possibly four that could strengthen your ability to enable others to buy. Elsewhere, I’ve talked in detail about how coaching skills could be powerful to strengthen your ability to serve as a Portfolio Executive. All the techniques of asking questions and listening are really powerful when you’re trying to encourage other people to buy. So coaching skills, ‘yes’.
The second thing which I think many corporate employers will provide you with training on, is negotiating skills. At some point in the process of enabling people to buy and serving them, you will want to negotiate the right scope of work, the right fee for the job and the continuation of the relationship as the situation changes. Negotiation training is vital to enable you to make the most of those opportunities. Think about where you might get negotiating training from in your organisation. It may not just be sales negotiation. It could be negotiation in relation to HR difficulties. It could be negotiation with suppliers. There are a variety of contexts in which you can get negotiation training through your employer.
The third area is sales training. Typically, there are three kinds of sales activities. One is the person who is opening the door and creating the opportunity, typically this is identified as the hunter type salesperson. The second person is the account developer, this is typically the person who comes in and supports that sales process, perhaps as a sales engineer, fleshing out exactly what the opportunity is, but then support the closing by the hunter. They are the subject matter experts, if you like, who are making sure that the proposal is a great fit for the client’s needs. The proposal is their key deliverable.
The third kind of sales training is what I call the account manager. The first client sale has been made and the plan is to land and expand. The account manager, will be the person whose got the skills to farm that account from that initial opportunity. They will constantly understand how to ensure that the different stakeholders and the buying client are happy, that they see value, and that they realise that you can bring even more value with the offer you’ve got. Depending upon your current role within an organisation, I would suggest that you could get sales training in any of those three areas.
Training relating to your Current Role
It may be that you’ve purely got an internal facing role. Let’s say you’re a finance director, but as a finance director you are providing services to the rest of the business. Surely it makes sense for you to have account management training so that you can better serve the needs to the rest of the business. Maybe you also need sales training to help pitch the business more effectively, when you’re trying to get investment or loans. Maybe you need the training that will allow you to open new doors to new investors, the hunter type training, so your chief executive can find brand new sources of funding from unusual places. Even a finance director can justify sales training.
If you’re in HR you should expect to have negotiation training. But should you also have training in how to make the recruitment offer as powerful as possible, so that in a world in which there is a war for talent, you understand recruitment as a sales process and not just a selection process?
Again and again, as you reflect upon the role and the professional background you’ve got, you can see that becoming a more powerful advocate of real value for your business with your current employer is the basis on which you can make a case for getting the sales training you need that will better prepare you for the Portfolio Executive future you’d like to have.
I learnt an enormous amount about sales when I worked as a door-to-door salesman for Betterware selling domestic cleaning products as a student. I have had formal training from leading sales training organisations like Huthwaite and Sandler. I spent 2 years honing my networking skills with BNI. I had my first of several TV appearances at 16. I am a confident public speaker. I have been questioned by barristers in criminal trials since my early twenties and justified my expert opinions to QCs in multi-million pound civil litigation.
I have been pitching all my professional life, whether internally or externally. But I still have more to learn about enabling people to buy.
Whatever your skills, knowledge and experience in pitching, selling, negotiating and influencing, take every opportunity your current employer can afford you, to strengthen your ability to enable others to buy your vision, ideas, services and products so they recognise the enormous value you can offer.
Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.