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Consalia media coverage IISSUE 1. 2013 / 14


~ 04/14

– Death of an ‘old-style’ salesman


Training Journal

~ 03/14

– Corporate Training is Broken


The Times

~ 10/12

– Raconteur Magazine: ‘Sales Performance’


Training Zone

~ 05/14

– What is transformational leadership?



~ 01/14

– Look beyond cash to incentivise top sales people


HR Magazine

~ 05/14

– Can HR help sales to the top seat in the board room?


Training Zone

~ 05/14

– Can a sales performance and learning culture co-exist?


HR Zone

~ 01/14

– HR must help employees find their ‘core’


HR Magazine

~ 05/14

– Is HR ready to help ensure sales growth?


HR Zone

~ 05/14

– Why do seven out of 10 change programmes fail?


Training Zone

~ 01/14

– An L&D route map to the boardroom



ACADEMIC & WHITE PAPERS Journal of Marketing Education

~ 05/14

– Enhancing the Professional Mindset of Future p.32 Sales Professionals: Key Insights From a Master in Sales

Sunday Times

~ 01/14

– Towards a model for the transformation of leadership in sales

Consalia media coverage ISSUE 1. 2013 / 14




Consalia media coverage ISSUE 1. 2013 / 14

Death old an old-style salesman They used to be focused on closing the deal, but now sales staff do best when they think of ways to help their customers Carly Chenoweth Published:27 April 2014

They used to be focused on closing the deal, but now sales staff do best when they think of ways to help their customers. The stereotypical salesman is a fast talker who always has his eye on closing the deal. The best sales people, however, are those who are more interested in helping their customers than in getting the contract signed. Sharon Ashcroft, HR director at Ford Retail in the UK, came to this conclusion Carl Day, a sales director at Toshiba UK, has had success after telling after an analysis of its sales staff to approach customers with business suggestions (Akira Suemori) force showed that the they make — and they are more successful in all characteristics most strongly associated with three elements,” she said. high performance were good communication and a commitment to customer service. Armed James Beevers, head of consultancy at with this information, the company stopped Talent Q, which conducted the psychometric recruiting people based on experience — assessments for Ford Retail, said: “The biggest “It [used to be] a case of ‘Did you sell cars predictor of sales success was verbal reasoning before? How many have you sold? Great, — the ability to understand what is being said, start on Monday,’” she said — and turned to process it and then communicate clearly. That was less surprising. What was really interesting was the importance of the customer service rating, which was produced by people being the new approach. “We have [compared] people supportive, being consultative and being recruited in this way with those recruited in the relaxed. These skills are associated with rapport previous 12 months before on actual sales, on building and trust.”



The skills demanded of good sales people have changed hugely in recent years, agreed Phil Squire, chief executive of Consalia, a salesdevelopment and training organisation. Partly this is because the internet allows buyers to research potential purchases thoroughly before they speak to a company representative. This in turn means that sales people have less buying decision and so must rely on “exceptional levels of service” to win the deal, he said. “In the past the sales person held all the cards because he knew the facts and the buyer had to choose whether to believe him or not,” added Beevers. “But now buyers will go in knowing as much as the sales person . . . they will know if he or she is lying or trying to pull a fast one.” For those who sell complex “solutions” — which can include a mix of physical products and service contracts — increased buyer knowledge means that they need to bring more than the deal to the table. “Customers like people thinking hard about their business and coming up with ideas,” said Squire. “These have to be proactive, creative ideas that are grounded in research and properly thought through.” Sales people also need to have done thorough research, he added. “They can’t just walk into business; clients expect sales people to have done their homework. They need to go in with knowledge or insight.” In a sense they have to be more like management consultants — albeit ones who are not charging for their insights — than traditional sales staff. “It is about business acumen — the ability to understand the customer and the customer’s industry, including what is changing in it, and then to link back to their own company to see

what resources they have that can help,” said Squire.

to deal quickly with unexpected changes. “And they need to be able to work not just with their own product or service but that of the customer and, sometimes, their competitors. People

contract, but at other times they may beworking with them as a partner.” The key difference between the stereotypical sales person and the customer-focused communicator who is more successful today is mentality, said Beevers. “These skills can be acquired and practised,” he said. “But what it really comes down to is mindset — how individuals view themselves, their jobs and the world. A salesman who regards himself as here to win, here to beat the competition, here to get the best possible deal out of the customer, is likely to behave differently from one who regards himself as here to help. These mindsets are not necessarily easy to change. It can be done if the individual is committed to changing, Beevers added, but it is not easy and it is not something that can be forced on someone who is unwilling to make that transition. Time to leave the comfort zone Carl Day is a former engineer who changed gear two decades ago when he noticed that sales people drove nicer cars than the technical staff. They were also more likely to conform to the sales stereotype, but even then the best people focused more on the customer than the product.



one with the loud voice who doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him and who would pressure and badger people into giving an order,” said Day, now a sales director at Toshiba UK. “But even then I could spot sales people who were a bit different.” Over the years, buyers have become much better informed and more demanding, forcing sales staff to raise their game. There is less room now for the older approach and more focus on customer service, Day added. As part of his own development, he has been studying Consalia’s own MSc in sales leadership at Middlesex University; some of the company’s dealers are also on the programme. Day has already started to put some of the theories into practice, including the suggestion that sales people approach customers with business suggestions. “I introduced [a member of the Toshiba team] to the idea and he went to a longstanding client where we have seen a slide in business over the past 18 months and put in place a couple of [thoughts],” said Day. “It was probably outside his comfort zone [but] it means we have just had our best month with them for two and a half years.” Most of the time, sales people want to do more of the same but harder. But for Sharon Ashcroft at Ford Retail the time has come to do something different. “We have adopted a culture that each month everyone tries to do two things that they have never done before to see if it makes a difference. We are embracing a culture of change.”



Sales Performance

‘Doing well, but could do better’ In the global sales performance league, how well are Britain’s salespeople positioned to compete? Nick de Cent reports




How uK sales managers compare






91% 86%


76% 53%




Percentage of sales managers who are above the global average measured in performance potential source:, 2012


! If there’s anything guaranteed to warm the heart of a salesperson, it is talk of higher revenue, more deals won and larger salaries. So it’s perhaps unsurprising to hear William Mills, vice president, global strategic sales engagements at international IT services giant Atos, enthusing about doubling his base salary and quadrupling his total earnings over the past four economically troubled years. Possibly more surprising is his keenness to attribute this recent success to a pioneering in-company Master’s degree programme, especially when you consider how little the worlds of sales and academia have tended to overlap down the years. Mr Mills, 54, is clear about the impact of the Middlesex Universityaccredited programme at his former company, HP. “It introduced a new era of thinking around the value of the customer and how you approach the customer,” he says. The evidence was plain to see in a direct comparison between the old and new approaches: the 12 team members who applied the new thinking closed deals worth $4.8 billion with a win rate of 73 per cent; the eight who didn’t, closed $430 million with a substantially lower success ratio of 25 per cent. Mike Hurley, 51, who used to run the HP team, is now vice-president at Logica, where he heads up five strategic sales teams winning deals valued at €100 million plus. He admits the degree programme was “almost a point of epiphany”. He adds: “It enhanced me as a professional considerably. It accelerated me from a director into a V-P role.” Money, status and career pro-


gression are clearly big motivators for most ambitious salespeople. Ron Burke, director, sales effectiveness and rewards, at global talent management consultancy Towers Watson, highlights the substantial jump in pay between entry-level salespeople and “experts”. In the UK, salespeople who make it to the top can expect to earn 288 per cent more in terms of salary and cash incentives compared with their most junior colleagues. So how can British salespeople reach the heady heights of the top earners and help lift the performance of UK plc? Towers Watson says one major issue is the variation in quality of sales managers responsible for managing, coaching and motivating them. Andrew Dugdale, president of agrees: “Sales managers play an extremely important role. Unfortunately, internal benchmarking of talent within an organisation does not give you a clear view of where you sit in the great scheme of things. Here in the UK our report would probably say ‘pretty good but could try harder’.” Educationally, there is no question that the UK sales profession’s report card would currently read “patchy”. Phil Squire, chief executive of Consalia and the man behind the aforementioned HP programme, conducted in-depth interviews with C-suite executives when devising his approach. Some 80 per cent of bosses said that less than 10 per cent of salespeople met their expectations. One clear way of boosting performance is for individuals and

employers to take a far more active interest in sales education, as opposed to sales training, which is still the norm in the sector. There are signs that the business world is paying increasing attention to the need for sales education, led by the United States, where the number of university sales programmes increased from 45 in 2007 to 101 in 2011. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, DePaul University claimed academic study offers distinct advantages compared with the sales training industry: students develop a broad understanding of all the functional areas of business; they are exposed to multiple techniques, not just the one favoured by a particular sales training vendor; and their knowledge is engrained over many months rather than just a few days. In the UK, we are lagging behind: you can almost count the number of university sales courses on the fingers of one hand. A pioneer has been Portsmouth Business School, where Beth Rogers heads up the MA Sales Management programme. Contrasting academic study with training, she says: “The main advantage is a focus on developing thinking, creative, analytical and reflective skills. It’s about criti-

£101 k top uK sales pay

£68 k seasoned salesperson’s pay

quing what we’ve got, research and experimenting in application – can we up our game even more?” There are signs of development lower down the educational ladder, too, with a trail-blazing sixth form programme at Cranbrook School in Kent , launched in partnership with sales training company Silent Edge. The series of voluntary workshops, which began last month, was quickly oversubscribed with students keen to learn key communications and

life skills, which will stand them in good stead, irrespective of whether they choose a career in sales. Silent Edge chief executive Russell Ward explains the rationale behind the programme: “Sales is a lifetime skill, and an understanding of the theory and practice of selling could prove highly useful to students upon leaving education,” he says.



experienced salesperson’s pay

£35 k junior salesperson’s pay

source: Towers Watson General Industry Compensation Database, 2011

Top UK salespeople can expect to earn 288 per cent more than junior colleagues

A career in sales Unlike many people who simply “fall into selling”, Dom West has made a conscious effort to seek out a sales career. “It was something I thought I might be quite good at,” he says. “I like chatting, get on well with people and it seemed like the right sort of career path for me.” The 22-year-old University of East Anglia economics graduate has been working for the past few weeks as a recruitment consultant for Hydrogen Group, which specialises in placing technical candidates within the IT sector. Before making his decision, Dom talked to school friends about sales, some of whom liked the role and others who had dropped out. He then set about finding a solid

foundation for his chosen career. After a rigorous assessment, he was accepted by graduate recruitment and development specialist Turnstone Sales. Dom says he has already recommended sales to his friends, although he cautions that it’s “not suited for all types of people, obviously”. He also warns job seekers to choose their prospective employer carefully: in some cases, salespeople’s reputation for bending the truth is justified. “It’s not the case here; it differs from company to company,” he says. Dom sums up the qualities he feels will help him reach the top: “You need to be relatively competitive, confident, good on the phone and a good team player.”

Sales Performance

Social media and the salesforce: problem or panacea? New research from The Chartered Institute of Marketing and the Sales Leadership Alliance explores the impact and value of social technologies on the

impact of social media and technology on the salesforce social media is becoming increasingly important for 61%

Communication, collaboration and knowledge management within our salesforce


Customer/client retention and relationship development


Lead generation, business development and prospecting


Developing market/customer insight and stimulating innovation

salesforce, writes Thomas Brown

! Times are tough. The financial crisis of 2008-09 has evolved into a prolonged period of economic turbulence rather than, as many by now would have hoped, fading to a distant memory. These continuing global economic problems are compounded by political instability, rising raw material costs, an uncertain future for the eurozone and concerning unemployment figures across the Continent. Business leaders face unprecedented challenges to growth and, at the forefront of these, is the perennial tension to deliver improved performance with less resource to fuel it. Once a rallying cry, “doing more with less” has become a permanent feature in the business vernacular. It’s no longer a recession response, but the norm – a new mantra guiding planning and budgeting discussions for many. Adding a further twist to these macro pressures, technology has become the new “megatrend” of the last ten to fifteen years. Over this period, both form and function have advanced almost unrecognisably. Computing power has continued its rapid growth trajectory while cost, exclusivity and complexity have fallen – both for consumers (think iPhone) and businesses (think softwareas-a-service). And central to this megatrend sits a new phenomenon – social media. It is these factors combined that led The Chartered Institute of Marketing and the Sales Leadership Alliance to focus the 2012 Sales Benchmark on the impact of technology and social media on the salesforce. Most discussions about social media focus on platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn,

whereas the true meaning runs far deeper. Fundamentally, social media represents a new construct for how people connect, communicate and collaborate, and it is with this definition that the business value truly lies – and opportunities to “do more with less” reside. An early review of results from our 2012 Sales Benchmark reveals increasing recognition of this potential among senior sales leaders: 61 per cent of respondents believe that social media is playing an increasingly important role in communication, collaboration and knowledge management within their salesforce; and 64 per cent agree that it is becoming an increasingly important tool for developing market/customer insight and stimulating innovation. Despite this strong acknowledgement of potential, however, a gap emerges: only 16 per cent of the same audience strongly agree that their sales processes, supporting tools and technology are optimal for business needs; and only 7 per cent of sales leaders had embraced social media in sales several years ago, embedded it into processes, and seen a positive and measurable return. Scope, we therefore conclude, to extract significant value. Some years ago, before laptops, tablets and mobile phones were considered standard equipment for an external sales team, the idea of their introduction was met with scepticism. Accusations of unproven benefits, added costs, potential vulnerabilities (such as client information/data) and the risk of distraction were levied at those proposing their use. Today, in much the same way, many are sceptical about how something so widely considered a consumer novelty can have any real value in a commercial context. Indeed, 60 per cent of our seniorlevel respondents agree that, without proper attention and management, social media risks becoming a distraction for their salesforce. But this risk can’t simply be ignored; the same number (60 per cent) of respondents agreed that social media is already permeating their business and, if they don’t harness these tools, their salespeople will use them anyway. To put concerned minds at ease, it’s essential that the introduction of social tools extends beyond the technology, and is supported by a change in sales processes and behaviours. For instance, a global


thomas brown is head of insights at the Chartered institute of Marketing

What's driving investment in social technologies?



Pace: we need to speed up communication with and among our salesforce


Pervasiveness: social media is already permeating our business; if we don’t harness it, our salespeople will use it anyway


Precedent: social media is being leveraged for similar purposes elsewhere within the business with positive results


budget: social media offers a lower-cost method of communicating with and among the salesforce


Peers: other organisations like us are doing this, which suggests we ought to be also


Pressure: senior leaders are pushing for greater engagement with social media

talent: we have a talent engagement and retention problem in the salesforce which this can help improve

Leaders' perspectives on social media and sales 15%

our efforts to leverage social media for internal communication and collaboration among our salesforce are advanced and highly effective


our senior leadership fully understand the value of social media as a communication and collaboration tool for our salesforce


social media tools offer significant value in fostering stronger communication and collaboration among our salesforce


Without proper attention and management, social media risks becoming a distraction for our salesforce


the competitive nature of our sales organisation is a significant barrier to exploiting social media for collaboration and internal communication

source: CiM/sLA

drinks brand recently introduced’s Chatter tool to its UK salesforce. Rather than stop at the introduction of the technology, they communicated a clear purpose: accelerate reporting, remove time spent on administrative tasks and improve “good practice” sharing. They then took this a step further by replacing a series of legacy processes with faster, “real time” equivalents enabled by the Chatter tool. For the salesforce, this moved the focus from the “new shiny gadget” they’d been equipped with, to an improvement in productivity and gave them clear, new processes to work to. It is essential to ensure that clear links are made between the proposed change in operating practice and its impact on business performance – a point at which the innate measurability of a sales

operation can be advantageous. For instance, our survey reveals that 63 per cent of senior sales leaders agree speeding up communication with and among their salesforce is a key priority, and one which can be readily translated into meaningful and measurable financial aims and benefits. For example, if a 500-person external salesforce are spending on average 20 per cent of their time completing and submitting activity reports with an average three-day lag from customer visit to submitted report, a sales leader can extrapolate: (a) the time cost of administrative activity; and (b) the opportunity cost of acting on a customer opportunity (or resolving a problem) faster. This then provides the basis for a simple, yet compelling, cost-benefit analysis in terms more likely to resonate with a

Many are sceptical about how a consumer novelty can have any real value in a commercial context

finance director than a request for the new technology alone. One final consideration, however, is senior management buy-in. While early results from the 2012 Sales Benchmark point to a growing interest in social technologies for sales on the part of sales leaders themselves, commitment and understanding from broader senior executives remains luke warm: only 19 per cent of senior sales leaders agree that senior leadership fully understand the value of social media as a communication and collaboration tool for their sales force. “Getting the board on board”, while perhaps a somewhat trite expression, consistently arises as an essential factor of success in any change initiative. Educating senior stakeholders about the commercial potential of social technology and making the case for change may be a wise first step.

the survey for the 2012 Sales Benchmark is still in progress but can be completed later – full results will be published in late2012 – at




Consalia media coverage ISSUE 1. 2013 / 14


Anne feeney


19th May 2014



Why is transformational leadership so important? Anne Feeney tell us how you can make that change. ‘Leadership is about followership – investing in those who get the work done...Leaders inspire people to reach beyond themselves.’ General Colin Powell, Former US Secretary of State. The challenge for many organisations today is how do you engage people to want to deliver to their potential and beyond? Often those OK their home lives - chairman of the local school board of governors or hang-gliding champions but they’re not fully engaged at work. Yes, they’re doing enough to meet their short term goals and measures but it’s not enough. Organisations advantage that comes from extraordinary performance, good corporate citizenship and innovation.

TRAnSACTIOnAL LeADeRS Transactional leaders do not focus on the individual needs of their staff or focus on their personal development. Transactional leaders offer incentives to staff to secure their own and the from their staff’s desire to do what the leader wants. Consequently employee behaviour is characteristically one of compliance rather than an internal accepting and owning of the required change in behaviour. One could easily say that employees are not engaged or motivated. This is also the most traditional type of leadership. For example, in sales it’s known as ‘performance management’ with the motivational ‘carrot’ of bonuses and public recognition. This is combined with the ‘stick’ of negative feedback and potentially the ultimate punitive measure of job loss. TRAnSFORMATIOnAL LeADeRS

The latest research thinking is it’s all about the leader’s style. Leadership theory has evolved through many incarnations - behavioural leadership, situational leadership, the great man theory (great woman theory?) etc to get where it is today. It is now commonly thought that there are two types of leadership; transactional and transformational with the former being the most common and the latter being the one that Colin Powell talks about above.


Transformational leadership, on the other hand, involves fundamentally affecting the values, goals and aspirations of followers so that they perform their work because it is consistent with their values, as opposed to the expectation that they will be rewarded for their efforts. Although it was found that there was a place for transactional leadership to set boundaries,



manage expectations and handle poor performance it was found on its own to


Challenging the status quo. enabling others to act. encouraging and showing genuine appreciation of their followers’ achieveements as well as fostering team spirit.

creativity and free will. The over-reliance on extrinsic rewards, maintaining the status quo and motivating people through contractual agreement can lead to a climate of control that inhibits initiative and experimentation and is ultimately demotivating.

I would also add one more taken from transformative learning theory; the need for the leaders to challenge their own thinking

Transformational leadership was found to be the key to role over-performance. In their paper on the effects of transformational CeOs, Jung

assumptions and broaden their perspective opening up the possibility of new thinking and innovation to move beyond groupthink.

relationship between a CeO’s transformational leadership style and their organisation’s level of innovation. Transformational leadership was found to deliver higher job satisfaction, motivation and autonomous behaviour in followers. Their roles had more meaning for them and the supportive, positive climate encouraged them to be more challenging of existing assumptions leading to more creativity and innovation. It was also found that transformational leadership had a strong positive impact on corporate citizenship behaviours. These are the behaviours outside an individual’s set of objectives that have been found to lead to healthy, high-functioning organisations – like the oil that lubricates the machine, behaviours such as being a team player, going ‘the extra mile’, putting the organisations needs before your own.

The process of developing transformational leaders is one of:

HOW CAn L&D SUPPORT AnD DeveLOP TRAnSFORMATIOnAL LeADeRS? But how can L&D support and develop transformational leaders? First we need to understand the key characteristics of these types of leaders; according to Kouzes & Posner they achieve their extraordinary results through a combination of the following: -

Being a role model. Creating and sharing an inspiring vision.




Awareness raising. Supporting the individual to understand their current leadership style compared with the transformational style. Identifying the gap. Designing ‘safe’ experiments to put the new behaviours into practice to bridge the gap. Learning from these experiments and practicing until the new behaviours become part of their DnA.

There are many ways in which this process can be put into practice and one way to do this is through workplace learning projects. A quote from one of my students illustrates this in practice. “The participation of my sales team in gathering case studies has been striking in 2013 (compared to the rest of the country) and now our global management wants to know why it works in our region and what incentive we proposed to make it happen. They were surprised to learn that no bonus was attached to our success and that I had found a way via my personal management (style) to get my people’s focus for ‘free.” That is certainly transformational leadership in practice!




philip Linter


4th January 2014

Imagine a world where you are inundated with requests by the highest sales performers in your industry wanting to join your company and where they stay for extended periods of time. How can you achieve this beyond “being the coolest business there is”? We believe the answer is to offer them a package that matches what they crave. Yes, it needs to

productivity. As companies create plans to grow by looking for new markets and introducing new products, their leadership pipelines and the bench strength of employees for critical positions takes on new importance. Making sure the high-potential employees that make up this talent pipeline are engaged and rewarded appropriately is a constant challenge for executives” .

that, it needs to develop them as professionals with the best mindset, skills and behaviours that gives them the ability to sell beyond what they thought was possible. Top sales performers rank among some of the most highly paid staff below executive grade and thus present HR and reward professionals with some of the trickiest reward issues to manage requiring special compensation plans and pay grade schemes. Retaining the loyalty of top performing sales people is tough, with tenures of 18 months a common theme – not good when the costs of replacing an employee can be as much as three times their annual salary. ReTAInInG CRITICAL TALenT HAS IMPACT BeYOnD InCReASeD PRODUCTIvITY A recent Oracle report stated that “…retaining critical talent has impact beyond increased


Furthermore, a McKinsey study supports this argument, highlighting that high performing sales people generate, on average, 67% more revenue than an average performer. Stats such as these make it easy to see why in many companies, as much as 80% of revenue can come from as little as 20% of their staff. This is a worrying thought as it makes for an unstable and fragile sales organisation.



IS CASH ReALLY KInG? The short answer - or should I say the short-term answer – is yes. The long (term) answer is no! The Institute for employment Studies claims that “....performance-related pay has a tendency to produce temporary compliance rather than sustained improvement. It does not change conformity with what the organisation signals to be important. At worst, a simplistic pay for performance approach is coercive. The risk is that it may also produce the wrong sort of behaviour.” Consalia has conducted hundreds of customer interviews with C-level executives since 2004. The research demonstrates that less than 10% of sales people sell in the way that C-level executives want to be sold to. Furthermore, the remaining 90% of sales ‘professionals’ demonstrate unwanted behaviours and values such as being manipulative, complacent, overtly arrogant and supplier centric.

Our research also shows the distinct link between the highest levels of sales performance and those who display the right mindsets in approaching and engaging with a client. Given the effect on the bottom line, getting the reward and engagement of top performing sales people right would seem obvious, yet it is not quite as simple as throwing money at it. “Interestingly, top talent rarely leaves a company for compensation reasons alone… employee development activities is a key decision point for top performers.” Oracle. n a world where sales has made the headlines for all the wrong reasons – and with remuneration methods becoming increasingly scrutinised companies can ill afford to increase their risks in this area. HR neeDS AnOTHeR TOOLSeT

little or no place in reward; it is clearly a massive motivator which can align and reward the right behaviours. However HR needs another

Correlation between reward drivers and ROI, (AOn Hewitt)



toolset. We suggest that a system to develop, academically accredit and thereby professionalise your sales team is what’s missing. This would effectively provide a benchmarked standard of practice, something which sales has sorely lacked to its detriment.

FURTHeR ReADInG Oracle, July 2012, Performance - Driven Compensation: The Corporate Talent Insurance Policy) McKinsey & Company, The War for Talent, 2000

Consider the medical world. Would you be happy to be operated on by a surgeon who had you that done this many times before?” Of course you wouldn’t. You would rightly demand that they had evidence-based training, underpinned by academic rigour. Why do we therefore accept that sales can just learn in the ‘University of Life?’ It is no longer good enough.

The Link between Pay and Performance, The Institute for employment Studies, 2003 Connecting the Dots, Aon Hewitt Quarterly Asia

So, what we are suggesting works as follows. Put in place a programme that achieves sales performance transformation for even your best performers. At its heart must be a solidly researched approach to sales. It then needs to be focused on transforming the sales professionals’ performance in real time by working on projects that improve their own sales practices and results. They also need to be coached to give works and what doesn’t. By placing all this in a rigorous academic framework, the students (for that is what they have now become) are then given a development that will endure; indeed we have seen developmental journeys that sales people have called “my epiphany” and “my transformation from gifted amateur to professional”.





CAN hr hELp SALES tO thE tOp SEAt IN thE bOArD rOOM? Author:

Dr philip Squire


01st November 2014

Without doubt, the percentage of CEOs that

According to Spencer Stuart’s ‘Route to CeO Positions’, for the second year in a row in the US, operations (31%) was the most popular functional role before becoming CeO, followed

Management, in the UK around 2.2 million work in sales and 547,000 work in sales management. Just to underline the scale of the issue, compare the opportunities for formal education in sales with, say, a more ‘traditional’ educational discipline, geography. If you are a prospective geographer you can the UK and over 300 post graduate degree courses. However, if you were to take a look

as a result of recent economic woes. Recent research from Robert Half shows 51% of current from 31% in 2008. Sales is the one of the most important functions of any business; some would argue the most important. Yet, of the key functions it’s one where

Could that be one of the problems? Are chairmen and boards looking for formal, professional

degree courses and three in post grad studies. And yet, to accentuate the issue still further, a quick glance at one of the leading jobs boards (Indeed!) shows some 564 jobs available for a quarter of a million jobs for sales professionals! not only does this show the dearth of opportunities for sales people to achieve a professional

consider sales generally lacking in the area of professional development?

numbers of jobs being advertised for sales! Why


Furthermore, there appears to be some disparity between some elements of the education sector when it comes to demand. It’s not that all universities have failed to recognise the potential for degrees for sales; in fact, the Dean at one of

given the numbers of people in sales. According to the Institute of Sales and Marketing




the UK’s largest business schools commented recently that whilst degrees for sales exist there seems little demand coming from the business and from undergraduates themselves.

ReLevAnT DeveLOPMenT Both SAP and Toshiba talk about ‘relevance’ and how crucial it is that professional development opportunities are created that are

PROFeSSIOnAL DeveLOPMenT Our experience is different and we sense there is a deep rooted demand in sales for ‘professional’ development. This stems from working with organisations such as HBOS, Santander, Standard Chartered Bank and Hewlett Packard where we co -designed different levels of university accredited work based learning sales programmes. On the back of those projects two new Masters programmes have been designed and launched and they are already being used in inspiring ways to help offer innovative professional development opportunities. For instance, SAP and Toshiba TeC UK are both putting senior sales professionals through the

professionals especially, will only ‘buy in’ to programmes where they can see an immediate restricted by traditional approaches to academic or professional development programmes and, crucially, designed by sales people for sales people certainly helped. Innovative approaches like these to professional development in sales can help companies transform their sales and survive the challenges of the recovery; surely a topic close to the orientated CeOs may be the norm today, perhaps sales orientated CeOs are required for the growth agenda of the future and HR certainly has an active role to play in this development.

from different angles. TALenT MAnAGeMenT In SAP’s case the Masters programme is offered as a talent management opportunity for their elite sales managers on a global basis. They see the programme as the ‘Formula One’ of their sales curriculum and see the innovation, driven from the dissertations of their top thought leaders as

On the other hand, Toshiba has established the programme for their channel partners. Carl Day, national Sales Director for Toshiba TeC UK, recently commented that they not only see the it as driving sustainable strategic relationships with their partners. Furthermore, three of Toshiba’s board members are conducting the Masters alongside their partners. CONSALIA MEDIA



Dr philip Squire


23rd September 2013



Dr Philip Squire tell us how sales teams can

Recent research from the Corporate executive Board (CeB) examined data from over 6000 sales representatives and concluded that less than 10% of sales people exceed sales targets. This is supported by my own experience which shows that one of the big challenges companies face is with sales performance linearity; sales performance is not spread in a balanced way across the sales force and too few are hitting their performance goals effectively. naturally, this is very much front of mind for the many by sales performance. So, what do CeOs think of sales force effectiveness? Research from Forrester in 2011 highlighted the following frustrations: -


Speed: the sales force is always 12-18 months behind strategy. Calling too low: sales reps are not getting to the decision makers. The sales force can’t tell the story: the focus is on price and not on the full value and quality of products. We have the wrong people: they are not smart enough and not tuned into the market.


Yet, when sales performance drops, travel and other restrictions come into force and, even though training budgets themselves may not be cut, sales performance training initiatives are cancelled as people are not allowed to travel. All at a time when additional pressure is put on the sales force to meet targets. Of course, this is counter-intuitive at the very time that sales people need the most help. “The approach to learning needs to change to one more focussed on teaching people how to think and one that is less focussed on knowledge itself.” Most organisations have a sales performance culture but learning is seen as a ‘utility’ – something that is turned on or off; often with little notice. A learning culture will only co-exist if there is a strong belief that it will have a direct impact on performance and therein lies the learning to performance and it takes time to see be blamed for turning the learning tap on or off? With this in mind, we have gathered academic research source data on learning effectiveness from many different sources. According to Dr Brent Petersen at the University of Phoenix who conducted research on training effectiveness, part of the problem is that many



learning initiatives fail before they start. The learning effectiveness comes from pre-work, a quarter from the learning event itself and half through follow-up. This compares with the investment made by many companies that shows 10% invested in pre-work, 85% in the learning event itself and just 5% in follow-up. Clearly organisations need to get smarter in planning how they deliver learning. Responsibility for this lies not just with the L&D teams inside companies but also line management; many of whom focus on event-driven initiatives and take less interest in follow-up. Another related research study shows a more fundamental shift in the nature of the learning required for the job. Research from Robert Kelley at Mellon Carnegie showed that in 1986 typical knowledge workers were able to retain 76% of the knowledge to do their job; by 2013 of the knowledge comes from elsewhere; from Google and the Internet through to our own technology and personal network. The approach to learning needs to change to one more focussed on teaching people how to think and one that is less focussed on knowledge itself. Howard Gardener in his book, ‘Five Minds of the Future’, comes to similar conclusions and outlined a radical rethink of our educational systems; one that is less focussed on knowledge and more focused on critical thinking techniques. We believe that what is required in our current age is ‘persistent learning on demand’ - where more responsibility for learning is shifted to the learner. In order to thrive this has to exist in a learning culture with a ‘core’ based on:



enhances personal and organisational effectiveness. Frameworks, strategies and maps: tools to help creative and critical thinking for learning.

At a recent event in Singapore, narendra Kumar, Regional Head of Training for Allergan, shared some interesting insights from his 2013 MBA dissertation into the correlation of learning and sales performance as it applies to new product launches. Pharmaceutical product development can cost more than $3bn and he cited research

quarters it would not succeed. He also found that the least important factor to sales people The most important was their own product knowledge – how to sell it – and doctor education. He also learnt that new product training has to be scheduled at least 12 months in advance; quite radical when most new product training happens in the month prior to launch. With research such as this pointing the way and being tested and validated in markets around the world, slowly but surely an increasing number of organisations are coming to realise that a sales performance and learning culture absolutely can co-exist. Where training was often bottom of the agenda on the board review of new product launches, it’s now rising up that same agenda and being taken as seriously as marketing.

learning effectiveness. Mindset: a core belief that learning



hr MuSt hELp EMpLOyEES fIND thEIr ‘COrE’ Author:

Ian helps


2nd September 2013

organisation to rapidly transform in the face of it. and how it relates to the company’s vision. to company values in order to succeed. Results! That’s what every CeO wants and, ultimately, they need it from sales -and from those responsible for sales. So this means higher sales growth targets and selling more of that “new high margin solution” to higher level and higher worth customers. The HR profession is charged with developing the right people to ensure the company’s future - including sales leaders – so, if you could impact sales results what more concrete proof could there be of HR’s true value? In 2010, the Forrester CeO, George Colony, interviewed other CeOs about their opinions of their sales force and one of the questions he helping the company meet its strategic objectives. Of the 40 CeOs he interviewed, 39 said no. And there is no reason to believe that this situation has improved in the intervening few years. In the not too distant past, the premise of “doing basically the same but sell 10% more next year by being a bit better” was often the norm; sales managers and directors were asked to simply execute the plan. This is no longer good enough and, today, almost every organisation is wrestling with fast changing customer needs and is looking to their entire sales


The companies that are genuinely addressing this and transforming are asking for a fundamentally different mindset from their sales line management. They are developing transformational sales leaders at all levels in the organisation; individuals who challenge the status quickly. Developing transforming leaders is the quickest and most cost-effective way to deliver transformation to the entire sales organisation, as it is in every other business function. We are working with one of the world’s leading global IT companies, with over 60,000 employees. They have dramatically embraced this creed and have instituted a transformation leadership Masters programme for their highest potential sales leaders, to develop a cadre who can both directly and virally catalyse rapid change throughout sales. Most sales leaders don’t bother to explain why; rather they just say what you must do. Hit your numbers, increase your pipeline coverage, qualify your deals and so on. Where’s the inspiration in this? As Simon Sinek has pointed out in a famous TeD video, the great leaders and the great companies communicate why they do what they do to inspire their teams to perform or to inspire their customers to buy.



For example, Apple’s ‘why’ is described as: “everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently...” The reasoning behind this is that people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. At Consalia we see many sales managers but, regrettably, only a few sales leaders. The true leaders in sales share the same underlying tenets as leaders in other disciplines. They know and communicate their ‘core’; they know what they stand for and why. They have a clear vision for the future of their team, they are clear on their mindset and the guiding principles that assess others by. By clearly communicating their core to inspire their team and other key stakeholders, those being led know where the leader is going and will make much clearer choices on the right thing is to do; even when the leader is not present. They will also be in no doubt of the performance standards expected.

improvement and people development. Finally, his guiding principles are to create a work environment where people can succeed, to take and where he can improve in the upcoming year and to continually and critically review his own performance. The vision is clear, inspiring and much repeated; and not just to his own team. It is also used for - and by – other senior stakeholders and those providing the wider team resources – presales, industry consultants, solutions architects et al – across the organisation. everybody wants to work with winners! notice also the strong people focus linked to success for the whole team which comes from a deep inner conviction that his people should be developed – how many sales leaders can you say that for? Underpinning this is a strong sense where and how to improve.

There are few sales line managers who can express their core but, largely, this is because no one has ever asked them to! Should we therefore be surprised when sales as a whole does not transform fast enough? ReAL-WORLD exAMPLe So how could this work in practice? The following is a real life example from a senior sales director at a Fortune 100 company whose team members regularly exceed their targets; in fact, last year 50% of them got promoted. He has expressed his core in terms of his vision, mindset and guiding principles.

Those in HR can play a crucial role in helping their own sales organisations transform. HR can help individuals, teams and the whole organisation to get a clear sense of their company strategy and have them express it in their own words and start communicating it. You might get some pleasant surprises.

His vision is to build and manage the most innovative solutions team across the region and help each team member to succeed. His mindset is to exploit and maximise all of his talents and help his team to develop the right mindset to ensure success through continuous CONSALIA MEDIA


IS hr rEADy tO hELp ENSurE SALES GrOWth? Author:

Ian helps


30th July 2013

I read that UK growth is set to hit 2.2% in 2014. Please come back to me with some ideas on what HR can do to help us grow our revenues faster. expecting something like that from your CeO soon? How will you react? Growing revenue is often seen as the tougher sibling of cost cutting yet, for many organisations, the former is where effort needs to go to achieve the next level of performance, especially in sales. And, relationship with sales professionals having some of the trickiest HR issues to manage. For instance, it’s all about the money. You need special compensation and pay grade schemes for sales professionals as they rank among some of the most highly paid staff below executive grade. Secondly, sales professionals can have a good year and go. Tenures of 18 months are typical, so how do you keep your best sales

We recently worked with one company where only 30% of sales professionals achieved their sales quota and another company where 20% of the sales team provide 50% of the total company revenue. So how can HR help to cost-effectively improve sales? We suggest that by starting with a clear perspective of what customers want from the


salespeople that sell your products and services, HR leaders can ‘crack the code’ of recruiting and developing great sales professionals. Our research shows that what makes great salespeople is their mindset; their internal choices when under pressure. This matters more than traditional competency measures which is one reason why traditional recruitment practices often have a low success rate. We have interviewed hundreds of our clients’ customers in major markets around the globe and the results are consistent. Most of what they see from salespeople they dislike, too little focus on the customer’s unique business challenges and too much negative behaviour including arrogance, complacency and pressure, and, on average, only 10% of sales professionals meet customers’ expectations. Moving this needle to 15% would have a huge impact on your company’s sales but what does this take? Your customers are looking for sales professionals whose mindset is authentic and client centric. easy to do business with, of high integrity and focussed on their customers’ needs, not pressuring them for a quick order.



even more importantly, customers are looking for proactive creativity - they need suppliers enable them to beat their competition - and they are looking to be challenged, in a respectful way, to change their own organisation. We call yet most critical, mindset component of all.

development programmes to proactively drive market leadership. One global B2B IT company that we are working with is using the Masters Degree approach focussed on the mindset to drive region-wide transformation via its highest performing sales leaders. So, how will you respond to your CeO’s question? That depends on your mindset.

So, how can HR leaders use this to help recruitment. By thinking like your customers and understanding what they value, you can devise more robust recruitment strategies and processes. If potential recruits don’t exhibit the characteristics of this mindset they will not deliver lasting value to your customers or to your own organisation. HR can also help through smarter development and greater sales performance training. We have seen sales professionals completely transform their behaviours and sales performance through developing their sales mindset via ‘average’ performers become superstars. In a major IT company across eMeA, sales mindset in developing smarter management of their sales cycles were able to close ten times the sales of their colleagues not doing so. This equated to $4billion of extra sales! Indeed, this was our motivation to set-up a Masters Degree programme with Middlesex University in sales transformation. This can also help with talent retention as success in sales for a professional can itself lead to higher retention. Furthermore, really great, multi-year, sales development programmes can be used as a core retention tool. Finally, HR leaders can help grow revenues through company sales transformation. Most HR leaders are charged with putting in place CONSALIA MEDIA


Why DO SEVEN Out Of 10 ChANGE prOGrAMMES fAIL? Author:

Anne feeney


17th June 2013

FAILInG TO ACHIeve TRAnSFORMATIOnAL OBJeCTIveS Although most change programmes are highly planned and robustly executed, it’s a fact that the majority fail to achieve the objectives set out at the start of the programme. They fail to achieve the result of changing people’s behaviour so, consequently, they also fail to achieve sustainable change. Therefore, no matter what the aspirations, how compelling the business need or how much money is being invested in these initiatives they consistently fail to achieve the transformational shift required by the business. THe PROBLeM PROGRAMMeS



individual commitment that real sustainable change requires. In fact, not the transformational change that was promised or hoped for when the organisation launched its cultural change programme. WHAT DOeS ‘TRAnSFORMATIOnAL’ TRULY MeAn? And what does this word ‘transformational’ actually mean? It’s everywhere in business these days and can - and should be - more than just marketing hype. Well that was one of the questions I had when I was doing my own Masters research on ‘the nature and Process of Transformational Coaching’ and I’d like share


Research suggests that most change initiatives typically have the following qualities. Firstly, they are delivered at a group level and do not pay enough attention to the individual and, furthermore, they are often imposed and, consequently, produce conformity and compliance. So, whilst individuals might say that they have ‘bought-into’ the programme and initially appear to change their behaviours, in actual fact they have not ‘bought into’ it at a deep level, the change has no stickiness and they very quickly fall back into old familiar habits without the


You might be surprised to hear that transformative change is underpinned by serious academic research in the world of learning theory and was Jack Mezirow in the 70s. To paraphrase Jack, it is the process of changing your taken-for-granted beliefs, assumptions or habits of mind that have become problematic or no longer useful. And, by its nature, it is the type of change that has stickiness and is sustainable. It is different from ‘normal’ learning in that it leads to a shift in mind-set for the individual -



the type of change where afterwards people say ‘that couldn’t have been predicted’ or ‘I didn’t think that was possible before’. But what is the mechanism for sustained individual change and how do we facilitate this both for those we lead and for ourselves? Transformational, sustainable change requires the individual - the ‘changee’ - to move through the change curve to the point where they have integrated the new culture and values into who they are; in fact, into their very identity.

We as leaders and HR professionals can gain

But how do we, as leaders and HR professionals,

live in a global economy characterised by rapid

engagement and support.

breakthroughs and an unprecedented level of competitiveness. These developments ask for a greater capacity for innovation, selfmanagement, personal responsibility and self-direction”. And yet, in eigel’s study of industry leading CeOs, only four out of 21 were already operating at this level of thinking!

HOW TO ACHIeve SUSTAInABLe, TRAnSFORMATIOnAL CHAnGe ReFLeCTIOn: ‘objective and non-judgemental’ not ‘criticising’. encouraging the individual to stand ‘outside of themselves’ and to objectively appraise their own taken-for-granted opinions and beliefs.

others and, if we can do this for ourselves, then this is a real game changer. After all, the change impacts us too as an individual; we are not immune to change. If we can do this for ourselves and others then, according to Kegan, this is called a self-transforming mindset. Furthermore, according to Branden, this more


Henderson G.M., (2002) Transformative Learning as A Condition for Transformative Change in Organizations, Human Resource Development Review, 1:186

enGAGeMenT: Inviting the individual’s willingness and motivation to cooperate with the change process as opposed to imposing it upon them. Potentially you are asking the individual to change at a deep level so it will require integrating with their values and beliefs. Ultimately their heart will need to be in it not just their mind. You cannot make someone change!

Kegan, R. & Lahey L.L., (2009) Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization, Harvard Business Press, Boston, Massachusetts.

SUPPORT: Lastly, through creating an environment that supports individual change, creating the space for individuals to process the impact of the change for them. Allowing

Mezirow J. & Taylor e.W. (2009), Transformative Learning in Practice: Insights from Community, Workplace, and Higher education, John Wiley & Sons Inc, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

such as ‘what are the implications for me?’ ‘how

Feeney A., (2012) What is the nature and process of transformational coaching? Dissertation, Metanoia & LSBU. Summary available on request from the author.

I feel about the change?’ This comes down to operating at an individual level, not just a group one. CONSALIA MEDIA


AN L&D rOutE MAp tO thE bOArDrOOM Author:

Dr philip Squire


12th June 2013



Philip Squire suggests how L&D can further secure its place at the head table.

L&D has to move on from building competencies

“A cost centre to appease personnel development commitments that delivers positive feedback but no real business outcomes.”

L&D professionals should be asking themselves is: “where can I make the greatest impact”?

Stark words, but probably ones that many of us have heard from senior business executives when referring to the L&D function and recent research on the impact and perception of L&D would certainly support this perception. For example, according to research from the Corporate executive Board (CeB), only 24% of line managers believe L&D is critical to business outcomes and, even more worrying, 56% believe employee performance would not change or would even be improved if L&D was eliminated altogether. So it is unsurprising really that, according to Deloitte, 65% of large companies in 2013 have cut their L&D budget.

L&D professionals, you will understand this. Furthermore, you will appreciate the pressures of a results-driven system that offers little support for activities whose

“I’m sure most senior L&D professionals have at one time or another been reminded of the unfair - but very real - truism that it doesn’t matter how good your training is because, at the end of the day, results are all that matter.” Given its immediate effect on the bottom line, the greatest impact you can have is probably in sales. All L&D professionals should appreciate the vital role that their industry should be playing in helping to ensure optimum quality standards in corporate sales teams. In addition to ensuring the highest levels of effective compliance, customer service and ROI, it makes for the best possible attraction, development and retention rates. However, all of these are simply the successful outputs of what must be an overriding and innovative L&D strategy. The same CeB report succinctly addresses this very issue, suggesting three key practices to help transition L&D so that it becomes a commercial function that is seen to make a difference: -

However, this is absolutely no reason for doing little and for not striving to make a difference.



Focus your team on the behaviours and activities that matter most. empower your staff with the support to



execute key initiatives for those behaviours. Of course, to avoid repeating the same mistakes, the sales function itself must consider a strategic transformation that will help improve the mindset, innovation and business results within their teams. -

You must create a culture of learning agility through business relevance. Utilising day-to-day work to develop key capabilities can be a path towards the cohabitation of a learning and performance culture.

I’m sure most senior L&D professionals have at one time or another been reminded of the unfair - but very real - truism that it doesn’t matter how good your training is because, at the end of the day, results are all that matter. Furthermore, L&D faces an uphill battle to generate top-down support. The three suggestions made by CeB above are precisely the kinds of issues that the sales training industry is tackling head-on in order is a huge opportunity for client growth if both functions are able to better align themselves in order that we can improve the impact of the L&D function on business outcomes. CONSALIA MEDIA




Consalia media coverage ISSUE 1. 2013 / 14

Journal of Marketing Education

Enhancing the Professional Mindset of Future Sales Professionals: Key Insights From a Master in Sales Transformation Javier Marcos-Cuevas, Peter Critten, Phil Squire and James I. F. Speakman Journal of Marketing Education published online 7 May 2014 DOI: 10.1177/0273475314531964 The online version of this article can be found at: Published by:

Additional services and information for Journal of Marketing Education can be found at: Email Alerts: Subscriptions: Reprints: Permissions: Citations:

>> OnlineFirst Version of Record - May 7, 2014 What is This?

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531964 research-article2014

JMDXXX10.1177/0273475314531964Journal of Marketing EducationMarcos-Cuevas et al.

Special Issue—Sales Education and Training

Enhancing the Professional Mindset of Future Sales Professionals: Key Insights From a Master in Sales Transformation

Journal of Marketing Education 1–12 © The Author(s) 2014 Reprints and permissions: DOI: 10.1177/0273475314531964

Javier Marcos-Cuevas1, Peter Critten2, Phil Squire3, and James I. F. Speakman1

Abstract Sales education has grown in importance, particularly throughout the last decade, with an increasing number of university sales centers offering programs to prepare new generations of sales professionals. In this article, we describe how work-based learning, action research, and reflective practice used in a sales master program can be used in undergraduate sales education to facilitate the emergence of a new mindset of professional selling in future practitioners. This mindset is characterized by enhanced awareness and personal transformation that lead to improved relationships through the discovery of new ways of identifying and creating customer value. We argue this mindset is required to respond to the unprecedented level of change and increased complexity in professional selling. Sales education is vital to ensure that future and practicing sales professionals continuously develop the competences required to perform in demanding contexts. Universities and business schools alike now play a pivotal role in developing sales talent by combining in unique ways academic research in sales, advances in pedagogy, and practitioner experience. The findings of our study reveal the significance of student-centered pedagogies in sales curricula. We discuss how the experience gathered from educating practicing sales professionals can be applied to educating novice sales students adopting work-based pedagogies. Keywords learning approaches and issues, marketing education issues, experiential learning techniques, innovative teaching methods, client-based projects, critical thinking, skills and traits development in marketing education “There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” (Jiddu Krishnamurti, On Education, 1974)

Sales Education for a Profession in Constant Change Sales education has significantly grown in importance because selling skills are highly demanded in the marketplace, thus providing higher levels of employability to new graduates. In 2010, there were more than 8.2 million jobs directly employed in sales in the United States. If we take into account top executives, who are often engaged in business development activities, this number would reach 10 million (U.S. Bureau of Statistics, 2010). Higher education institutions have responded to the need for a qualified sales labor force by growing the number of sales-related courses offered. For instance, sales education courses in the United States were delivered by 44 universities in 2007, and this number grew to 101 in 2011 (Cummins, Peltier, Erffmeyer, & Whalen, 2013). Universities with a track record in sales

education such, as Baylor University (Center for Professional Selling), Ohio University (Ralph and Luci Schey Sales Centre), the University of Akron (Institute for Professional Selling), and five others, played a critical role in creating the University Sales Center Alliance (2013), founded in 2002 in the United States. Other examples of the growth of the field are the Sales Education Foundation (2014) established in 2007, also in the United States. In Europe, the Global Sales Science Institute (2013) was founded in 2007 to bring together the study and practice of sales and sales management internationally to further advance global collaboration in sales research, practice, and education. The increase in the importance of sales education is also driven by the dramatic transformation of the profession 1

Cranfield School of Management, Bedford, UK Middlesex University, London, UK 3 Consalia, Middlesex, UK 2

Corresponding Author: Javier Marcos-Cuevas, Cranfield School of Management, College Road, Cranfield, Bedford MK43 0AL, UK. Email:

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Journal of Marketing Education

recently. Fogel, Hoffmeister, Rocco, and Strunk (2012) argued that “as selling becomes more sophisticated and solutions-oriented, and good sales jobs go unfilled for lack of qualified applicants, the value of university-based education rises” (p. 97). Academics and practitioners have engaged in rich debate about the changing role of the sales function, acknowledging the constant changes occurring in the marketplace. Markets have become more global (Honeycutt, 2002), and technologies are facilitating new ways of working and establishing relationships (Marshall, Moncrief, Rudd, & Lee, 2012). Business relations are transcending relational approaches, adopting new ways to co-create value, in which sales forces have a key role to play (Blocker, Cannon, Panagopoulos, & Sager, 2012). Sales is recognized as a key function at the company board level (Shapiro, Slywotsky, & Doyle, 1998), and sales education is therefore vital to ensure that individuals seeking employment in the field are equipped with the capabilities to succeed in this increasingly professionalized function (Hawes, Rich, & Widmier, 2004). Future sales professionals will need to develop a wider range of competences before entering the job market and throughout the lifetime of their careers, given the continuous evolution of personal selling and sales management. In a challenging environment, sales forces will need to develop more complex competences and abilities to sustain performance. In a major review of the precursors of sales performance, Verbeke, Dietz, and Verwaal (2011) showed that selling-related knowledge is the highest predictor of performance in sales. Such knowledge includes understanding of products and customers, and what is required to co-create solutions for customers. In addition, selling-related knowledge involves individual categorization systems (i.e., how salespeople decide who to approach, as well as when, what, and how). Today, the broadening of the professional selling role, characterized by multifunctional abilities (Storbacka, Ryals, Davies, Nenonen, & Davies, 2009), calls for higher levels of financial expertise and commercial acumen. The conventional view of selling as a linear and phased approach has given way to multifaceted and dynamic processes that require broader sets of competences (Moncrief & Marshall, 2005). Professional selling is being redefined as a “phenomenon of human-driven interaction between and within individuals / organizations in order to bring about economic exchange within a value-creation context” (Dixon & Tanner, 2012, p. 9). In complex sales, however, the contexts in which value creation emerges are no longer predictable or contained within organizational boundaries. These contexts are intricate networks of cross-functional, cross-firm interactions (Lambert & Enz, 2012) that the sales professional needs to fully understand and lead. Value creation and complex solution selling need professionals with a unique blend of cognitive, relational, commercial, and managerial skills (Marcos & Ryals, 2011). The complexity of the context in

which sales professionals operate has to be matched by achieving equivalent levels of complexity, a phenomenon known as requisite complexity (Lord, Hannah, & Jennings, 2011). So much have the requirements for new salespeople increased that companies are now looking to MBAs as potential sources of talent to occupy sales positions (Pettijohn & Pettijohn, 2009). Skill areas that go beyond functional knowledge may need to be included in the undergraduate sales curriculum to equip future professionals with the repertoire of competences to succeed in modern professional selling. Traditional sales education approaches, whereby content is predefined and delivered via classroom and technology-enabled platforms, have been instrumental in providing the basic functional level and understanding of selling. This education is, however, deficient in educating sales forces to operate in fastpaced, constantly changing contexts characterized by multiple channels, complex solutions, and relationships with strategic customers. In this article, we present the case of the master in sales transformation (MST) and its underpinning pedagogical strategy, which addresses the need to develop higher levels of requisite variety in sales professionals. This tried and tested program provides a novel exemplar of how to blend functional knowledge with personal development in sales education. Its approach and the elements of its learning design can be introduced to complete and broaden undergraduate sales education programs. We argue that, unlike the sales training provision from industry, it is the unique combination of academic researchled education, consulting thought leadership, and business expertise that can create a powerful pedagogical approach to develop the aforementioned selling skills. Sales training, despite being a sizable industry in mature markets ($15 billion per year in the United States), has been found ineffective or less than useful (Salopek, 2009). Corporate sales education in the past has often been prescriptive, linear, and content centered rather than learner centered. Cron, Marshall, Singh, Spiro, and Sujan (2005) described traditional sales training programs as “standardized (common to all salespeople), top-down (management decides), mandated (nonvoluntary), structured (formal and centralized), and offered in classroom” (p. 124), thus potentially out of sync with the evolution of the modern sales function. In a recent review of sales training, Lassk, Ingram, Kraus, and Di Mascio (2012) advocated for salespeople to have more input into their training programs, being engaged both in content development and in its delivery. Self-directed learning approaches help address the challenge of individual idiosyncrasies in learning by providing an individualized approach that is learner-centric and takes into account personal and contextual circumstances in the sales organization. This approach has been found to enhance sales performance by helping salespeople develop their own competence (Artis & Harris, 2007). Self-directed learning can be realized by

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Marcos-Cuevas et al. adopting work-based approaches that involve reflective practice and learning from meaningful experiences that can lead to personal transformation and a mindset change (Gear, Scott, & Liendo, 1993). In this article, we present the case of a sales education program in which the professionals’ full engagement in their learning journey created meaningful positive impact for the person, enhanced relationships within and among organizations, and enabled the achievement of demonstrable sales growth. We propose that the strategies to enhance professionals’ level of engagement in a professional sales education program can be translated to also enhance students’ involvement and learning effectiveness. Thus, we seek to contribute to the ongoing discussion of the challenges in attracting and retaining high-quality students in marketing education and how engaging the early-year students in the practice of their chosen discipline can enhance their thinking and self-regulating learning skills (Young, 2010). In the remainder of the article, we first describe the underpinning pedagogical strategies of work-based learning and present how they have informed the creation of a researchbased MST. The findings of the study provide evidence of how the process emanating from this sales education program has been used to facilitate a transformation in the way that groups of sales professionals perceive their roles, shape their practice, and develop new mindsets for selling. We discuss how the insights from the MST can be applied to the design of sales education programs at the undergraduate level, and we outline six areas in which university sales programs can further develop.

Work-Based and Individual-Centered Learning Approaches Work-based learning, an individual-centered approach, is a learning process which focuses critical thinking upon work in order to facilitate the recognition, acquisition and application of individual and collective knowledge, skills and abilities, to achieve specific outcomes of significance to the learner, their work context and in the learning environment such as the University. (Garnett, Costley, & Workman, 2009, p. 4)

Work-based learning rests on two fundamental pillars, experiential learning and reflective practice.

Experiential and Self-Directed Learning Cummins et al. (2013) revealed that experiential learning is a core approach in sales education, widely adopted by sales educators, to develop students’ skills, attitudes, and expertise (Mantel, Pullins, Reid, & Buehrer, 2002). David Kolb (1984) coined the term experiential learning, suggesting that individuals learn according to a cycle starting with a stimulus

(concrete experience), which triggers off reflections (reflective observation), which we then examine in the context of wider associations (abstract conceptualization), and this leads to us trying out something in practice (active experimentation). Experiential learning has been widely adopted in sales education to enhance the effectiveness of learning interventions (Inks & Avila, 2008). We argue that the process of work-based learning not only is a transformative experience for the learner but also can lead to an outcome, a theory in use, which becomes embedded in a culture and, as our case will illustrate, the basis for the emergence of a new mindset of professional selling.

Reflective Practice Dewey (1938) referred to “reflection” as the key process that enables individuals to stand back from a situation and engage in “purposeful inquiry” to solve a problem. Schön (1987) further developed reflection, distinguishing between “reflection-in-action” and “reflecting-on action,” both of which involve what he called “a reflective conversation with the situation” either as we are engaged in the activity or afterward. The dialectic notion of engagement between what is going on inside us and the situation outside is a central characteristic of reflection (Boud, Keogh, & Walker, 1985). The notion of the reflective practitioner is fundamental to all work-based learning because it is the process whereby the learner begins to separate him or herself from what Kolb called “the concrete situation” to identify and pay attention to key issues, which moves on to critical reflection. This is increasingly recognized as relevant to sales force management and development (Chonko, Dubinsky, Jones, & Roberts, 2003). We argued in our introduction that professional selling has evolved to become complex and dynamic, relationship oriented, and long term focused (Weitz & Bradford, 1999). Recent studies (Shannahan, Bush, Moncrief, & Shannahan, 2013) are drawing on organizational sense making to describe selling as the phenomenon whereby actors gather information and insights, which they aim to interpret and understand to identify and exploit opportunities. Weick (1995) described sense making as “structuring the unknown,” which involves placing stimuli into frameworks of reference. In this article, we present how these sales professionals engaged in the MST developed these frames of reference through reflective practice from prescriptive guidelines to evolving cues in the context of customer management, and we show how reflective practice could be used to develop undergraduate sales programs.

Action Research Action research involves extensive discussions of problems followed by group decisions on how to proceed. It must

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include the active participation of those who have to carry out the work in the exploration of problems that they identify and anticipate. After investigation of these problems, the group makes decisions, monitoring and keeping note of them. Regular reviews of progress follow. The group decides on when a particular plan or strategy has been exhausted and fulfilled, and brings to these discussions newly perceived problems (Adelman, 1993). Action research as a systematic method of inquiry is underpinned by a cycle of reflection and problem solving that comprises the following: (a) Identify an area of practice to be investigated, (b) imagine a solution or way forward, (c) review and evaluate what happens, and (d) change practice in light of the evaluation. Moncrief and Marshall (2005) referred to “problem solving” as a key phase in selling processes and how, in consultative or solution selling, the salesperson focuses on identifying problems, determining needs, and proposing and implementing solutions, thus becoming a “valued partner for his/her customers.” In their critical review of the literature for sales educators, Cummings et al. (2013) argued that critical thinking is “an important and challenging learning goal for sales educators” and that “integrated experience” is relevant to critical thinking (p. 75). A key feature of action research is to encourage participants to develop critical thinking or, as Whitehead and McNiff (2006) called it, a “living theory” of their own: We make sense of what we are doing through researching it. We gather data and generate evidence to support our claims that we know what we are doing and why we are doing it (our theories of practice) and we test these knowledge claims for their validity through the critical feedback of others. These theories are our living theories. (Whitehead & McNiff, 2006, p. 32)

This research approach helps to integrate experiences with new insights into a coherent framework. Dewey’s (1938) view is that for experience to be “educative,” it must lead out into an expanding world of subject matter, of facts or information, and of ideas.

The Master Program in Sales (MST) Transformation The MST is an innovative program designed and delivered in partnership by Middlesex University (London), Consalia (Hampton Hill, UK), and corporate clients, most of them Fortune 500 or FTSE100 firms in sectors such as technology, banking, telecommunications, electronics, and professional services. The partnership provides a unique platform to link research in sales with business practice in a mutually reinforcing way (Boehm & Hogan, 2013). Middlesex is the home of the Institute for Work Based Learning, internationally recognized for innovation and expertise in professional and work-based learning.

The idea of launching a professional MST can be traced back to Consalia’s CEO interest in both research-informed strategies in professional selling and work-based approaches to learning. An initial project focused on exploring the question “How do C-level executives want to be sold to?” This evolved to become a formal 6-year research project that generated a good number of outputs, including the award of a doctorate (Squire, 2009). The research design and its execution were underpinned by work-based learning and critical thinking (Garnett et al., 2009). Research findings revealed a set of values and mindsets that underpin the sales strategies and interaction approaches that senior executives seek in salespeople. Initially, insights from this research led to the design of a short program, Winning Value Propositions, which was delivered to 406 participants. Subsequently, accredited sales transformation courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels were delivered to 849 people between 2008 and 2013. These programs evolved into the MST, which has seen 32 students enrolled through the end of 2013, with a cohort of 55 students starting in 2014. Participants in the MST are in most cases sales professionals who are involved in selling complex solutions with both product and service components, and in most cases they are sponsored by their current employer. Overall, the program focuses on applying world-class, leading-edge thinking and research in sales to participants’ own goals within their organizations. A series of modules is run throughout a period of 2 years. Each module consists of a 3-day facilitated workshop, followed by a work-based assignment and the final submission, a master’s thesis project (see Table 1). The modular structure and its foci are designed to provide an opportunity to develop deeper insights into the participants’ professional practice. Moreover, the program fosters a continuous critical questioning of what does and does not work, blending insights from research in sales with personal experience. To help this process of discovery, participants first submit a work-based project proposal for which they receive one-to-one feedback. This is then followed by two action learning sets, typically including a group of five peers and facilitated by a tutor. Learning sets are designed to encourage idea sharing and peer feedback, and to enrich work-based projects. One-to-one feedback is also offered to delegates after completion of their work-based projects. Examples of the topics included in work-based projects are summarized in Table 2. Using networked learning technologies, the learning sets provide the opportunity to reflect on where individuals are in their “journey,” how they are transforming as individuals, and how they are driving transformation back in their sales organizations. Learning sets are instrumental to further develop certain capabilities such as critical evaluation of issues (Wheeler, 2008) and evidencebased practice (Rousseau & McCarthy, 2007). A core underpinning principle of the MST is that reflection can enable a transformative process to emerge. Faculty

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Marcos-Cuevas et al. Table 1. Master in Sales Transformation: Outline of the Modules. Master in Sales Transformation—Outline of Modules 1. Thinking innovatively about sales Being an agent for change Reflective practice Action research Appreciative inquiry Core values for selling Creating a vision Planning your professional development in sales 2. Mobilizing resources: Identifying and qualifying opportunities Opportunity identification and definition Competitive and business trend analysis Understanding the customer Development of business strategy and tactics Financial and business planning 3. Winning Value Propositions (WVP) program: Developing and proposing solutions Development of sales strategy and tactics Process re-engineering: Design and measurement Consulting methodology and engagement Communication

4. Developing the commercial strategy: Negotiating and closing Negotiation: Individual and in teams Contracting and negotiating in the global marketplace

5. Project Management Matrix management Problem solving (root cause analysis) Organizational change methodologies Project management Contract management 6. Planning your professional development Personal journey: Where have you come from? Personal journey: The way forward Action plan for the future

Table 2. Examples of Work-Based Projects. Close rate improvement of marketing-generated leads. Evaluation of sales transformation in the context of performance management Transformation in myself, my team, and the Middle East and North Africa region Coaching the challenger: how to improve potential and results in a challenger team through focused coaching Using design thinking to transform the way we do account planning Reduce the propensity to sell shelfware, and grow market share.

and tutors encourage the delegates to take calculated risks in changing their practice, ensuring it is informed by both existing quality research in sales and an understanding of people and organizational phenomena. Teaching and administrative staff work with students to help them use techniques to enhance their ability to pay continual attention to what is happening in the course, what is happening in their organizations, and how they frame their responses to these (Moon, 2013). Central to the MST are the principles of action research understood as “the means of systematic enquiry for all participants in the quest for greater effectiveness through democratic participation” (Adelman, 1993, p. 7). The learning interventions and tools used in the program are informed by pedagogical strategies that are consistent with established educational approaches. These are outlined in Table 3. The distinctive characteristic of the program is the partnership, which is characterized by a unique combination of

Creating one systematic and repeatable process in generating demand, and developing and nurturing opportunities Leading sales transformation in a matrix organization Unlock customer potential among five market pillars. How sales transformation could be implemented in my team Reinforce cross-lab collaboration and team spirit.

academic legitimacy, consulting thought leadership, and business relevance. The involvement of the corporate partners is very significant at the program design stage. Faculty review the company’s internal sales processes and prior sales training. As a result, the delivery mode and the emphases of the modules are revisited. When required, new learning pathways are created that allow students new choices while maintaining the overall academic standards required to be awarded a master’s degree. For instance, in the case of a global technology company, some planned sessions were reformulated, and on occasions the mode of delivery was changed. Models that the company used, such as Kotter’s (1996) change management or Blanchard’s (1994) situational leadership, were referred to for consistency with the tools and methods the company uses. Prior to delivering each module, an “alignment” session takes place to connect the content of the module with the strategic goals of the

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Table 3. Tools, Practices, and Pedagogy Adopted in the Master Program. Learning Interventions and Tools Work-based assignments

Action learning sets Personal development plans

Pedagogical Strategies

Educational Approach

Action research

Experiential learning Reflective practice

Problems are not separated out from the social context within which they occur; thus, the interplay between research in sales and delegates’ expertise underpins the program. Organizational change and improving delegates’ practice in their sales organizations are encouraged for increased sales effectiveness. Individual and collective reflective practice is empowered. Reconstruction of experience and paradigm shifts are fostered to envision new possibilities in managing the sales organization and create new opportunities with customers. Enhanced self-awareness and evaluation of outcomes, both organizational (e.g., sales growth) and personal (e.g., mindsets), are promoted to help make a difference in one’s own and others’ careers.

company. In all of the above steps, the faculty and delivery teams ensure that the learning objectives set for each of the program modules meet the required university standards.

Findings: Sales Education With Impacts at Multiple Levels Throughout the development of the Sales Transformation Program, data were collected on an ongoing basis for program evaluation, learning strategy development, and delegate assessment purposes. Participant observation of class interactions, presentations, action learning sets, and customer workshops allowed the authors to study firsthand the behavior of individuals and to understand their experiences (Taylor & Bogdan, 1984). Participant observation helped grasp insights about “the experience of people, the way they think, feel and act,” because “the most truthful, reliable, complete and simple way of getting that information is to share their experience” (Douglas, 1974, p. 112). Archival data, such as reports, learning contracts, work-based assignments, presentations, and other written outputs, provided valuable insights about individuals and their organizations (Hill, 1993). Participants were also interviewed to study “people’s understanding of the meanings in their lived world, describing their experiences and self-understanding, and clarifying and elaborating their own perspective on their lived world” (Kvale, 1996, p. 105). In this section, we summarize three key themes emerging from the analysis of the data collected during a 6-year period (2007–2013). The evidence gathered showed positive effects in at least three areas: (a) a long-lasting impact on individuals’ careers, (b) the development of relationships within the sales teams and among key customers, and (c) sales growth driven by new ways of creating customer value.

Long-Lasting Impact on Individuals’ Careers The Sales Transformation Program is described by individuals as an intensive and highly engaging development

initiative. Participants acknowledged how the program helped start a journey of critical evaluation of their practice in sales organizations. Delegates to the MST recognize that the approach and the design of the program were instrumental in helping them challenge assumptions they had about the drivers of sales performance, in allowing enhanced mindfulness of who they are as sales executives, and in eliciting values they were not fully aware they stood for. Delegates acknowledge that they became immersed in the very process of being changed themselves as a result of being involved in championing change in their sales organizations. Those engaged in the program admit that it had an impact in terms of personal transformation, career development, and personal growth. As one of the participants declared, The richness of the Master program comes from the world-class quality of the content, and the platform it provides for reflective practice. For me it was both inspiring and personally transformational: it changed my career. (Senior sales executive, global technology company)

The work that delegates undertake within the MST informed the development of innovative proposals, new projects, and new sales strategies back in their companies. This, in turn, helped individuals gain status and visibility within their organizations as a result of the new and valuable ideas they proposed. The formal recognition associated with the award of a postgraduate degree further contributed to their career advancement. As the vice president of strategic sales from a technology and management consulting firm claimed, “Achieving the Master with a distinction was a major event in my life and indeed has had a huge impact on my career in sales leadership and in selling very complex solutions.” Participants claimed that they conceived changes in sales processes and practices in their organizations as a result of engaging in deep reflection and coursework. In addition, insights from the MST also help them identify tactics to enlist the involvement and advocacy of some senior

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Marcos-Cuevas et al. executives. One of the key supporters of the MST in a global technology company explained that the company’s vision for the program and the transformation he expected was through the “role model effect delegates who completed the program could have” in their business. For this executive, the outcome of the program goes beyond management and even leadership: The expectation was that those completing the MST would personify and embody personal change as part of the change required in their organizations and teams: “Becoming a role model for change oneself is not enough. One has to ensure the whole team also shares and practices the same values.” Participants recognized enhanced awareness in leading sales operations and sales teams, and the adoption of management approaches that they recognized would not have been used if they had not been in the program. One of the students referred to how he changed his approach from “leading the process to get the expected [predefined] outcome” to “engaging in an honest dialogue to explore all possibilities.” The learning strategy of the MST resonates in delegates who declare that the program: Provides an opportunity to reflect in a fast-paced environment, and then act with a refreshed approach to managing the team. (Sales manager, corporate accounts)

Appreciative dialogues are encouraged in the MST, motivating individuals to recognize possibilities and to pursue different ways of addressing business challenges: [The program] led to a “different conversation,” particularly with reference to resolving issues; more mature business conversations and improved approach and outlook. (Director of sales, telecommunications and service industries)

Throughout the MST, the interplay among ideas drawn from research in organizational development, from academic research in sales, and from participants’ own sales expertise creates a continuous and mutually reinforcing loop, further generating research outputs as well as new professional insights and practices.

Development of Relationships Within and Across Organizations The second key outcome of the Sales Transformation Program was the enhancement of relationships within the participants’ businesses and with relevant individuals in their key customers. From an internal perspective, delegates overwhelmingly expressed their willingness to share with others what they had learned in the program. One participant ran appreciative inquiry workshops for two of his managers, resulting in a process that he recognized “has totally changed the way we conduct problem solving at work and also with customers.”

Table 4. Changes in Customer-Centricity Before and After Attending the Program. Dimensions Positive Authenticity Client-centricity Proactive creativity Tactful audacity Negative Supplier-centric Manipulative Complacency Short-term focus



5.5 5 3.5 4

6.1 5.3 4.7 4.4

2 2 2.5 3

1.3 1.3 1.5 1.5

In the MST, the engaged nature of the modules, the participative action learning sets, and the emphasis on applying learning to real-life contexts resulted in better leverage and more collaborative work. One of the delegates declared that the program stimulated in him a “genuine willingness to transform perceptions and attitudes around team members.” Participants also described how attending the program benefited their relationships with customers. A financial services organization, after training a group of account managers on the values underpinning the program, decided to measure changes in customer-centricity. A sample of its clients were interviewed and asked to rate on a scale of 1–7 the values (both positive and negative) that the sales team displayed when selling to them. Data taken at two different points (3 years apart) as shown in table 4 revealed improvements among all dimensions. Participants recognized the program was instrumental in helping many of them reconsider their customer relations, with significant improvements in the perceived quality of these relationships.

Sales Growth Driven by the Creation of Customer Value Firms that committed to the Sales Transformation Program had high expectations about tangible deliverables for the organization. We have presented some less tangible deliverables, but cases of measurable business outputs were also observed. Following the completion of the Winning Value Proposition (WVP) program, a global technology and information systems conglomerate tracked the performance of their sales organization, examining the number of deals in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa for the remainder of that year. Their analysis revealed a significant difference in the number of deals agreed, the conversion rate, and the overall value when comparing the sales teams that participated in the WVP program with those that did not (see Table 5). Executives from the company recognized that although it is

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Table 5. Effect of the Winning Value Proposition (WVP) Program on Sales Growth.

Total deals Deals won % conversion Value (in millions)



11 8 73% 4,728 USD

12 2 33% 471 USD

difficult to attribute an increase in successful deals solely to the effect of a sales development program, the positive impact of WVP was widely acknowledged. A wider range of measureable impacts was revealed, such as staff retention and performance. Our objective was to sustain sales transformation through an accredited work-based learning program linked to a well-defined sales process, and in doing so ensure effective & consistent delivery across the entire branch network. Over a four-year period, employee engagement went up 20% while unforced turnover reduced by 12% below the industry average. (Director, financial services authority)

Overall, the analysis of the data gathered showed that improvements in individuals’ understanding of themselves were often associated with the development of meaningful relations with their teams and their customers. These, in turn, resulted in better sales opportunity management and increased likelihood of winning deals. It is not just improved sales processes and tools that made the difference, but also the new mindsets for selling that delegates developed as part of engaging in the MST. As a sales director from a global technology company recognized, “The Master is changing my mindset and approach.”

Discussion: Enhancing the Professional Mindset of Selling In this article, we have outlined how the profound transformation of professional selling and sales management requires a set of complex professional qualities that go beyond mere functional selling skills. Thus, sales education programs need to engage students entering the profession, as well as practicing sales professionals, in deeper levels of reflection and critical thinking. The MST program described in the article enabled participants to transform from method to mindset the way in which they approach their sales jobs. We now discuss this transformation and how it emerged in those enrolled in the MST. We consider how the pedagogical strategies underpinning the MST might also be adopted in the growing number of university sales education programs to foster a meaningful mindset for professional selling in their students.

Our study confirms the importance of experiential learning and its relevance and appropriateness in sales education (Cummins et al., 2013). Our work reveals that experiential learning, when combined with reflective practice and action research, not only has the potential to catalyze personal transformation but also enhances the perception of program quality in sales education (Peltier, Hay, & Drago, 2005). The analysis of the MST, from the participants’ point of view, shows that experiential and reflective approaches to educating sales students produce meaningful learning outcomes when the programs are linked to the social context in which participants work. The work-based learning and action research approaches adopted enable the development of higher order insights when some of its elements, such as experiential learning and reflective practice, are practiced in a group situation, showing that these operate in a mutually reinforcing way. Carr and Kemmis (2003) described action research as a form of selfreflective practice that participants undertake in social situations to improve their own practices and their understanding of these practices. In the MST, emphasis is placed on embedding the characteristics of well-founded action research programs: first, linking problems to the social and organizational contexts within which they arose; second, encouraging individual and collective engagement in reflective practice; and, third, fostering evaluation of outcomes and making change happen. These approaches enable individuals to make sense of complex sales phenomena, developing new frameworks for understanding their selling practices and themselves. The creation of the MST was (and still is) inspired by a willingness to contribute to the development of the sales profession. Some elements of the program go further than developing competence in complex selling by creating a space in which personal values and deeply held assumptions are fundamentally challenged. By adopting an action research approach, participants and faculty alike discovered that one has to be clear about his or her values when selling, managing, and organizing. This characteristic is implicit in the work of Lewin (1946) insofar as he was driven by a set of values that profoundly influenced the conception of action research as a method of inquiry. Whitehead and McNiff (2006) claimed that action researchers need to be clear about their values, that action research is value laden and morally committed, and that it forces the individual to self-reflect about what I or we are doing, and not only what they are doing. The environment of the MST is highly engaging and demonstrates the effect that a class environment has on intrinsic motivation and on learning outcomes (Young, 2005). The program is also perceived to be challenging. Individuals are asked difficult questions about their selling practice to enable critical thinking and reflection, such as those proposed by McNiff (2010): “What is my concern?” and “Why am I concerned?”

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in university and college degrees before they begin their professional careers in sales. For undergraduate degrees, the learning strategies described in this article will produce the professionals with the requisite complexity that the market demands. We propose considering a new generation of sales education that emphasizes evolving the sales curricula in six dimensions:

Figure 1. The process of the development of new mindsets for professional selling (circles denote the interventions and pedagogical strategies of the MST).

Our study revealed that the MST helps develop a longlasting, new mindset. The analysis of the data enables the authors to see that this process started from enhanced selfawareness, an important trait when working in complex or multicultural sales settings (Lassk et al., 2012). Awareness of one’s drivers and leadership behaviors facilitates the development of more meaningful relations between sales leaders and sales team members (Deeter-Schmelz, Goebel, & Kennedy, 2008). Reflective practice proves instrumental in challenging assumptions, which in turn leads to developing momentum for change and learning (Chonko, Jones, Roberts, & Dubinsky, 2002). Through appreciative dialogues and inquiry, individuals are assured of the “positive core” (Cooperrider & Whitney, 2005) and are supported by senior leaders who legitimized wanting to drive change forward and adopting new values to redefine customer relations. These interrelated elements developed into the creation of new mindsets for sales (see Figure 1). We argue that addressing the profound transformations in the role of the sales professional requires an approach markedly different from just developing knowledge, skills, and abilities (Artis & Harris, 2007; Ricks, Williams, & Weeks, 2008). The accomplishment of the MST is the development of an integrated approach in which research, models, tools, and interventions enable behaviors and mindsets to be permanently changed. This enabled learners to engage with their customers in different ways and to provide novel insights to complex problems, confirming Fogel et al.’s (2012) claim that “customers no longer need a salesperson to learn about a company’s offering, much less to place an order … sales has become more about helping customers define the problem they are trying to solve and assemble a complete solution” (p. 96). The approach and outcomes seen in the MST are immediately relevant to practicing salespeople. They are also pertinent to develop in undergraduate students

From teaching (sales) techniques to enabling mindful reflection of sales processes: recognizing that the complexity of modern sales and the variety of sales contexts require education that goes beyond tactics From designing normative courses to facilitating exploratory work: allowing students to try and test theories, frameworks, and concepts, rather than just absorbing them From presenting deterministic sales processes to open-ended ones: to reflect the multifaceted nature of enterprise and solution selling, and the fact that customer interactions are cyclical phenomena From driven by the salesperson to situated within specific buyer–seller interactions: thus suggesting the need to acknowledge and incorporate advances in buying and procurement knowledge as well as an understanding of oneself in context From teacher-driven to student-led sales education, as a result of ongoing dialogue and reflection From outcome-based to process-based learning of professional selling, to reflect the insight and value that reside in the process of learning and discovery These evolutions in sales curricula can result in long-lasting outcomes and also may become a way of differentiation for business schools, setting them apart from providers of sales training from industry. The MST also provides an insightful case in which academic research and professional practice are seemingly intertwined, showing new ways for business schools to address issues of legitimacy (Thomas & Cornuel, 2012) and for academics issues of relevance for practice (Lee & Greenley, 2010).

Conclusion Cummings et al. (2013) noted that “as sales education continues to grow and innovate, articles reporting successful pedagogy, including exercises, projects, role-playing scenarios, and simulations will be needed” (p. 72). We have presented the case of the MST, showing how the work of the students themselves becomes the subject discipline, rather than the traditional marketing disciplines delivered exclusively by faculty. We claim that what should be further privileged is the theory that emerges from the students’ exploration of their collective practices, which extends, beyond the programs in which they participate, into their current or future

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businesses and the customers with whom they interact or will interact. At the end of his paper on “Kurt Lewin and the Origins of Action Research,” Adelman (1993) commented that “it remains to be seen whether participatory research can influence social and educational policy in technocratic bureaucracies” (pp. 21–22), and he lamented that in some countries, the national curriculum and assessment have not been informed by participatory research. Two decades on, we are confident that the program described in this article will lead to a living theory that will influence educational policy in the field of selling and sales management. The Sales Transformation Program addresses a fundamental phenomenon for business and organizations: the extent to which sales education can become a source of advantage. Chonko et al. (2003) claimed that learning is fundamental to create a sustainable competitive advantage. We argue that sales strategies, processes, and individual capabilities, all enhanced by a sales education program such as the one described here, create a unique opportunity for differentiation in the marketplace for both recent graduates and practicing sales professionals. Two of the firms that engaged in the program wanted to create a differentiated approach to selling, and both approached it in different ways. We reflected ourselves, “Why would a company want to share a standardized approach with other competitors?” Arguably, if every company adopted the same selling practices, they would lose an opportunity to differentiate. Equally, we propose that the future of sales education needs to emphasize uniqueness and differentiation while maintaining standards and commonality. Standards and commonality are still needed in transactional and repetitive sales. Uniqueness is critical in complex and relationship selling contexts. This program also provides an exemplar to translate sales research into actionable approaches (Bartunek & Egri, 2012) and inspiring education. As a community of sales educators, we may need to rethink sales education, just as sales executives had to rethink their sales forces (Rackham & DeVincentis, 1998) more than a decade ago. We believe the transformation process of sales education will take time, but we are confident in our suggested approach, which is endorsed by the growing interest of companies, those that precisely employ graduates of sales programs. We envisage a promising future for sales educators, particularly those who demonstrate an ability to exploit work-based learning approaches to educate future sales professionals. McNiff (2010) claimed that the most popular profession for action research remain education and nursing and health care.… However, action research has now branched into the general public services sectors and it is now entering business and industry, and even financial services and selling. (p. 41)

We believe that sales education programs adopting a learner-centered approach will not just improve selling

techniques but also create sales mindsets with the potential to profoundly transform professional selling at all levels. Declaration of Conflicting Interests The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Funding The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

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Consalia media coverage

Consalia media coverage 2013/14  

A collection of the main print, online and academic media content created by, for and on Consalia

Consalia media coverage 2013/14  

A collection of the main print, online and academic media content created by, for and on Consalia