By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
Scott Edinger is a renowned consultant, speaker, and author who has worked with companies such as AT&T, Lenovo, and McDonald’s to help them grow their revenues. His most recent book, The Hidden Leader: Discover and Develop Greatness Within Your Company, is a Washington Post Bestseller and was selected as one of the best business books of 2015. His other publications include the book The Inspiring Leader: Unlocking the Secrets of How Extraordinary Leaders Motivate and the Harvard Business Review article “Making Yourself Indispensable.”
Edinger will share his wealth of knowledge at HSMAI’s Sale Leader Forum in Dallas on Nov. 5–6 through a keynote speech and in a presentation at the Chief Sales Officer Executive Roundtable. HSMAI recently sat down with Edinger to discuss his presentations and get his thoughts on the sales profession.
What will your keynote presentation be about?
The keynote is going to be about the topic “Would Customers Pay for Your Sales Calls?,” which was the focus of my article in Harvard Business Review. The premise is that the sales experience, based on a lot of research, constitutes about 25 percent of business decisions. The sales experience is incumbent on the individual seller to create value in the sales process that customers are willing to pay for. It’s not enough anymore to simply be a talking brochure. Our old vision of selling is to be articulate and charismatic about the features and benefits, but people don’t care anymore, because they can get all of that information from the internet. So, the keynote is going to identify five strategies for creating value, because it’s not about what you sell, it’s about how you sell it.
What will you speak about at the Executive Roundtable session?
The roundtable session is going to be focused on how leaders drive and sustain revenue growth, which is connected to the keynote. I’m going to base it on concepts of my forthcoming book, The Butterfly Effect: How Great Leaders Drive and Sustain Revenue Growth.
What do you want people to take away from your presentations?
With the keynote, I want people to understand that selling is no longer communicating competitive advantages. A good sales process becomes a competitive advantage. Sales has gone from being the corporate mouthpiece to becoming that vital execution engine of the business.
For the roundtable, the primary message is that revenue issues or shortfalls have more to do with leadership than sales. The Butterfly Effect reflects the ideas that there are small things senior execs do or don’t do in terms of driving revenue growth that are seen on the front line. Decisions have consequences and there are cascading effects. I’m going to help execs understand the things they can do to support revenue growth and what decisions cause it to fail.
How does your research relate to what you’ll be discussing at the Sales Leader Forum?
I’m still currently working on The Butterfly Effect, and it’s going to be a big part of my presentations. Part of the idea behind it is that that too often, corporate executives don’t think about sales as a driver of differentiation and values, but what happens is that a lot of choices — from the kind of person we think will be successful, to the way we manage and coach, to how much we pay salespeople — have massive counterproductive implications. There hasn’t been enough importance put to the idea that the salesforce is execution of the strategy. Every interaction with a customer is a moment where it succeeds or fails.
My other two books are more peripheral, but you’d see the roots of what I’m talking about if you read them. Hidden Leader is an especially good one, because it focuses on who is really a leader when the salesforce’s actions and decisions reflect a strategic intent. That strategic intent is leadership.
Why is sales a topic of interest to you?
I feel like when I look at corporate America, I see how disconnected executive leadership is from the people who are driving sales, and that has to be fixed. A big part comes from misunderstanding what sales really is and not understanding the value in making the sale. As someone who started in HR and lasted only 48 hours before getting into sales, it’s a frustration I have seen and experienced with many organizations. I observed as a sales rep and as an executive this disconnect getting worse, between the field reality that salespeople face and the executives’ understanding of how their strategy translates to success.
This is problematic, because executive teams are notorious for putting their time, money, and effort into grand plans, but these plans often fall flat when they reach the field. The team sells to whoever they can to meet quotas and the strategy is an afterthought. If the field is doing whatever they can to get a deal instead of focusing on their targeted customers, who is really setting the strategy? It’s not the people at the executive level. Your sales team is setting your strategy. Set strategies are usually meaningless to the field — usually — because there is a lack of connection between the goal and the reality of what customers are willing to buy.