Professional Service Innovator of the Year Nominee
Fred Diamond, Executive Director
What does innovation mean to you?
Innovation is finding a solution to a problem that the market did not know existed. The IES is all about service to the selling professional. Prior to the creation of the IES, there was no central place that connected a multitude of sales thought leaders with sales leaders who were looking to improve their teams. The IES created a platform where sales leaders could get access to world-class sales best practice information, content, and instruction that they could not get access to before.
The IES believes that the sales organization is the heart and soul of the organization. The company does not exist until someone buys something from you. It’s that attitude that has driven the IES to create world-class programming, heretofore unforeseen in the market, to help sales executives and their teams get better at the art and science of selling. Professional sales is not about charisma, wheeling and dealing, nor getting someone to do something they do not want to do. It’s about bringing value to customers that they did not know was available to them. The IES, based in Northern Virginia, was the first professional association for selling professionals to make that happen.
What makes your company/organization innovative?
The IES has a very specific mission. We strengthen and empower Sales Professionals with compelling and current thought leadership and resources to improve personal and organizational results. The IES is the sales executive’s primary resource for training, speakers, programs and services.
Let’s face it. When people think of Washington DC, they do not think of sales innovation. Government innovation, of course. Media innovations, technology breakthroughs, sure. But people do not think about the DC region as the heart of selling excellence.
But with the creation of the IES, DC has become the center of selling innovation in sales training, customer partnering, team building, and strategic alliances. The IES has brought some of the top sales thinkers and practitioners in the world to DC to teach, debate, discuss and inform selling professionals on how to take their business and careers to the next level. DC is the only place in the country to house a full-functioning, thriving professional association for sales leaders. And that association is the IES!
What or who are some innovative companies or people that inspire you and your team?
We love to study the art and science of professional selling and have been fortunate to engage some of the top sales experts on the planet. Neil Rackham, the creator of consultative selling, has been a frequent speaker at the IES. His book SPIN Selling is on every sales professional’s bookshelf. We are fortunate to have had him teach our professionals how to be better at selling.
CEB published Challenger Sale five years ago. We’ve been fortunate to have both authors, Matt Dixon and Brent Adamson, on our stage. We’ve also had some of the top sales authors of the past decade present such as Jill Konrath, author of Selling to Big Companies; Charles Green, author of The Trusted Advisor; Mark “The Sales” Hunter, author of High-Profit Prospecting; and Bill Cates, The Referral Coach.
We’ve also learned a great deal from Tom Snyder, John Asher, and Tim Sullivan. We admire and are inspired by sales leaders who think out of the box, who use science and analytics to frame their concepts, and who go deeper in their practice.
What about Greater Washington has positioned us as an innovative region?
Not many people from outside the region know how rich a sales culture DC has. There are thousands of companies that have provided value to the customer known as Fortune One for decades and have had to constantly learn how to influence this behemoth. This has led to the development of a rich selling culture that is unknown twenty miles beyond the Beltway.
The fickle nature of the government buyer and the process needed to sell them things has toughened sales people in the region. They have had to develop patience, deep selling skills, and become multi-faceted sellers. Because of how the government customer purchases, they need more than just a tight handshake and wicked backswing. They need to know how to engage purchasing agents, influence technology buyers, and team with partners looking to squeeze every nickel out of them to ensure winning margins.
The seller to the Government is more intelligent than the average salesperson. They have to understand the buying season and FAR. They have to know contract language and who to partner with. It’s an art that has forced them to become more innovative than their counterparts who only sell to commercial markets.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming leaders striving to be innovative in today’s business environment?
The first thing we would tell them is that it’s great to be innovative, but it’s more important to have a business model that works. There needs to be a prospect base that will pay enough money for your product or service to give you a viable business opportunity. First and foremost, be a successful business.
Once you have established that there is a viable market ready for your specific product or service offering, you need to constantly be thinking about how to be innovative and that usually comes with a deep, very deep understanding of the customer and how they operate. You need to help customers understand what they need before they do. You need to be thinking about how you can serve them in ways they are not being served currently.
If you spend your time thinking about that, your ability to be innovative will separate you from your competition.