Corporate companies can spend half a million US dollars every time they pitch for a sale. It is the kind of selling on which economies are built, but there is a huge amount at stake and increasingly, failure is not an option. As a consequence, some of the world’s largest companies are looking for a more scientific approach to selling to give them a crucial edge.
Several of the biggest companies have turned to Professor Neil Rackham, a Brit now based in the US. He has advised Fortune 100 companies like IBM, Xerox, AT&T and Citicorp. One of his books, SPIN Selling, is ranked number one in the Top 10 ‘How To Sell’ books of all time*.
Professor Rackham has just been named patron of the UK’s Association of Professional Sales (APS). He says if the UK is going to stay competitive, we need well-educated, mature, high-level business people at the forefront of selling. He believes the APS is “the only game in town” to help build the high-powered salesforce the UK needs to compete at the top level.
The mission of the APS is to be recognised as the responsible voice of sales by providing development, standards and leadership to the profession. The association already has some big-name partners including EY, HP, Royal Mail, DHL and Vodafone.
Professor Rackham says: “One huge challenge is that sales has become very expensive. It’s now so competitive and sophisticated that organisations are in danger of losing their shirts. It costs so much to make a major sale that you can’t afford to come in second. What that means is, from the point of view of organisations, sales has become more make or break than ever it was before which is why, of course, the Association of Professional Sales is so necessary. It’s become a hugely expensive proposition and the penalties of failure are high and the level of competition has hugely increased.”
Neil Rackham is known internationally as a speaker, writer and pioneering thinker on sales and marketing issues. He is also a visiting professor at four British universities - Cranfield, Sheffield, Portsmouth and Edinburgh.
His multi-million-pound survey of sales effectiveness observed more than 35,000 sales calls across 20 countries. This has given Professor Rackham a dynamic and objective understanding of sales strategies. He has used this insight to help individuals and organisations distinguish themselves in the face of fierce competition.
Professor Rackham says: “When all the products perform well, when the reliability of cars for example is the same, how do you differentiate? You differentiate by the way you sell, not by the product. We’re now in an era where how you sell is becoming more important than what you sell. So a good salesperson makes more difference to a company than a good product. That’s why there is a worldwide shortage of talented salespeople in the business-to-business field.”
Three of Neil Rackham’s books, including the renowned SPIN Selling, have been on the New York Times best seller list and his works have been translated into more than 50 languages. He has been Chairman and CEO of three international research and consulting firms.
*(Ranked number one by Inc magazine which also publishes an annual list of the 500 fastest-growing private companies in the US, the "Inc. 500".)