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Miller Heiman Acquired by Sterling

Earlier this month Miller Heiman was acquired by Sterling Investment Partners of Westport, Connecticut.  From the press release: “The business was acquired from Leeds Equity Partners, a New York-based private equity firm, for an undisclosed price.”  (Disclosure:  Miller Heiman subscribes to ESR’s research.)

On Monday, I spoke with an enthusiastic Sam Reese, Miller Heiman’s CEO.  Sam walked me through Leeds’ divestiture of his company.  According to Sam, Leeds is one of the most disciplined private equity firms. They had set aggressive performance objectives when they acquired Miller Heiman in 2005.  Once Miller Heiman achieved those objectives, Leeds did as they promised their investors they would do, they divested.

Sam told me that one of the challenges he faces is not growing Miller Heiman too fast.  He is intent on maintaining quality and a high level of customer satisfaction.  He talked about record-setting revenues, landing big new clients and expanding their global presence.  Sam said that he tries not to be over-confident.  Sam is the second sales training company CEO I spoke with in two days that said they were overperforming against their goals and objectives.  Interesting during these challenging economic times.  That’s a subject I’ll get back to over the next few weeks.

Miller Heiman’s clients should expect to see a new focus on front-end prospecting tools and process as well as back-end coaching.  These are two prominent areas that ESR has identified as critical for companies seeking to derive more value from sales performance improvement initiatives.  Miller Heiman’s clients should see investments in these area as good news.

My intent in this post is not to provide an in-depth analysis of Miller Heiman.  I’ll leave that up to ESR’s analysts.  But one point is worth mentioning.  Miller Heiman enjoys significant brand equity resulting from a 30-year history and large numbers of companies and sales reps having gone through Miller Heiman training over the years.  They’ve got a lot of fans out there.

With that strength, though, come two potential weaknesses as perceived by some of the buyers of sales training we work with: First, a diminution of sales process and training as competitive advantage when competitive sales forces use the same methodology.  In other words, if my competitor is using Miller Heiman, I should choose something else—going with Miller Heiman as well won’t give my team an advantage.  (Actually that’s flawed thinking, but I’ll cover that at another time as well.) The second perception is that Miller Heiman’s approach, IP and coursework are dated.  That’s a challenge Sam and his team will have to overcome.


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