Expert Interview with Neil Shorney of Navanter
“Businesses are unable to sell in a way which delights the customer due to insufficient understanding between salespeople and project managers”.
We catch up with Neil Shorney, Managing Director of Navanter Ltd., who shares with us his insights into sales and management training.
What is Navanter and why did you set up your company?
Navanter is a specialist consultancy working with customers who have flexible solutions to offer their clients, and often long, drawn-out sales cycles.
I have two main passions in business – Sales and Project Management. It comes from my background being a sales manager for a project management training consultancy. Many of the conversations I had with project management clients were about how their lives were made difficult by salespeople who had no understanding of what came next in the customer journey, after the sale had been made.
This lack of insight leads to dissatisfied customers, who find that their experience of the selling organisation changes dramatically once the salesperson hands off to someone else in the business.
As a result, these customers are less likely to become regular clients, and the sales team’s job ultimately becomes harder because they have to win more new business to make up for this loss.
So I set up Navanter to help my clients to break out of this vicious circle by helping them to bring sales and project management functions closer together in ultimately create more satisfied customers. Then after a couple of years working in this area, I realised two more huge benefits could come from sharing these skills – salespeople could use established project techniques to help them win bigger more strategic sales, and project managers could become more alert to new commercial opportunities once they start delivering the solution to their clients.
What excites you most when you start working with a new client?
The ability to really impact what they’re doing in a positive way, and in a way they don’t realise is possible.
There are many businesses who are good at sales and good at solution delivery, but it’s rare to find one where the two teams are sharing these vital business skills to benefit the organisation as a whole.
It’s partly lack of interest in how sales and PM skills complement each other, and often a little selfishness, particularly on the sales team’s side, about sharing their commercial skills with others.
What is the Nr 1 problem you are solving for your clients that other training providers do not?
I can’t tie that down to one, I’m afraid, because there are 3 main challenges which all stem from this lack of collaboration:
- Businesses are unable to sell in a way which genuinely delights the customer due to insufficient understanding and appreciation between salespeople and project managers.
- Project managers miss new business opportunities due to a lack of commercial awareness once they’re involved with the implementation of a solution.
- Salespeople struggle to close the biggest, most complex deals because they rely too much on personality and getting the message across, yet don’t have the strategic organisational skills to manage a long sales cycle.
What trends are you seeing currently in the corporate training space?
There are trends happening now which really should have started 15 years ago – training courses are getting shorter, yet training programmes are getting longer.
People are realising that you can’t attend a 3-day training course and remember it all. We just don’t have the capacity to use everything we learn, and much of that learning gets lost.
Customers are beginning to realise this, and the programmes I’m delivering at the moment are mostly multiple one-day courses spread out across the year.
Attendees get the same knowledge as on a longer course, but it’s having a much bigger impact in the workplace because they have one day of learning, then several weeks to really integrate those skills into their roles before continuing the learning path for their next session.
The result is much stronger ROI on training.
What is the future of corporate training, given that most teams nowadays are virtual and distributed?
Digital is definitely a feature. For a long time, I’ve been shocked at how far some people will travel to attend a training course, but today’s technology allows trainers to emulate the experience of a physical training room much more effectively.
The learning can have the same impact delivered in a live online environment if the trainer is skilled in this format. There will always be a requirement for face-to-face training, because it’s hard to create the same relationships and networking in an online environment, but I see it becoming less important in the overall training landscape.
I remain unconvinced by the effectiveness of self-paced virtual learning. When I take courses in that format myself, I really struggle with motivation, and the lack of interaction means a poorer learning experience.
But who knows… with the rapid development of AI, perhaps that will change?
After gaining a music degree from the University of London, Neil Shorney decided that becoming the next Julian Lloyd Webber or Brian May was too much effort, so got a job as an Energy Broker. After working briefly in IT sales, he started working for ESI International – a leading global project management training consultancy. Neil began as a salesperson, and after a couple of years, he was promoted to sales manager, where he created and led an international sales team.
Neil quickly developed a passion for 3 things: sales, project management, and developing others. He now runs Navanter, a specialist training consultancy based in London.
During his career, Neil has trained professionals from start-ups through to major global organisations such as Shell, HSBC, Novartis and European Central Bank.
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We find out from Neil Shorney, Managing Director of Navanter, what makes him tick and what the future holds for sales and project management training.