Our Huthwaite Introducing series showcases interviews with some of our heads of department. The series aims to shine a light on their important roles within Huthwaite. We spoke to Shaun James our Head of Learning and Skills, to find out more about his passion for behavioural research.
Favourite part of your job:
Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given:
1. Who is Shaun James?
I am Head of Learning and Skills at Huthwaite International and have been with the company for just over 12 years. My experience in the field of Learning and Development was gained through a variety of roles within the UK banking sector. I am extremely fortunate in my job that I get to work with, and learn from, some of the most experienced and talented trainers around the world. Working with Huthwaite also means that I regularly collaborate with inspirational thought leaders in the fields of Sales Learning and Development, which is a great privilege.
2. What are the biggest challenges facing professionals in your industry in this increasingly technological world?
Differentiation is, and has always been one of the biggest challenges facing sales professionals. The ability to create value for the things that you do better than the competition, is at the core of any sales strategy.
The difference in an increasingly technologically savvy world, is that buyers are far better equipped to conduct their own research into potential suppliers’ products and solutions. When this happens, the lines of differentiation between the features of the products and services of competing suppliers are less clear –often meaning the only separating factor is price.
This means the seller becomes the real differentiator. Sales people who have the ability to understand their buyer’s needs more deeply than their competition are much more likely to be successful. Whilst that has always been the case, an increasingly technological world means the human interaction aspect of selling has become increasingly more important
3. What recent social, political or economic event has most shaped the way you work in the last decade?
Developments in technology has undoubtedly caused Learning and development functions to rethink how learning is deployed. People are choosing to access learning in additional ways through mobile technology and social platforms. If you want to learn how to put up a shelf or make an omelette for the first time, it is likely that you would go online to watch an instructional video and then have a go. It doesn’t suit every learner and isn’t effective for every learning need; but it is certainly a major factor that has to be considered as part of any learning intervention – as long as it is used effectively!
4. What is your top sales and negotiation tip?
The most important sales and negotiation tip I have learned from working at Huthwaite International is the ability to understand buyers’ problems, feelings, needs and motivations for change - and demonstrate how to meet them.
In our research into effective selling; we have observed tens of thousands of real sales meetings between sellers and buyers. Using our unique behavioural framework of SPIN®, we have been able to measure the usage of what sellers actually say, and how buyers’ react. From those observations we discovered the behaviours that are more closely linked to successful outcomes.
5. Who inspires the way you do business? Who is your inspiration in negotiation?
It may sound like corporate bias, but the research by Professor Neil Rackham (founder of Huthwaite International) into the effectiveness of verbal behaviours has, more than any other work I have studied, profoundly changed the way I interact with others at work and in my personal life. Whether that be in selling, negotiating, in team meetings or simply trying to persuade my children.
Having a deep understanding of what combinations of verbal behaviours are effective in different situations and using them consciously makes a massive difference to the outcome. For me his studies have a great blend of intellectual richness, combined with practical and easy to implement behaviours that can be practiced and used every day. Whilst many writers and academics on success in business can convincingly describe what to do; Rackham’s work provides the behavioural how to.
For me, the work we do at Huthwaite with its foundations in behavioural and psychological research makes it such a fascinating environment to be in. I studied psychology as part of my MSc degree and continue to be intrigued by human behaviour, which is one of the main reasons I feel so passionately about what we do.