Like the Rolling Stones versus the Beatles or Oasis versus Blur, sales and marketing have a reputation for not always getting along. So, for this Tale from the Tour Bus we crossed the tracks, to meet a business leader with a big reputation for mentoring and motivating sales teams and I had the pleasure of chatting to international, serial entrepreneur and Visiting Fellow at Cranfield School of Business; Janice B. Gordon.

Janice takes us on quite a journey, from a village in Leicestershire, England to an executive MBA and an international career creating her own businesses and transforming others, sharing here some wonderful lessons she learned along the tour.

Hi Janice, tell us about your current gig

I spend most of my time working with sales leaders and teams at large and mid-size B2B organizations, helping them to build and nurture client relationships and develop key account strategies.

I am proud to be a Visiting Fellow at Cranfield School of Management and through my methodology, Scale Your Sales, the work I am doing is helps experienced teams refresh and modernise their skills and perceptions. Demystifying social selling, motivating and reminding sellers that, despite the hype, that it’s just another, often preferred, buyer channel to have a conversation. I am often asked to speak at events, which I love, so my current gig is split between speaking and consulting.

How did you wind up on this tour bus?

Gosh.. well.. before I start, I have to tell you that everything you do, leads you to where you are, all of my career has led me to this gig.

I started studying fashion and textiles, but I got hooked by the business, I loved the commercial side. During this time, I got the opportunity to spend some time in America selling designs where I met these amazing black women that were running businesses, a revelation to me at the time and taught me the value of the love of people. They loved my English accent and I loved their generosity toward me and what I learned.

Wanting to broaden my experience I then moved to Africa, working in Botswana and across Southern Africa helping businesses to innovate ideas and standardize to prepare and enable them to export – it was so rewarding to transform these businesses.

On returning to the UK I became an IFA, to support my dream of getting an MBA at Cranfield and I learned the art of cold calling, which was a brilliant experience, that maybe I wouldn’t want to do again(!), but gave me an great understanding of the psychology of sales and understanding a buyer’s needs.

After completing my MBA, I wanted to develop my entrepreneur skills and focused on operations and customer experience leadership roles. What I learned then blew my mind; that the best inventors and innovators are our customers!

In 2006 it was time to do my own thing again, so I setup a restaurant, growing it from scratch to a hugely successful multi-award-winning business.

Being in the community, as a restaurant owner, also got me involved creating the Cultural Quarter Business Association (CQBA) and working alongside member businesses, supporting them through my MBA experience, my advisory business was born, and people started inviting me to speak at their events.

What’s been the highlight of this tour so far?

It has to be meeting Richard Branson, a professional hero of mine. I became a Sage Business Expert and was invited to speak at the Sage Summit in Chicago. Stephen Kelly, the CEO of Sage at the time and Richard Branson were speaking.

To be honest, I was planning how I might snag Branson in a selfie, but Stephen introduced us, we chatted (I was a Virgin start up business mentor) and instead of just a cheeky selfie, I got a high five for my work, some time with him and a great photo. Thank you, Stephen Kelly.

Any bumps in the road?

In most rooms, let’s be honest, I may be challenging for some. I am a woman and a black woman! The first sixty seconds can be bumpy as they wonder why I am there (I see this as an opportunity and not a curse so after that we have a wonderful time!).

But the big bump in my road was to experience my younger brothers sudden death, which happened just after my business, that was responsible for several salaries, ended up in an expensive court dispute. I thought my world would cave in. But you do eventually get perspective, you realize your own resilience and how each bump is preparing you for the next. You grow.

The lesson I have learned is to trust my gut, in retrospect I wish I had done that in choosing the landlord for my business. I recommend this to anyone, it knows better than you do, so keep on rolling. Your greatest lessons come from your greatest failures.

Like a lot of rock stars, you’ve run a restaurant and bar – what can our marketers learn from that experience?

I learned two important things, the first was to jump into things that are bigger than you and you grow into them and the second was about customers.

We were fairly early into Facebook marketing and using email, which was really successful for us, but no amount of technology replaces direct engagement with your core customers, and we took this relationship very seriously, considering our core and most valued customers like non-executive directors.

My advice is that marketers should look at their databases and worry less about engaging the thousands of people on a long list, but zoom in on the most valued customers, these guys are incredibly valuable as advocates of what you do, but will tell you what you are doing right or wrong. It’s SO easy for marketing teams to make assumptions, have your customers sit at the table.

And yes, pick up the phone and talk to them, ask strategic search questions and listen actively!

I also recommend that businesses define and understand the profile of their ideal and most valued customers and nurture this relationship and adapt to meet their needs.

It’s SO easy for marketing teams to make assumptions, have your customers sit at the table.

We talk about marketing being rock stars, but when the tour bus stops and the show is live, sales pick up the mike and take the lead. What’s your first piece of advice for harmony between the two?

Hah! Well, I consider myself in both bands, I have a qualification from the Chartered Institute of Marketers (CIM), which is important as there is seamless overlap between the roles, but the problems occur when marketing forget that they sellers and sales forget that they market. The only important things for both teams should be revenue and the customer.

The interesting thing now is that sales have the tools to build these relationships through social selling, but in some organizations “social” has a narrow definition that is seen as owned by marketing, the lines are blurred.

My advice is that it doesn’t matter what you call building a relationship with customers, or who does it, sales or marketing as long as it’s happening.

The only important things for both teams should be revenue and the customer.

What’s the first thing you recommend folks bring on their tour bus?

That’s easy. Curiosity.

I had a mentor that suggested focusing on limiting to three questions, to actively listen to the replies and to approach every situation as an empty vessel.

If you approach a situation with preconceived ideas and assumptions, thinking about the next question you want to ask instead of being curious and listening to the answers, you miss opportunities.

You need to think about these questions like you have found the magic lamp, the genie has appeared, and you need to choose your three wishes wisely.

Where can people see you perform?

Next week I am speaking at Accountex in London, where I’ll be combining my financial services experience and sales background to help accountants scale their sales. I’m also speaking at the Women in Sales event in June, where I will be talking about social selling.

People can contact me through Scale Your Salesor my personal website and, of course, I am on Twitter and LinkedIn

Thank you Janice!

That conversation was a joy, I admit sometimes schedules mean that we have to do these interviews over email, in this case I got to chat to Janice live. I ended up with pages of notes and overwhelmed by Janice’s enthusiasm and motivation – if your sales mojo is in a rut, go chat to Janice…

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