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Sales Training Companies from a Unique Perspective (Part 3)

Selecting a training company shouldn\'t be a gamble.I’m a sales training industry researcher and analyst.  Here are some more of my observations about sales training companies.  In this installment, I’ll discuss vendor evaluation and selection.

Selecting a sales training company is easy to do—incorrectly.  Companies do it all the time.  (One of the reasons I founded ESR is to provide guidance in this area with the intent on helping both vendors and their clients.)

Among the long list of reasons the wrong training provider is selected is this:  the CEO or founder of a typical sales training company has significant knowledge and expertise with respect to sales effectiveness and exhibits a degree of charisma that will consistently wow decision-makers.  The result is often an emotional buy—a decision-maker selects a training company without the benefits of formal evaluation.

Some the CEOs of the top sales training companies, if rated by the customers they’ve sold to, would be considered among the best salespeople anywhere.  I’ve experienced this from the buy-side as well, because those CEOs and founders are often the same people that pitch to ESR about what their company’s positioning should be versus their competition.  It’s not that I don’t respect these people and appreciate their knowledge and experience.  I do.  But making a subjective decision based upon intangibles isn’t in the best interests of any company engaging with a sales training vendor.  Especially when the sales training CEO may have near-celebrity status.

Note:  If you haven’t read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series on sales training companies, now is probably a good time. 

Here are some additional observations:

  • Some of the salesreps (they could be employees or independent business partners) that represent sales training firms aren’t very effective.  Hard to believe?  It’s true.  After we recommend a vendor for inclusion on a client’s long list, we have seen the vendor’s sales person completely mishandle the lead and cause his company to be eliminated from consideration.  It’s happened a number of times.  Recently.  (Bear in mind that these are very good leads. There is a budget, there is a timeframe, we disclose the decision criteria and process, there is senior management sponsorship, etc.  And every vendor that is on the long list has an even chance of being selected.)

  • During conversations with some CEOs of sales training vendor companies, we are told that in a number of opportunities in which they are competing, they have no competition.  “We just don’t see any of the other training companies in our deals,” they tell us.  Perhaps they are suggesting that their prospects don’t think that any other companies are worthy of consideration.   It’s possible that this happens once in a while, but certainly not as often as is represented.   What would you think if a vendor whom you contacted told you that they never see any of the other companies that ESR covers (for example) participating in their sales opportunities? 

  • We also have a number of sales training vendors bragging about being the “strategic partner” with the same customers.  Sure, we understand that one division of a large company may be engaged with Vendor A, while another division is working Vendor B, but it isn’t explained to us that way, and I suppose it isn’t to you either. 

  • Be very diligent when checking references.  Most of the twenty-plus vendors we cover have numbers of references they will gladly provide.  But some don’t.  The excuses we get aren’t reasonable and believable, such as, “I’ve got to save my references for real sales opportunities.”  First of all, this IS a sales opportunity.  You’re trying to sell ESR on why you’re a better alternative than the other guys, right?  And also, if you claim you’ve got 200 customers on your website, can’t you find 5 or 10 that are willing to talk to us?

Matching a sales training vendor with a customer’s requirements isn’t easy. The more complex the requirements, the deeper you will need to delve into the different vendor’s capabilities.  A mistake for a buyer is very, very expensive: training fees, licensing fees, T&E for the trainer and your salespeople, lost opportunity during the event(s), lost opportunity if the salespeople can’t sell better as a result of the investment, your job, your career, your company’s very survival…  You get the idea.

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