Book Club: Fred Copestake on the Importance of Partnering Skills for Sales Success

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Olivia Fuller: Hi, and welcome to Book Club, a Sales Enablement PRO podcast. I’m Olivia Fuller. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so they can be more effective in their jobs.

So, you’ve likely heard of IQ or the intelligence quotient, which measures our logic and reasoning abilities. And you’ve also likely heard of EQ, which measures our emotional intelligence. But what about PQ? In his new book, “Selling Through Partnering Skills”, Fred Copestake explains how partnering intelligence is a critical third layer of skills that salespeople need to be successful today. When people know how to build effective partnerships, it can lead to increased trust, collaboration, and more. So, we’re so excited to have Fred join our podcast today to share some of the key insights from his book. Fred, can you please introduce yourself to our audience?

Fred Copestake: Sure. Yeah. So, Fred Copestake. Congratulations, you got the name right. I get cupcakes, snowflake, chopstick, but Copestake, you’ve got it. Now, I’m the founder of Brindis, so I’m a sales training consultancy. Over the last 22 years, I’ve been around the world 14 times, 36 countries, I’ve worked with over 10,000 salespeople. So, I’ve been involved into helping salespeople get better for quite a long time. And so, that’s why I put the ideas into the book to make sure that we’re sharing stuff and keeping up to date with the latest, if you like.

OF: That’s great. So, your book talks about the importance of PQ or that partnering intelligence that we mentioned, but what does it mean to have partnering intelligence and why is that important for sales?

FC: PQ. So, if you think of IQ, any Q, people probably know these, and PQ is like the lesson and cousin, if you like. It was sort of back in the nineties where I studied then did some research around this, that you found that people are involved in politics and business alliances have got these elements. I mean, these elements, it’s great because we can recognize them, we can understand them, we can train them and then they break down with these six things.

First is trust. So, trust is foundation with your relationships, trust is about being able to communicate well. Another one is win-win orientation. And again, we talk about that in sales a lot. We talk about mutual benefit, we talk about how people negotiate, how we can compromise, how we can problem-solve. We talk about self-disclosure and feedback. So, this is like giving part of yourself. So, talking about what it is that you need and equally feeding back to customers, and maybe even challenging them saying, you know, helping me to help you sort of thing. We talk about comfort with interdependence. So, as we start working with somebody, we do become interdependent with them. So, we have to give up elements of control, which is another important thing for professional sales. Comfort with change, again, I’d say professional salespeople need to be all over change. We’re change agents to a degree. And then future orientation, we want to be looking forward in the stuff we’re trying to do with our customers, rather than always looking backwards and making these decisions based on past, we’re trying to sort of look at things going ahead.

So those 6 things, it’s PQ. And then, so for me, that just really spoke for anybody involved in professional sales that’s something that we would want to be thinking about.

OF: That’s fantastic. So, as you mentioned in the book, you discuss six different elements of PQ and one of those is trust. So, let’s dig into that piece a little bit more. What does trust have to do with successful partnership?

FC: So, trust, like I said, it is the foundation for all relationships. Better trust will get us better communication. If we communicate better, then we’ll start to understand people better. And so, the things that we say we’re going to do, we can do, people can become more reliable, we can become more credible because people will know that we know our stuff. We can work out where we’re comfortable sharing information with people, when I’m coming into it with them really the thing with trust is we can work out is somebody doing all these things that they’re saying and promising for themselves or really for the partnership, what’s the degree of their orientation towards themselves. So that’s for me sort of how trust breaks down. When we look at the ten C’s, the ten C’s, again, you can split into two areas. So, we can look at the sort of the areas which are more to do with the relationship that we need to build when we’re building trust and then equally there are things that have to do with task. So, there are two parts of the ten C’s.

OF: That’s great. So, another thing that you discuss in your book is the value framework, which helps salespeople really put those partnering skills into action. So, can you tell our audience what the value framework is?

FC: The value framework. So, if you imagine it on the one hand, you’ve got your PQ, you’ve got the partner skills and you’ve got those six elements I talked about. On the other hand, you’ve got sales best practice. There’s a lot of good stuff out there. We don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. You know, there’s like there are loads of good things. People have their favorite sort of questioning techniques. They’ll have ways in which they go about doing certain things and key account management, structures they use. All that looks good, we don’t need to lose that. But what we need to do is to bring it together with this concept of partnering skills and that’s what the value framework does, but that’s what kind of emits these things together. Where very basically the V is about validating. So, it’s making sure that the right opportunity, the right customer, it’s somebody that we can work with and we can collaborate with, it takes two to tango if you like.

A is about aligning. So, then this isn’t doing your homework. This is thinking, okay so I reckon this is a good opportunity. I think I can add some value here. So, what might that value look like? How can I start to think a little bit like them put myself in their shoes start to really work out this is where we could do some stuff together, so that you’re well prepared to go to have valuable meetings, and that’s the L, leverage part, leverage that information, leverage insight, help people think, work together, so that we can start to put together decent propositions, a good proposal, and underpins prop up what it is that we were saying we can do together. Prove it, have a plan to do that. And so that E, evolve, the relationship and the things we did, it can start to evolve. So, that’s what the value framework is, validate, align, leverage, underpin, and evolve. And it brings all that good thinking that we’ve got into very practical way of applying it and making it work.

OF: Fantastic. So why does that value framework approach have an impact? Maybe what are some of the things that you’ve seen with how it’s been successful?

FC: The value framework I actually developed out of another one, which was customer success management. So, customer success is about delivering outcomes, isn’t it? And so, I looked at that and thought, you know what? We keep saying, these things are different, they’re very close together, sales customer success motion. I love taking learnings from different areas and thought that’s about delivering and so this was what the framework for delivering on sales has got to look like. So, that’s why I take that and sort of had, a bit of a tweak with the original one that I based that on.

And so that’s why we know it works. And, I think it’s so important because if you look at this shift in selling from where we were just talking about, maybe consulting and solving problems, which is great, that’s a good, solid foundation to being value-based again, I’ve got no problem with that, but they’re more now for foundations and that we need to be getting this collaborative mindset to really be making a difference in the way that we need to operate today. We need to be more customer-focused rather than just thinking my sales process, my sales ways of operating, I am going to do this stuff.

Going back to the expression I used before, it takes two to tango. Customers we know are more advanced down buying cycles. We know that the information’s available. We know that they’ve got their own ways of working. So again, the key salesperson is going to work that out and start to kind of align and do things in a way that’s collaborating for that. And again, not really skills, the mindset, the practical application of it, help people to do that.

OF: That’s great. So, another thing that you talk about in your book is the evolution of the sales profession, and you actually go through some different periods in time and the different trends or fads that were going on in sales at that time. But just given the many business changes that we’ve seen in the world just over the last few months, how have you seen the sales profession evolve recently, and then maybe how do you think sales will continue to evolve in the next year or even beyond?

FC: Certainly, I mean, virtual selling, it was kind of there anyway, the technology was certainly available, I guess that for whatever reason, maybe partly the sales person, maybe to a degree the customer, the other buyer didn’t really want to engage in it so much. It was forced on us. And so, how to do things, sort of using the technology available, using video conference and the rest of it. And what I’ve seen is that people have done that, they’ve done it okay. And the people have done it around with dining room tables and everything, and, and this insight into people’s more sort of personal life and things has been eye-opening, and that’s a lot for building relationships, I think.

But going back to sort of the professional selling piece, everyone’s been okay at it. But the professionals that are professional that care about what they do, have started to do things which are raising the bar. They’re looking at how can they use the technology to get better at the way they do this stuff? How can they collaborate better? I forget if the tech does lend itself to better collaboration and not just the video conference stuff, but if you think about the platforms, how you can share things, you can create stuff together. You don’t need to be stood around a whiteboard to do a good whiteboard. You could argue a digital whiteboard is better because rather than go, “Oh yeah, I’ll draw this thing,” it’s like, there you go I put the picture I wanted in there. You go and get the document that you wanted to share. So, it’s not just scribbling on the screens and things. We’re seeing this level of virtual interaction and virtual selling really start to rise. I think that’s what will continue over the next year or so. I saw some McKinsey figures just recently where they said that 65% of customers are saying, actually it’s just as effective working that way, quite a high number.

So, there’s this opportunity to keep pushing that bar and raising it. So, this is all good stuff. Now, the other thing that I’m seeing that people still resisting. Now it’s going to go back to normal, I’m going to be okay, my stuff is far too important to do over a VC or whatever. That gap is getting bigger. And so, the people that are sort of here and not moving with time to even be okay at it, but positively trying not to, I’m going to get lapped. I think the other thing that is something we’ll start to see and people just like, “Oh yeah we can get rid of people because our customers don’t want this.” And we’re picking people that I can work with because they get this stuff and I can pay better.

OF: That’s fantastic insight. Well, Fred, thank you so much for joining us today. And to our audience, we absolutely recommend picking up his new book, “Selling Through Partnering Skills.” So, thanks so much again, Fred, for taking the time to share some of your insights with our audience.

FC: That’s my pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.

OF: Absolutely. To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, or expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there’s something you’d like to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

Interested in learning more about your partnering intelligence? Take the PQ Self Audit here using the code: PQSALES

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