Just over a week ago, the Centre for Sales Excellence held its annual conference in Melbourne. For an agenda that was dominated by vendor presentation, I was thrilled to walk away with so much actionable new knowledge, from fantastic local and international speakers.

The conference was themed around customer engagement. Aligning the sales organisation to meet the needs of customers was central to everything we spoke of.

Some highlights, from the top four presenters for me:

• Joe Galvin (MHI Research Institute)

Presented a couple of times, once on the findings of their latest round of research uncovering what differentiates high performing sales organisations; and also on their model of sales excellence

MY KEY TAKEAWAY:  There is no “one right answer” for a how a high performing sales person engages with the customer; although there are certainly a number of key strategic questions sales leaders should be asking ourselves in the search to identify what excellence means in our specific circumstances, for our customers and our teams. He introduced the concept of perspective as the key driver to making good choices for our customers. I thought it was an excellent counterpoint to the Challenger sales model spoken of in recent years which I don’t think resonated for every customer group and sales organisation.

• Cian McLoughlin (Trinity Perspectives)

Very well received, speaking on Win/Loss analysis and how it can be applied.

MY KEY TAKEAWAY:  You have little to lose and everything to gain by asking your customers for feedback about your sales process and product/service. There are experts that can do it for you, but even small organisations with limited resources can (and should) begin the journey with a DIY approach.

• Wayne Stewart (Monte Rosa)

Spoke on storytelling in sales, in the early morning spot on the second day. Those who slept in missed some great ideas!

MY KEY TAKEAWAY:  Applying Hollywood action movie principles can help you tell a story with a compelling message. His tips on who should be the hero (the customer of course!) and other guidelines on how to develop a compelling story structure were ideas I felt I could be able to take away and apply immediately.

• Jason Jordan (Vantage Point Performance)

Spoke on the importance of sales management, which was a timely reminder; and was also extremely entertaining on sales forecasting. Who knew I could laugh so much on such a dry topic, his likening of our forecasting processes to slapstick comedy was spot on.

MY KEY TAKEAWAY:  We shouldn’t be afraid to shine a light on some of the cringeworthy habits our organisations can fall into in the name of forecasting. Say it loud: “the emperor has no clothes” and have the courage to think (and do) differently.

I also appreciated local leaders sharing their own lessons and experiences – their willingness to share is always appreciated. Thank you to Ian Kinsella (SAP), Mahesh Malalage (Eli Lilley), Gavin Gomes (Australia Post), Jim Jusic (Treasury Wine Estates) and a special mention to Paul Crighton (PGi) who made not one but two guest appearances.