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Hey! Stop Plagiarizing My Content!

This blog will not become a platform for me to attack individuals (or companies, for that matter), even when they are dead wrong.  But everyone has a limit.  I reached mine today.   I’m genuinely looking for your opinion on how to handle the situation I’m about to describe.

I spend a lot of time learning, reading, thinking, pondering, strategizing, researching, and speaking with customers, sales executives, sales reps, sales trainers, and their clients and customers.  I never pirate anyone else’s content.  When I do discuss someone else’s content, during a speech, or in a seminar, I always provide the source.  That’s the professional (and legal) thing to do.  Other’s don’t take that approach.

I’ve written before about a well-known management consultant in Boston who has a website containing dozens of pirated articles, tools, and presentations. He removes the name of the person who actually created the content, along with any copyright information.  He’s got a few of my articles on his site.  He has a dozen or so other sales experts’ articles and tools on his site as well.  This person not only represents all this pirated content as his own, but refuses to remove it from his site. 

Here’s what happened today:  I got an email from a client whom ESR is assisting with a sales training company evaluation.  They received an email (below) from a well-known sales trainer and author who had been told that he was no longer in the running.  My client told me that as they read the email, they thought of me.  It’s no wonder. 

Try this:  Open up another browser window and bring up this newsletter I wrote in June 2006.  (I recently republished it in a slightly different form on this blog.)  You can compare the email sent to my client (below) to my copyrighted content in the newsletter.  In the newsletter, where prompted, click on the link to read the rest of the article. 

Here’s the email the sales trainer sent to my client:

From: Xxxx Yzzz [mailto:XYzzz@snnnnnn.com]
Sent: Tuesday, September 02, 2008 1:23 PM
To: [VP of Sales of ESR’s Client Company]
Cc: The two people responsible for the evaluation
Subject: Sales Training-Methodology

Hi [VP of Sales],

I had another conversion with your team regarding the need for adopting a sales training approach for the [your] sales organization. From my experience with taking three software companies’ [sic] public and developing  a training approach  that has been taught in ten countries with unsurpassed results, I thought I would offer a perspective you might value.

Sales professionals need and have the right to be educated, trained, motivated, and prepared to leave a training session with improved selling capabilities, no matter how much experience they have. The world we live in has changed, how business is done has changed, so it only makes sense that individuals and organizations consider how they need to change their sales approach

While [your company] is in the mode of cycling through /evaluating sales training vendors,  I believe  you are hoping to provide your team with a repeatable and successful sales approach they will use effectively and buy into.  This being the case you might want to rethink your notions about the big methodology programs.  Even though this might have served you well in the past, as you know a lot of things of changed lately.  In this market most companies are not going to benefit for years from a mostly rehashed big sales methodology class.  Let me be direct:  From my experience and from speaking with thousands of sales people worldwide, the “Big Methodology Sales Training” approach doesn’t really offer the reps what they want and need. 

I recently spoke with a colleague who is a partner in a tech consulting firm.  I know him from his past life as a sales rep.  He worked for big name technology companies and was consistently the top performer.  He is a sales heavy-hitter if there ever was one.

We were discussing sales training.  He said, “I can’t tell you how many sales training programs I’ve sat through, I’ve experienced every major methodology vendor.  The programs were too long, didn’t provide me with value, and frankly were an incredible waste of time.”  Here is what got me.  “I was offended that management would think so little of me to force me to sit through that.”  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that exact same thing over the years, not to mention I experienced the same type of thing in my sales career. This is why 10 years ago I didn’t just buy a sales training methodology franchise and instead developed the [name of his sales training program].

Do sales professionals need sales training? Sure. Most will admit they do. But the training they need has to provide them with almost immediate business value–it’s go to help them do a couple of things–sell more immediately and offer an approach they can buy into and use over and over again. In general ‘methodology sales vendors typically violate the sales professional’s code on many levels.

Here’s are some of the violations:  [From this point on, it was just a cut & paste.]

  • Being trained by someone who hasn’t been in the field selling for years.
  • Being trained by someone who doesn’t know anything about how your buyers buy.
  • Being trained by someone who clearly doesn’t understand how tough your competitors are.
  • Being trained by someone who is more focused on entertaining you than helping you get your job done, so they get good marks on the post-program evaluation.
  • Being trained by someone who tells you what to do, but not how to do it.
  • Being trained by someone who lectures every moment without the necessary balance which would include workshops, exercises, discussions, debates, etc.
  • Forced to sit in a training class where 80% of what you learn is irrelevant to you, even though it may be to some of the people in the program.
  • Being trained on a skill or a process only to find out after the program that the tools are too cumbersome to use.
  •  Being trained by a person whom you don’t respect and who doesn’t have the track record your team will respect.
  • Spending three days in a class where you’ve gotten an hour of value.
  • Coming out of a class confused about what to do next.
  • Not having an integrated program for services.  
  • Not taking time to understand how you sell currently.
  • Not relating to the people in the class.
  • Training the same methodology they used and trained 5, 10, or even 20 years ago.

There are more but these are all things to seriously think about.

Why is this going on?

When violations like this happen, there is generally plenty of blame to pass around.  But the blame rarely falls in the lap of the sales professional.  As I said your team has the right to be educated, trained, motivated, and prepared to leave the training session with improved selling capabilities, no matter how much experience they have. They have the responsibility of walking into a training program with an open mind, ready and willing to learn, share their experiences, and to do what it takes to elevate themselves to get to the next level of sales performance.  They do not have the responsibility of having their time wasted and their experience and intelligence insulted.

Here are some possible explanations:

  •  Sales management want  to do “something” so they invest in a big methodology training that will only truly be used if forced on the team..  [The trainer inserted a few bullets in my list to support his incorrect assertion.]
  • Sales management didn’t have their training requirements match the sales people on the front lines who are responsible for putting the wood on the fire.  They have quotas and want help to exceed their numbers. When there is a heterogeneous sales team, for example experienced and new reps, or reps who sell different types of products into different markets, there is a big challenge.  A big one.  If it is not managed properly, the program will be irrelevant to half the audience half the time.
  • There is weak buy in to the foundation of the methodology and related processes /measurements because the team doesn’t see how it will immediately impact their results, so the training has no foundation.  It’s just a bunch of unrelated skills.  Some of those may help win some business, but in the long term, they won’t amount to much. 
  • The sales training vendor did not provide a competent facilitator that could relate to the group with a track record of unsurpassed sales success.
  • The training program content was not relevant to the team’s current pipeline of prospects or issues they are facing.  It may have come off-the-shelf, or have been designed for customers in another industry.
  • The content may have been relevant, but it was not delivered to you in a way that would promote learning.
  • Training the sales force was a strategy but was really needed as skills training with the tactics of how to succeed.

 To the Point [ESR has been using “To the Point” in all our content since we started the company.  This is the smoking gun!]

Getting sales training right can be a challenge and confusing. If you have the sales team applying the right skills that meet today’s market conditions everyone wins.  I have found methodology sales training takes a pretty generic approach like training someone to answer a support call or balance the books.  Many companies try, but get it all wrong. 

You might consider offering [your] sales teams the skills they need to improve their results as a first step. The [trainer’s program] training offers a solid skills training that certainly could be augmented at a later date if you deemed that to be a requirement.  Frankly I think you will find the skills, the approach, the culture change, the integration to other parts of the company, and the gained results to be very satisfying and you won’t need to go any further. All I can tell you, better let him tell you, [name of executive] at [well-known company] had no sale methodology- completely has embraced [trainer’s sales methodology] and last quarter attributes [$x] of additional business to the approach. There are others that can share similar results. They too thought perhaps having a big methodology vendor was the right first step but then happily learned skills training showed much more results.

I hope you don’t find this email too assertive but I felt strongly about some the things I heard you are considering and wanted to at least share my perspective and years of experience for your benefit. Please let me know if you would like to discuss this. I would very much like to be a big part of the [client’s company name] solution and help your team.

Best Regards,
Xxxx Yzzzzz
Trainer’s website
Office: xxx-xxx-xxxx
Cell:    xxx-xxx-xxxx 

I am very serious in asking you, my readers, this question:  How do you think I should handle this situation?  Please leave a comment, send me an email (dave.stein @ ESResearch.com) or give me a call.  Thanks.


9 Responses

  1. Dave,

    Offline I’d appreciate you sharing with me which sales trainer this was, for our own future reference at STT.

    Now, for public display I’d recommend politely and with dignity informing the individual who has carefully and deliberately chosen to plagiarize your content that you are aware of their actions. With you posting this today, I would calmly remind them that they are on the verge of losing utter and complete credibility in the industry as word spreads.

    And let them live with that. I wouldn’t really take it further than that.

    Meanwhile, I’d also point this customer to your newsletter article and, with an exclamation point thrown in so they know you’re above the fray, let them know this is why they might have thought of you.

    You have a stellar reputation in the industry, so having a rogue trainer out there stealing your content won’t really hurt you in the long run, though it’s stunning and disappointing. Handle with the professionalism this person obviously lacks.

  2. Dave, I empathize with your frustration about blatant stealing of intellectual property in the sales training business. Unfortunately, we see this all the time.

    I am engaged with a client now that wants to embrace one of our programs, and I recently described it to their learning and development team. “Oh, we already have all of that,” the head of sales training told us – and then she showed us materials that were almost a page-by-page rip-off of our content. They had previously contracted with an independent consultant who had “created” all of this for them. It turns out that the “consultant” was a former participant in one of our programs.

    Sometimes, thefts like these are inadvertent, arising out of ignorance of copyright law. More often, however, they are committed by people who just don’t think they’ll get caught. Or, even if they do get exposed, they’re confident that no action will be taken against them – they know that lawyers are expensive and time-consuming.

    Our policy is to warn anyone we find in violation of our copyrights and trademarks with a polite letter. If they don’t take action to correct the situation, we threaten legal action – there’s nothing like a law firm letterhead to make people think you’re serious. If they still don’t do the right thing, we sue. Fortunately, the last ultimate step has been extremely rare – but we usually have to send the law firm letter before they get motivated to act.

    I’m encouraged, however, by a couple of things. First, it is increasingly more difficult to remain “under the radar” in this day and age. People who steal content and pass it off as their own are frequently exposed by search engines on the ‘net now. Anyone doing thorough searches on Google will be able to compare the posers with the genuine articles (pun intended). Further, having a recognized industry authority such as ESR, who can guide people to legitimate solutions, makes it more difficult for fakers to pull off their trickery. (This doesn’t help your situation, of course, but it has definitely helped us here at SPI, and you need to know that we appreciate it.)

    I hope this helps!

  3. If there’s a way to expose this guy, I say “do it”! If nothing else, it will discourage others.

  4. The Internet is the wild, wild west. I suggest you call out the villain publicly on your blog and use all the SEO / PageRank you can muster to ensure that whenever someone googles his name or company, one of the top results is an article titled “John Doe stole my intellectual property”.

    You could even buy a domain name that resembles his name/company and put the gory details on it.

  5. Dave –

    I’ve encountered that with material that people lifted from my web site. (www.geibelmarketing.com)

    Usually a “cease-and’-desist” letter – along with copies of their version (illegal use highlighted) and your copyrighted version, should get results.

    If not – then contact their ISP (Internet Service Provider) and alert them to the fact that your copyrighted material is being posted on a site hosted by them, without authorization, and that the site owner has been notified and refuses to remove it.

    Once you have done that, it makes them (the ISP) liable for the copyright infringement – as specified by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. (I’m not offering legal advice here – feel free to research this point.) ISPs have to have a specific individual or web address for such complaints.

    If it still persists – you’re dealing with a hard-core case. At that point, you might consider a press release on the issue and sending it to relevant trade publications and media. That, of course, is the ‘nuclear option’ so make sure you have your ducks in order at that point.

    As a general rule, (as posters above have observed) individuals who lift material are ignorant of the law or simply assume they won’t get caught. Once they are, and they contact an IP (intellectual property) lawyer, they often experience an epiphany.

    By the way – what is the location of your photo above? Sort of looks like either north shore of Nantucket or around Chatham on the Cape. (I’m also a pilot.)

    Good luck with your IP issue.

  6. Dave,

    You sent me some material that you suspected this person had plagiarized. Damn right he did!

    He took massive sections from an article I published and copyrighted back in 2001, and stuck it into an article he claims copyrighted in 2008.

    I’m taking a few days to take in the enormity of the audacity of this guy, just on general principles. But I believe I’ll end up doing what your posters here are advocating–blatant exposure of this guy.

    If and when I do that, I’ll make sure to cross link to you; an honest mistake I can see. But flagrant, repeated, massive copying with no attribution? I just do not see an excuse for that.

  7. Dave,

    I’m taking chrisff’s advice and calling out Bob Beck publicly.

    If anyone wants to go see my blogpost of today
    you can judge for yourself.

    I have posted side by side comparisons of an article I wrote and copyrighted and published in 2001, with something he is selling online for $9.95.
    I can prove my article was on the web in December, 2001 through the web archive service.
    His version even reproduces a typo in my original.

    I considered going the lawyer route–after all, if you re-sell copyrighted material without identification, you’re liable for criminal prosecution–depending on the amount, it’s a misdemeanor or felony.

    But I think chrisff is right in this case. Once, twice I can conceivably think of someone being deluded into thinking they’re in the right. But repeated instances, and after having been apparently warned?

    I say put the information out there and spread it around; let people make their own judgment.

    I invite Mr. Beck to comment publicly on my site about what he’s done. He’s got an open mic. I cannot conceive of a justification for what I am exposing there but hey, have at it, Mr. Beck.

    And if he can’t, I’m quite happy to help his clients, the people who he has gotten to recommend him, and the people who have been approached him, to have access to the factual record of his behavior.

    Bob Beck. That’s the name.

  8. Hi Dave,

    I am experiencing the same trouble with Bob. Clearly he is a habitual stealere! He is stealing my work word for word and passing it off as his own. As an example check out:


    We have taken legal action. Claiming ignorance is no defence. especially for someone who claims to be a thought leader and trsuted advisor.

    Colleen Francis

  9. After hearing about this, I decided I’d better investigate too. Within 15 minutes, I’d found a plagiarized article of mine, as well as one of Kelley Robertson’s.

    I just posted about it on my blog at:


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