‘Selling Through Partnering Skills’ models the VALUE framework as a way to sales success through thinking like a partner.
The VALUE framework consists of the processes Validate, Align, Leverage, Underpin and Evolve. It focuses on using PQ – Partnering Intelligence – the lessor known cousin of IQ and EQ. Using this way of thinking can make you a better salesperson especially in complex B2B and Enterprise sales. PQ consists of 6 elements including Trust – crucially important for creating win-win relationships.
In his session Fred dives into explaining how collaborative selling works, acknowledging interdependence and being transparent. He will talk about how helping customers to think is the secret behind building relationships.
Thank you so much for joining us. I know that you were in Spain a few days back. Are you back in the UK or are you still in Spain?
I’m back in the UK now. I’m cold because it was hot in Spain, 30 to 70 degrees, which is crazy for me.
Subhanjan Sarkar 00:15
Wow. Okay. So before I let you begin your session, I need to do a quick introduction.
The book that he’s going to talk about is extremely important. We talk about it a lot, but we do not really know how to go about doing it.show more
So Fred Copestake is a consultant, trainer, coach, and an expert in helping sales professionals around the world improve their performance and unleash their full potential. With his unique style and pragmatic approach, Fred has worked in more than 35 countries delivering projects that range from implementing a European academy for a leading beer brand, developing sales skills in the Middle East for global healthcare companies, and introducing account development and sales leadership models in Latin America and Europe for IT and engineering multinationals. Always focusing on the desired outcomes, Fred’s approach sees him work with his clients to discover new and more powerful ways of how they can do business, build mutually beneficial relationships with their customers, and increase revenue. Fred talks on his book Selling Through Partnering Skills today.
And I must tell you, he has just launched a new course with Steve Hall, and you should check that out. It’s a great one, what they’re doing. I have some ideas. I’m not going to talk about it. Fred can talk about it, but you should check that out as well.
The link to buy the book is on the screen.
Fred, take it away.
Brilliant. Thank you. Yeah, you’ve taken away the first six slides.
So my name is Fred Copestake. I’m the founder of Brindis, which is a sales training consultancy. And as Subhanjan was saying, yeah, I’ve had the pleasure of traveling a lot while doing this job. Over the last 22 years, I’ve been around the world 14 times, I’ve worked in 36 different countries, trained over 10,000 salespeople, which is a massive honor and a real privilege. Lots of fun as well, no doubt. But what it also did was really allow me to understand what it is that salespeople need to do today. I kind of looked at some of the challenges that we face across sectors, across countries, across continents. And that’s why I wrote Selling Through Partnering Skills. For me, this is all about collaborative selling. That’s the latest phase of sales.
That’s where we are now.
So I’m going to go into this in a little bit more detail. But if you want it in a 10-second summary, and this is what I’m all about, how I want to work, it’s about having good people doing good things in a good way. That’s why I think we need to be driving towards our salespeople.
So I looked at the stuff that was going on, and I realized that what’s stopping so many salespeople from achieving this and what’s stopping them from getting their results. It boils down to three main things. And these, we can broadly summarize as the fact that they’re unfocused, old-fashioned, and confused. Now, as a salesperson, it’s probably not very nice to hear that. But as I go through and explain some of the symptoms, then you’ll probably recognize it, and we can start to understand why. But most importantly, we can understand what we are going to do about it. So that’s what I plan to start on. Let’s have a little bit of a think about that because this is why I wrote the book essentially. So I give these little names that can help us remember what it’s all about.
And so the first thing I see is that salespeople can be busy, busy, busy. So think about this. We’re running around doing loads and loads of stuff, really active, really industrious. But the stuff we’re doing isn’t really making a difference. So we’re actually wasting a lot of our most precious resource, which is time. It means we’re wasting opportunities. It’s tiring. It’s quite stressful. And this is all to do with being unfocused. Not a great place to be. Something that if we can fix, we can start to help salespeople get better at what they do and do better for their customers.
That’s one of the elements.
The next element that I was spotting was what I call “Olde Worlde.” So it’s written in a kind of Shakespearean language because it’s about being old-fashioned. And again, the symptoms we see here are that salespeople are very self-centered. Me, me, we, we, we, I, I, I, my products, my services, my company. Customers aren’t interested in this; they’re interested in themselves. So that’s a kind of symptom that we see, and we can fix. Another way I see this kind of manifest itself is that some salespeople become too technical. They get right down into the weeds with the very technical elements of what it is they’re doing, which for some customers is just too much. It’s boring. They don’t need to know it. They want the result. A lot of these things come out of passion, but the one that really gets me is when people just use poor practice. There’s been some sales training or something or some kind of crazy idea from a bygone era that people still think is a good idea. It’s like, no, no, we shouldn’t be doing this. It not only doesn’t work, it pushes customers away. So we could be seeing that as well.
And then we see this other element, which is about being muddled in mindset. This kind of muddled mindset where the organization says we do one thing, that we’re being very— kind of customer-focused buyer-centric. But in reality, what’s happening is we get quite transactional because the sales are pushed. In a year and a quarter and a month and a week. We can deal with it. To with busy, busy, busy we need to become more effective, and the trick to that is to prepare, plan, and use processes.
One of the things I see salespeople not do is spend enough time thinking, preparing themselves, thinking about the customer, getting their head around what it is that they can do to really help the customer do what they’re trying to achieve. When we do that, we can then start to plan—plan how we use our time most effectively, where we can have the most impact, how can we do that best for our ability and for really making this happen. We use processes to think about the structures, the frameworks, the tried and tested ways of working that we can repeat and concentrate on those things, which is about helping the customer. That’s what helps us become more effective. Old-worldly, old-fashioned will become more modern. Get up to date.
And the trick for this is to flip the following focus. So flip attention. Flip it into the world of the customer. What are their needs? What are their wants? What are their goals? What are their dreams? What are their ambitions? What is it that they’re trying to do? That’s where the conversation should be at. That’s where we need to be looking. So if we’re too technical, if we get fascinated with our own things, follow the process, follow a way of working that keeps us doing the stuff that customers want and need.
There’s so much research out there. There’s so much thinking about how sales can be better. Focus on those things rather than some of those old-fashioned ideas that just don’t really cut it anymore. It’s the muddled mindset which can start at organization levels. The organization that says we’re going to be consultative, we’re going to be customer-focused, we’re going to be buyer-centric, and what happens then when they push the individual to suddenly change into a transactional way of working? And that’s what muddles people and confuses them.
So what do we do to deal with that? Clarity, coaching, confirmation. The organization has to be clear that this is the way we work and this is how we do it, and this is what we’re going to stick to. We’re not going to keep moving. That means managers can decide that yes, I can coach salespeople to be good in a consultative and a collaborative way of working. I’m not going to be chasing around with a stick in a spreadsheet. An individual can be sure that what it is that they are doing is what makes a difference.
These are the things that, in the book, I’m looking to help people get their head around and start to apply so they can make a difference. Sales has evolved, we’ve come a long way. We’ve come a long way from my very first job in sales. My very first job in sales, I was 8 years old. 8 years old. I started in the sales career.
Let me tell you the story.
So we had a family business, which is a builder’s merchant, also sold kitchens and bathrooms. When I was eight, I was allowed to go and work at the Boxing Day sale. Now, Boxing Day in the UK is the day after Christmas in December. And so, going along there, they kitted me out in the company uniform— size massive orange polo shirt. It’s a double shirt, so it’s like way down below my knees. One of those old-fashioned warehouse coats, this big brown thing, and they put me in the tile store. So we were setting tiles, and I was there and I was talking to people, talking to people.
Now, just need to say before we move on, the premises we were working in was an old Victorian mill, so made of stone, a big old-fashioned building. In December in the UK, it was cold. So this place made of stone, it was stone-cold. I was talking to people, I was helping them, I was having fun doing that. I didn’t know this was sales, but essentially that’s what it is. We’re talking to people to understand them and help them. That’s what I was doing at eight. Since then, obviously, things have come a long way.
There’s a lot going on in the world of sales, a hell of a lot of stuff. And we’ve evolved, we’ve evolved through loads of different evolutions. So thinking about how sales processes in the fifties, the processes we were looking at to make ourselves more effective and the psychology that we looked at— we’ve looked at the kind of benefit-selling stuff, the close, close, close of the eighties, objection handling. But in the nineties, we thought of talking about consultative sales, how we could really understand customers with better questioning, really get into what it is that they need. In the noughties, we talked about value-based selling. We need to understand that stuff we talked about, I talked about it in the tens— personal branding, showing that we’re the person that we can deal with, which gets us right up to now. And for me, this is about collaborative selling, how we can work alongside customers to help them achieve what it is that they’re trying to achieve. Taking things from each of these evolutions of sales, the stuff that still works, and keeping that.
Throwing out the rubbish but changing our mindset, changing the way we think about what it is that we’re trying to do, how we’re trying to achieve that. And so as I was looking at this stuff, I came across this concept of PQ or partnering skills. So it’s like the lesser-known cousin of IQ and EQ. IQ is our Intelligent quotient. EQ is how emotionally intelligent we are. PQ is our partnering skills. I got right into the work of a guy called Steve Dent who has done a lot of research around this to think about how organizations can build better business alliances, and that was a hot topic back in the late eighties, early nineties.
They did this research, and essentially, it boils down to organizations don’t partner, people do. These are people skills. He looked at these skills, he validated them, verified them. So this is stuff that we can measure and we can develop.
I looked at these six elements and thought every salesperson needs to understand this. We need to bake it into the way that we work. That’s what I wrote in the book. That’s why it’s called “Selling through Partnering Skills,” which I could have called collaborative setting. But I wanted to stay true to these partnering skills, which we could all embrace, not just for people in the channel. Every single salesperson, when you look at these six elements, these are six I put into the way that we should sell. I think it’s very hard to argue against them.
Let’s have a look. Let’s have a look at these six things which all salespeople, I believe, should embrace.
So the first is trust. Makes sense. Trust is the foundation for relationships, the foundation for good communication. We have to build trust with people, and we build trust. We don’t do trust. We don’t do things to try to get trust. We do things with genuine other parties’ best interests at heart, and that is where trust will come from. Again, I’ve done a lot of research into the whole thing around trust. “The Trust Advisors” is an awesome book. They talk about this self-orientation, lower self-orientation, must be incredibly reliable and intimate with customers. That’s where trust will come from. We have to bring that into our day-to-day sales.
What else is on the PQ set of elements? Win-win orientation, win-win focus. And we speak about it a lot in sales, but I wonder if we sometimes miss the interpretation of it. One of the things I’ve noticed quite often is that salespeople sometimes forget their own win. They forget what it is that they need to achieve. So they are customer-focused, but they forget their side. Lose-win, win-lose. I mean, none of those are sustainable. So again, understanding this changes how we negotiate, how we speak, how we look towards getting mutual benefit. It’s an important part in professional sales today, as is being comfortable with interdependence, not independence. Not lone wolf behavior, going off doing your own thing. No, interdependence. We have teams. More often than not, a salesperson will be supported by a team. Use them. We know that customers’ decision-making units are getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Align with them, bring everybody into the party. A good salesperson can orchestrate this. But for me, there’s something even more fundamental in this. This interdependence, I believe, can translate into a mindset that my success as a salesperson derives from your success as a customer. Your success is my success. If we think like that, it changes the way we operate, changes how we sell, changes the whole conversation.
The fourth element I’d probably talk about is transparency. Now, it may seem a bit more of a buzzword, but this is Steve Dent’s language, self-disclosure, and feedback. So it’s giving information about yourself. We can’t expect customers to be mind readers. They don’t know what we’re trying to achieve. We don’t know how well a deal or a relationship is going. We can tell them. Equally, we need to tell them if they’re doing stuff that isn’t assisting the agreements or the plans, the progress we’re trying to make. And they’ll have blind spots. So feedback around that is really important. We can bring that into the way we work.
We have to be comfortable with change. We sell change, we are change agents. Change is tough. Change is difficult. So we need to understand what it’s like, what it’s all about. Also, it’s about doing things differently, doing different things. If we don’t know how it affects people and we can’t deal with it ourselves, what right have we got to be trying to propose these ideas? So understanding how change works, how some people love it (innovators), some people reject it, as some will go along, and just the general response that people have. If we understand this, we know how we can communicate better depending on what stage of the change curve somebody’s on.
It makes sense to understand this, and the six elements of PQ have a future orientation. So we’re looking towards the future. We’re building goals, visions, together with the customer. Our decisions are made based on that, on how we get towards that, how we achieve that. We can do things to help with this in the way we work.
I’m a big fan of mutual action plans, outcome enablement plans, things that are all about how we’re going to get to what we’re talking about. These elements of PQ, I think, are so key in the way that we think and work today. So starting off, just understanding how we are for each of those elements and how we can start to develop those as a sales professional, build them into the way we work. That’s what we’re trying to do. That’s what I did.
In the book, I introduced a value framework. The value framework is in what I put in some of the best practices that I’ve seen from over the years, from some of the sales evolutions that are still relevant and still work, and then aligned it with thinking like a partner. Because that’s what it boils down to: thinking like a partner. And whether someone’s a formal partner or not, just thinking like it changes what we say and do. So the value framework guides us through a sale with those parts of the PQ, partnering skills, helping us to do that well.
So let’s quickly think about what are the elements, what are these elements of the value framework. So the “V” part of the value framework is about validate, validate.
So it’s about checking whether the opportunity we have is a real-life opportunity. Is it something that we should go ahead with?
So in some ways, it brings the old-fashioned qualification skills into play, but we also need to look at this from a more psychological point of view. It takes two to tango. So is our approach, is our way of wanting to work like a partner going to be reciprocated? Is it something that we’re going to match up on? Otherwise, it might be quite difficult to do, but really understanding customers, how they think, how they operate, how we can work with them, we can decide whether these are good opportunities or not. So we validate that, and then we can start aligning to it. So ‘align’ is our homework. It’s making sure that we’re thinking about what we can do here, what ideas could we share, what insights can we bring, what perspectives have we got. More and more, now I’m seeing sales as developing our hypothesis, an assumption if you like, but a clever assumption, an educated assumption as to these are the kind of things we should do, that we can share with customers. We can get the conversation going, but this stuff comes from solid research. We can’t just make stuff up. We can’t just rock up and have a guess at stuff. Solid prep, which is why the preparation part is okay because we leverage that.
L is for leverage. We leverage that into intelligent conversations using great questioning skills, focusing on the customer, adding the insights, the perspectives when we need them. Talking about what’s important to them, what are they trying to achieve? The results, the outcomes, the stuff that they want to do. So we can think about how can we then assist them with that. How can we guide them on that path, bringing what we’ve got to the party, leveraging all that prep and that information so that we can then underpin our ideas through our proposals, our presentations, discussion documents, things that we’re putting in front of the customer as a potential way in which they can work?
Three-legged stool, think of the three-legged stool: resonate, substantiate, differentiate.
Resonate. We’ve got to be on the right wavelength. We’ve got to talk about stuff that makes sense to them. It’s got to work. Otherwise, why would they bother wanting to listen anymore? We’ve got to substantiate, we’ve got to back it up, we’ve got to prove it. ROI figures, numbers, data, and stories, stories, case studies if you like, the success stories. People love stories. Storytelling itself is a hot topic at the moment. So using stories to inspire people, to get them motivated to do something which is good for them, makes a lot of sense as we underpin our ideas: resonate, substantiate, and differentiate.
Being different enough from our competitors. Just being different, though, is not a differentiator. I get quite excited about this. Where it has to be relevant, it’s gonna be something that’s different, but in a way that makes sense to them. If we can wrap these into the way that we underpin, we’re keeping the relationship moving forward. We’re keeping the relationship moving forward so that we can evolve with them. We can work together, we deliver the results, the outcomes that we promised, we help them get to where they want to be, and we can use that to develop further, look at more opportunities, more conversations, more ways in which we can work together. That’s essentially what the book does. It brings partnering skills, best practices in selling today, puts them together in the value framework, and helps people to become better and more relevant in the way that we sell today.
I think it’s a really important thing for salespeople to be aware of being relevant. We hear a lot of people say, “I can’t talk to customers, oh, they’re ghosting me.” It’s hard, and harder because you’re not bringing value, you as the salesperson are not bringing value. And that’s a horrible thing to say, that they’re not relevant. But making yourself relevant by being valuable in your conversations, that’s how we can move stuff forward, thinking like a partner, using partnering skills, bringing in all of those things which work and some of the newer things that we can look at today.
So that’s what I’m all about. That’s what the book’s all about. I talk about this a lot. I talk about it a lot.
You can find me on all social media handles, so you can reach out to me, and I’ll share a lot of information around it. Sales Today Podcast, I interview guests and share stuff around it. Ultimately, look, I want to be known as the person who helps loads of salespeople become more collaborative in the way they approach good people, the good things, in a good way.
That’s what we’re all about.
This is great, Fred. You know, I love the energy that you have. I was remembering our interaction during the podcast, and I think there was so much important stuff that you actually laid out in the last 20 minutes.
If you have any questions, we’ll take one question because I think your session was quite tight in terms of time.
Let’s have one question, and we will go from there. Okay, here it is.
Does partnering require an entry point into the buyer organization? Who’s the best partner in the buyer organization?
That’s more than 20 minutes just in answering that.
But really, I mean, there are different ways of going about selling. You can go straight in at the top, straight in at the C-level. I see what John said. Yeah, there’s a course coming out about that. But equally, yes, there can be a bottom-up approach. And what I would say with that, the most practical answer is, where do you think you can have an impact in the stuff that you’re going to talk about? Really help somebody to think and start to get them developing some “aha” moments and wanting to work with you. So, if it’s very obvious for you to do that quite quickly with somebody, I would potentially target that. Engineers love talking to engineers because they speak the same language. If we know their issues, go for that, perhaps the area you feel most comfortable in, but don’t limit it to that. We then have to expand and push ourselves out of our comfort zone to figure out what other people would value and be able to have those conversations with them.
This is great, Fred. Again, thank you so much. I really enjoyed it. Thank you for being with us, and I hope that we’ll have you again when we have the next one.
I would definitely be up for that, you know that.
Thank you. And by the way, if you are around the end of September in the UK, we are going to catch up. I’ll be there.
Fred Copestake 25:33
Ok. I should be, yes, definitely.
Bye, I’ll ping you.
Okay, guys. We are back with Melissa Madian in a couple of minutes. Be there, bye.
Fred Copestake is a consultant, trainer, coach, and an expert in helping sales professionals around the world to improve their performance and unleash their full potential. With his unique style and pragmatic approach, Fred has worked in more than 35 countries delivering projects that range from implementing a European academy for a leading beer brand, developing sales skills in the Middle East for global healthcare companies, and introducing account development and sales leadership models in Latin America and Europe for IT and engineering multinationals. Always focusing on the desired outcomes, Fred’s approach sees him work with his clients to discover new and more powerful ways of how they can do business, build mutually beneficial relationships with their customers, and increase revenue.