While sales professionals in the DC region have been fortunate to learn at IES programs from dozens of world-class speakers and experts, Neil Rackham is arguably the most well-known and respected sales thought leader in the space. He’ll be speaking for the second time at the IES on May 20 in Tyson’s Corner. In this blog, I recount Neil’s first IES program, why he wanted to return, and why sales leaders and their teams will benefit from this once-every-four year occurrence.


When we launched the Institute for Excellence in Sales (IES) we were fortunate enough to attract some of the foremost sales thought leaders in the world to our speaking stage from day one. Neil Rackham, author the game changing SPIN Selling, was our second speaker. Our IES followers were astonished that one of the creators of consultative selling wanted to contribute to the IES even in its infancy.

Over 150 sales leaders got to hear about what he believed was the next advance in consultative selling.  The notebooks we typically hand out at IES programs were being filled with tons of notes. Neil teased us with insights into a new book that he had written the forward to that was coming out later that week. That book, ladies and gentlemen, was The Challenger Sale, and on May 20, I’m sure he’ll deliver something just as juicy.


The IES was really just a pipe dream when I first met with Neil 6 months before we kicked off our monthly sales thought leadership workshops that we have held every month since 2011. I shared my plans with him.  I told him that we were planning to hold award events to independently recognize organizational sales achievement and, in addition, monthly programs to reinforce the sales excellence that was demonstrated at the award events.

While we needed Neil to give the IES validity he didn’t need the IES. After all, he is in demand all around the world and still travels the globe speaking about the changing world of enterprise and complex selling and marketing.  He didn’t need to speak at a local organization that hadn’t even had its first program.  But what I discovered was that he was motivated to play a role in improving the proficiency of the entire selling profession.

When I discussed our vision to expose high-performing sales leaders to the top sales thought leaders in the industry, Neil told me about the research he’d conducted to study the challenges sales professionals were about to face in the coming years. He gave me a peek into what The Challenger Sale authors had uncovered, which was that selling professionals would have to completely revamp how they demonstrate value to customers in order to stay valid in the coming decade.

I realized that Neil wasn’t just trying to make sales people better; his mission was to raise the profile of those in the profession by applying research and science to how they did their jobs.

I always had a profound respect for the sales people I met and worked with when I was at Apple, Compaq and other world-class sales organizations. They were professionals who usually applied sound process to their work and had courage to grow markets. But I observed that the sales process was not always treated with precision, planning and analysis. Neil, and a few others, studied the profession, observed tens of thousands of sales people at work, and produced strategies to help them achieve success. He continues to voice important messages that all those in sales must learn.


Here are the five things he’ll address on May 20 at the Tegna Building in Tyson’s Corner. At least one of these topics will profoundly affect your sales results in the near future.

  1. The death of sales as a communication channel: A few years ago, nobody would have raised an eyebrow if salespeople defined their jobs as “showing customers how we can meet their needs better than our competitors.” Salespeople who use this tactic today are failing all across the world.  Why doesn’t this work anymore?  And what’s the alternative?
  1. The widening gulf between Transactional and Consultative selling: The split between Transactional and Consultative selling is widening, both in B2B and B2C. What’s going on here? And what does it mean for the future of sales?
  1. Why Marketing is the New Selling: Companies are radically redefining the boundary between Sales and Marketing. Maybe it’s about time but what does this mean for those in sales? As Marketing takes an ever larger sales role, who should be in charge and what’s the new role for sales? For some early insights on this topic, check out Neil’s seminal article in Harvard Business Review “Ending the War Between Sales and Marketing.”
  1. The Million Dollar Sales Effort: Many Sales organizations now spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every time they bid for a major opportunity. And many are losing their shirts. Sales costs have escalated dramatically.  What’s the answer?  How do the most successful high end B2B sales organizations control these growing costs?  Not the way you’d expect.
  1. The Rise and Fall of Purchasing and Purchasing Theory: Since the 1970’s Procurement has been growing in power with most customer organizations. But something has started to go wrong. What’s happening in purchasing?  And how should that change the way you sell?


The IES is pleased to host “A Special Morning with Neil Rackham” at the Tegna/USA Today Building in Tyson’s Corner on May 20. IES Members attend for free. To get your tickets, go here.