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Featured Partner Interview: SalesLevers’ Richard Higham on the Future of Sales

Richard HighamWhen SalesLevers’ founders Richard Higham, Martin Allison and Alan Timothy, set out to build their U.K.-based sales performance consultancy in 2017, they came from diverse backgrounds. But they all agreed on one thing: the world of sales was changing.

“We see four drivers of sales change,” Higham said. “Today’s sales teams have to sell in what we call a ‘VUCA’ world, where volatility, complexity and ambiguity interact. They’ve got to generate growth in low-growth economies. They’ve got to deal with buyers who are changing significantly in the way that they want to do business. And finally, there’s a whole load of really good innovation going on in the sales space.”

“When you put all that together, we believe the old argument ‘if you carry on doing what you’ve always done you’ll get what you’ve always got’ no longer holds true,” he added. “If sales organizations carry on doing what they’ve always done, they’ll stop getting what they’ve always got. They’re going to be overtaken by the people who understand that the world is changing.”

And so Higham, with more than 20 years in sales performance, joined forces with Allison, the former head of international banking at the Royal Bank of Scotland, and Timothy, a data scientist to create SalesLevers. And today they help sales teams not simply manage, but thrive, in a sea of change.

Earlier this spring, Introhive partnered with SalesLevers to combine their on-the-ground expertise with our AI-powered automation and relationship intelligence. Shortly after, I sat down with Higham to get his thoughts on the state of the sales landscape and the future of our organizations’ alliance.

“If sales organizations carry on doing what they’ve always done…They’re going to be overtaken by the people who understand that the world is changing.”

Q. How did the SalesLevers team discover Introhive?

Well, it’s interesting. In this kind of digital world, it all came about through a personal relationship. One of our new team members knew one of your team members from a previous role, and he reached out. They quickly saw an opportunity, and within a month we’d arranged our first event.

It just underlines the importance of personal relationships and that they aren’t going away. But they’re only the starting point.

My first impression of the Introhive organization was that I was really struck by the team’s energy and enthusiasm. And from a business point of view, I’m really, really interested in relationship management.

Q. What were your first thoughts on the Introhive platform itself?

I think what Introhive brings to the table, that’s incredibly important, is both efficiency and effectiveness. There are a quantity of other tools out there that promise to make organizations more efficient or more effective, but there are very few approaches that do both.

I’ve always struggled with the fact that while CRM is clearly a good thing, it can be incredibly expensive for people to bring in, and possibly as high as 85 percent of CRM installations fail.

And it’s usually not the technology’s fault. It’s usually that people don’t particularly want to enter the data, it’s difficult to do, and they don’t get value from it. So, the effort is always greater than the reward.

But with Introhive, the thing that struck me very early on was that it makes it very easy to capture the [CRM] data. It seemed to check the box in a big way, making something that should work actually work.

And anyone who’s ever done any kind of strategic account management knows the pain of not being able to easily identify who in your organization can give you real leverage with a prospect. It can feel almost impossible, it’s very time consuming, and you never really know how real the relationships are. So, I just love the way Introhive brings together the digital and the human to build relationship capital. To me, that’s where [sales] is heading.

I just love the way Introhive brings together the digital and the human to build relationship capital. To me, that’s where [sales] is heading.

Related Reading: What’s your digital age competitive advantage?

Q. What are some of the common challenges you’re seeing pop up for your clients these days where you see Introhive being helpful?

There’s a range of things. I think there’s a real challenge post-merger or post-acquisition to get people working as one team, where they may have been competing in the same accounts before.

For me, the whole concept of team selling is a real issue for sales performance. Sales always has been, and probably always will be, to a large extent, individual driven and ego driven. So how do you get individuals who want to take ownership, who want the challenge and the reward of being the prime point of contact with a client, how do you get them to work in a collaborative way?

I think the increasing complexity of corporate relationships [is another issue]. You might have a banking and insurance company. And the bank might be providing the banking for the insurer, who might, in turn, be insuring the bank’s buildings. But it might also be providing white label products for the bank to sell. So, you’ve got these complex relationships that are no longer simple linear supply chains, but multifaceted ecosystems. So how do sophisticated complex organizations manage complex relationships?

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Also, there will always be people who are full-time sellers. But more and more we’re dealing with people who sell only as part of their job. So, they might be delivering a professional service or technical service as part of their job and they’re not sales animals, by nature. They don’t have the historic disciplines. So you need tools that make it easy for them to be professional sellers. And I think what Introhive does is make that possible.

More and more we’re dealing with people who sell only as part of their job. So, you need tools that make it easy for them to be professional sellers.  What Introhive does is make that possible.

Related Reading: How To Improve Firm-Wide Collaboration Using Enterprise Relationship Management Technology

Q. How do you see the buying world changing? And where do technical platforms like Introhive fit into this new world?

In this volatile world, buyers expect sellers to have an emergent sales strategy, rather than a classical sales strategy. Now that may sound a little bit highfalutin, but essentially it’s no good setting a rigid, one-sided account plan that says “we’re going to do this with a client over the next five years,” when things may change with the client. They may be acquired or they may acquire, their markets may change. Buyers need sellers who can be close enough to them to have a real feel for what matters to them.

Also, the way clients are buying is changing massively, and we’re foolish if we ignore that. In a typical 500-employee company, when they make a major buying decision, 6.8 people will be involved. So, buyers expect us to be able to serve team sell to the team.

And I think buyers are much more data-driven and tech savvy. If you’ve got $150,000 purchase, typically a buyer will spend four days researching before they talk to a human being. That means that the role of a seller has changed and the buyers are using digital tools and they expect to be sold to, at least partly, digitally.

Another trend we’re seeing is that so many of the tools like Introhive need to be placed more and more in the hands of the end user. It’s a trend away from the split between sales and marketing. In particular with the emergence of inside sales, there’s a whole population out there who have client contact, but who aren’t necessarily seen always as part of the relationship.

These are just some of the changes in buying patterns, and they aren’t going to go away. So, we need to respond. We can’t be analog sellers in a digital buying world.

Q. Can you give us an example of how SalesLevers is incorporating the Introhive platform into your sales performance approach?

One example is a project we’re working on with Introhive’s Pre-Meeting Digest. SalesLevers has a short instructional video that walks you through how to handle the first five minutes of a meeting, so we’re working on delivering that right in the digest, along with video briefings from senior members of the account team and all of Introhive’s other client and prospect and relationship intelligence, right at that time of need.

We’re also excited to get into using Introhive technology to help our clients map relationship strength and really understand where the risks are.

And we’re looking at how we can apply some of our sales data analysis capability with Introhive clients. For instance, coverage models. We have data that indicates that if you visit an architectural specifier less than five times in a year, you’ll lose business. But if you visit them more than 10 times in a year, you won’t gain any extra business.

Given Introhive’s ability to analyze and gather data on relationship strength, we can probably bring some insights in for clients to help them make their coverage model more efficient and more effective.

Try artificial intelligence for genuine relationships

Times are changing for sales organization across industries, and it’s important for sales performance to keep up. Relationship mapping can help you move beyond the traditional, analog sales strategies by identifying and building new connections with new decision makers.

And you don’t have to do it alone. Reach out to Introhive to find out how we can help. And to see how we use automation and artificial intelligence, request a demo today.

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