Feeling and feeding Asia's force

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 December, 2011, 12:00am


Asales force is the lifeblood of any business. It follows, then, that enhancing the effectiveness of this entity is often a key imperative for senior managers. As the Asia Pacific head for sales performance at global consulting firm Mercer, Ralph Grimse spends much of his time advising companies on how best to achieve this. Below, he also discusses Mercer's regional partnership with sales training provider Miller Heiman.

What exactly does the sales performance division offer in terms of its services?

Our services range from helping an organisation design a sales force, to helping them figure out who to hire, and how those people should be deployed against various sets of customers. Through our alliance with Miller Heiman, we also advise on how to train a sales force.

How did the relationship with Miller Heiman come about?

In 2008, we sought to develop a more robust sales culture, so we went to market and looked at various sales training and methodology firms, among which we brought in Miller Heiman to train our consultants.

During the process, we realised that many of our clients were in the same situation as us, so we started to look at how we might take Miller Heiman's products externally. The key to this was figuring out how to combine them with our own core competencies pertaining to people - how to reward them, how to increase their performance. In 2010, we began taking a joint Mercer-Miller Heiman offering to market. And in 2011, we launched our relationship in Asia.

Is there a difference in the relationship in Asia, relative to those in other markets?

Yes. In other parts of the world, we offer the services side-by-side, with one person from Mercer and one person from Miller Heiman both in on a deal. Here in Asia, it's all led by Mercer.

What type of clients do you typically target when offering these services?

We typically do a lot of B2B [business to business] work. Within that, we mostly work with service organisations, since there's always a level of ambiguity over what's being delivered when it comes to services. The types of organisations that rely on complex sales models tend to benefit the most.

What is a complex sale?

A complex sale is one where you have multiple buying influences. What you want is to line up those influences to close on a deal. Miller Heiman has some intellectual property, and a methodology around how companies should manage this process.

How is the methodology delivered?

We deliver the methodology in a classroom setting over a two- to four-day session with the sales force. The people we train actually bring in live deals, which we work on with them. Where Mercer's capabilities come in is in adopting the methodology and ingraining it into the way of thinking.

How receptive have companies in Asia been to these services, relative to those elsewhere?

Organisations in the West are going through sales transformations. They're trying to take another look at their models to eke out incremental growth.

Flip to Asia, however, and you're looking at annual growth rates in the double, sometimes triple, digits. The challenge for us has been to make those organisations invest on the understanding that things might not be as easy for them in the future.

Will you be taking on more staff to help address this challenge?

Yes. We've actually been hiring

for the last six months. But we're very mindful of where we put folks. The Hong Kong office not only supports Hong Kong, but also Greater China.

What type of roles will you be looking to fill?

For the most part, consultants. The one thing that's different is that we now need people that can implement the process by providing the training, while still being seen as credible. Ultimately, we'd like for them to not only sell, but to also deliver.