Jane Gentry is the founder of Epoch, Inc. – a training firm that teaches relationship-building and business development skills to Account Managers and other member of the support staff.
Jane’s clients include:
- Blue Cross/Blue Shield
- First Data
- Milliken & Co
- Philips Healthcare
- Stryker Medical
Jane is a recognized sales expert and, until the early 2000s, her firm trained salespeople in traditional forms of relationship-sales and business development.
In the mid-2000s, however, she changed Epoch’s direction, thanks to two moments leading to an Aha!
During a client engagement, Jane was asked by the organization if she would help revamp its customer review process. As part of the project, Jane interviewed the organization’s account management team, whose members dealt with customers directly.
Jane was stunned when the account team saw the customer review session as an opportunity to nail down the customer on unfulfilled to-do’s. Their ‘customer review’ was completely selffocused and missed the real opportunity to understand the customer’s goals and needs.
Jane suspected this kind of inwardly-focused situation wasn’t unusual. Other organizations were likely going through something similar.
While she helped the organization revamp its customer review process, and worked with the support staff on improving their outlook and customer service capabilities, she knew something important was missing from her solution.
A few months later, a colleague of Jane’s suggested she attend a biz dev workshop she wouldn’t normally attend. The workshop was for consultants, but it was for consultants in giant firms.
The event’s premise: A consultant gets hired by a giant firm, because that consultant is a subject matter expert. As the consultant does successful project after successful project, the firm promotes them. Eventually, they’re promoted to "Partner" status – where their job changes. Now, instead of being the subject matter experts for which they were hired, they’re forced to be rainmakers, responsible for generating tens of millions, or even hundreds of millions, of dollars in revenue.
The workshop, then, taught sales skills to these fish-out-water rainmakers, who had no prospecting or deal-making skills, but who had to generate a fortune in billings sooner rather than later.
A key idea from the workshop: While these consultants may not have known much about selling, what they did have going for them was their knowledge of customers. They knew about solving customer problems, and about helping customers reach goals.
As rainmakers, then, the consultants weren’t starting from square one. They were much more advanced at rainmaking than they thought, because they understood the customer situation so deeply.
While sitting in the workshop, Jane had her aha moment. She realized that, in many ways, the members of an organization’s support staff are like the novice rainmaking consultant.
Since the support staff worked with the customer directly, often day after day, they had a perspective of the customers’ business that no one else in the organization could possibly have.
They were experts in the customers’ goals and challenges. With training – on how to use this expertise to deepen the relationship with the customer, see the customers’ businesses strategically, and pitch new solutions – Jane realized that these people could become some of the biggest rainmakers in the organization, and at a much lower cost than traditional new business development. She also realized that she had stumbled on a group that, in most organizations, was grossly underserved.
Rather than doing what she had been doing, which was teaching salespeople relationshipbuilding and biz dev skills, Jane decided to put her focus on teaching those same skills to the people who are closest to the client – where her customers could develop an important revenue-building edge.