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Should You Spend Your Money On Sales 2.0 Or Sales Training?

Sales training is more than 100 years old.  With few exceptions, it’s not very sexy.  Many salespeople believe (PDF) they’ve been through enough of it to last a lifetime.  For many reasons, most of their managers don’t see any value, so they take a tactical, event-based approach just to check the “trained my people this year” box.

On the other hand, Sales 2.0* is sexy.  It’s new.  There are terrific, proven, Sales 2.0 solutions that can support the sales and marketing function in being more efficient and effective.  There are also enough white papers, advertisements, websites, articles, blog posts, conferences, books, tweets, strategies, tips, definitions, claims, approaches, experts, studies and hype to confuse any sales leader who is wondering how to come out the other side of this terrible economic situation.   The promise of success from this Sales 2.0 wave is  overwhelming.

What should you do?

First let me state that ESR doesn’t sell sales training or Sales 2.0 applications.  We sell independent research and informed advice.

As an objective observer, let me suggest a simple way to assess your situation:  Neither sales training nor Sales 2.0 will deliver any real, long-term value (measured in any number of ways: more sales, more profitable sales, bigger sales, shorter sales cycles, etc.) unless you have the right people and processes in place first.  (Hopefully this isn’t the first time you’re hearing this.)

Tens of thousands of companies invested in CRM, skipping one or both of those two critical success factors.  That’s why something like only one in six companies claim their CRM systems are contributing to their selling efforts.  And how about this: less than two in ten companies get sustainable, predictable performance improvement out of sales training!

If we invest in Sales 2.0 solutions without the proper foundations in place we aren’t just going down that same road?  You bet.

Do you have the right people selling for you? If not, start fixing that right away.  Is there isn’t broad compliance across your team with the use of a flexible, pragmatic sales methodology?  If not, get that in place.  (The foundation of the methodology should be based on the current and expected attributes of the markets you are selling into and the buying preferences and tendencies of your customers, e.g. if your buyers use Twitter to communicate with their suppliers, that capability should be built into your methodology…)

Spend your money on people and process first.  Then tools. Sales 2.0 isn’t a shortcut or a replacement for those or other critical, foundation components of a sales infrastructure.  Neither is tactical, single event-based training.

One more time, listed in the right order: (This is only a partial list for purposes of illustration.)

  1. Get the right people on board;
  2. Build or rebuild a flexible, pragmatic buyer-centric sales methodology;
  3. Train your team on the methodology;
  4. Then, provide them with the right Sales 2.0 tools to make them more effective and efficient in use of the methodology.

Tell me where I’m wrong or off base about this.

* Sales 2.0 is a registered trademark of Sales 2.0 LLC

Photo credit: © Vivid Pixels – Fotolia.com

15 Responses

  1. Absolutely on target, any tool, regardless of how good it is, if used incorrectly will not produce results. It is incumbent on sales management to select tools that integrate with and reinforce the strategies, processes, priorities of the organization.

    Too many times, I see organizations thinking the tools (Sales 2.0 or otherwise) or the training are the ends. They are just means to help the organization accomplish their objectives.

    You know I always nit pick, adding to your list:

    5. Have the appropriate metrics in place and pay attention to them.
    6. Make sure all levels of management execute their responsibilities to coach and develop their people, reinforcing the expected behaviors and processes.
    7. Management must lead by example, using the tools, processes, demonstrating the expected behaviors (I’m amazed by the number of managers that do not use the CRM system, but get extract reports).

    I’ll stop there with my partial list, I’m sure others will add.

    Great post!

    • Dave,

      Those are precisely the right additions to the list. I didn’t want to dilute the point by making my list too long in this post.

      I always appreciate your comments.

  2. Dave, really good post.

    What’s the point in training your staff if your process isn’t working? That’s madness!

    After you’ve got the right people in place and a well honed sales process, nothing, and I mean nothing, bests face to face sales training.

    The only way to improve is through practice and this is done best in the flesh (novel I know for us web devotees!)

    A golfer wouldn’t just learn and improve just through reading blogs or online videos. They need to hit a thousand balls every other day to hone and perfect what they are doing and this includes a lot of correction along the way and that’s the role of sales training.

    But what use is sales training if it’s not implemented and re-enforced back in the workplace? And that’s where sales 2.0 comes in.

    There is a whole of host of resources and tools that can help to embed the learning back in the workplace and that’s where sales 2.0 tools cannot be beaten!

    Sean McPheat
    The Sales Jedi

  3. I disagree, Dave.

    You have part of it right, but you are missing the most important point: People are NOT the most important element of a business. They do not belong at the top of your list.

    Want proof? Consider:

    You would probably agree there are a LOT of great people in companies like GM, Ford, and Chrysler.

    Yet, Toyota, Honda, and Mazda have been kicking their asses for decades.

    Would you say these landed Japanese automotive companies are winning because they’ve hired the right salespeople, or because they’ve trained them better? Is it because they use Sales 2.0?

    Of course not. The greatest salespeople and the best sales training in the world will not save the American car companies.

    The caliber and training of a company’s people are no match for the larger forces in play here. Yet, these same forces are pressuring every businesses all the time, especially in today’s market.

    So, why are the landed Japanese companies winning?

    They are winning because they create more value. The proof is in the market’s reaction: they sell more.

    Clearly, the sales process is only one component of their success.

    Unfortunately, many, many talented sales leaders are trapped in corporations that view the world in ways similar to American automotive companies.

    It is high time for B2B sales executives to stop being so myopic about their trade.

    I’m not saying people and training aren’t important, they are important. But they are not the most important thing.

    The most important things are as follows:

    1) Find a starving market (i.e., what customers want)
    2) Develop a system that finds, wins, and keeps customers (i.e. a sales process)
    3) Develop and continuously improve the organization to execute that process (i.e., the people, training, machines, materials, systems, etc.)

    Businesses need to grow out of the false assumption that the sales process is “what salespeople do.”

    This error is causes B2B organizations get their sales process completely wrong. It is the reason salespeople only give lip service to the sales process. Salespeople know better, though they are usually unable to articulate why.

    The fact is, processes that work create real value. Not only that, people follow them.

    In sales and marketing, the sales process is what causes customers to:

    – become aware of their problems,
    – interested in your solution,
    – convinced of your value relative to your competitors, and
    – committed to your products and services

    Companies must recognize it takes more than just salespeople to do all those things, especially in today’s market.

    It is irrelevant whether the customer’s actions are caused (or enabled) by copy-written ads, social networking, web pages, or the words of talented, trusted salespeople.

    If something your company did got the customer to take one of those steps, it created value.

    If your competitor did a better job of it, they deserve the customer instead.

    If your prospects are now looking for information they need on their favorite search engine, and you insist on hiring and training more salespeople to make cold calls, that is your problem, not theirs!

    Further, consider all the things your company does that cause no customer actions, such as generating tons of brochures no one reads, spending millions on branding exercises customers care less about, consuming thousands of hours on proposals that are never purchased, or asking salespeople to pull out picks and shovels to turn over more rocks in their territories looking for leads by hand.

    All these are mostly waste.

    It is high time that B2B sales executives stop being so myopic about their trade.

    They need to learn to think of their business as a system for creating value. Value is created when customers take the steps listed above: it is called the “customer’s journey.” Every one of those steps is measurable with hard data. That data is the only proof you will be able to deliver revenue to your company in the future.

    Your company’s system for getting customers to act needs to be designed if is to work properly. It requires the best selling savvy you can muster. It must be as automated as possible. Your salespeople need be able to implement the portions of the process that cannot be automated.

    Executives who cling to old-fashioned notions about selling (hire the best people! make more sales calls! twist more arms! work harder!) are riding the Titanic to the bottom and will be looking for bail outs, just as the American automotive companies are doing today.

    The problem is not the quality of your people. It is the quality of your business process.

    Michael Webb

  4. Dave,

    My main argument is with the title — I don’t think this is an either or situation, training or tools — and obviously you don’t either. Clearly, the methodology a sales group implements will determine to an extent the tools they decide to use. However, I think it’s a bit more complex than simply finding tools to support your process. First of all, Sales 2.0 is more than just a set of tools — I refuse to say it’s a paradigm switch — but as Brandon Hall argues, http://tinyurl.com/bedqnr , Sales 2.0 is a new way of approaching sales that includes both tools and methodologies.

    In addition, it’s not always a matter of choosing your tools — the social media tools, for example, are coming in from the bottom up — I think you agree that you should integrate them into your process wherever doing so makes sense.

    And finally, the Sales 2.0 tools are of a different order than the previous generation of CRM tools. As you pointed out in your previous post about Sales 2.0, http://tinyurl.com/ahyblo , CRM tools really didn’t provide much if anything for the salesperson and consequently, compliance has often been low. I don’t think the same is true of Sales 2.0 tools, which are very specific in addressing salespeople where they live and work.

    Thanks for the post and the on-going discussion.

    • Hi Bob,

      Thanks for your comment. I agree that the situation isn’t an “either-or.” I did devise a title which I hoped would entice those responsible for team sales performance to read my opinion.

      You wrote that “it’s a bit more complex than simply finding tools to support your process.” I agree with that as well. I also agree with integrating social media and other tools into the process and that Sales 2.0 is more than just tools.

      The message I continue to deliver is this: There is a long history of sales leaders looking for silver bullets, shortcuts, new tools, techniques, tips and tricks to help them overcome their teams’ selling challenges and deficiencies. Yet sales productivity continues to decline. Why? Research proves that sales organizations that excel have basic building blocks in place. Those that underperform often don’t (there can certainly be a host of other reasons not related to sales people, process and tools). I want to influence sales leaders to stop looking for shortcuts–to be more strategic–to invest the time and money in really understanding their situations. And, in my opinion Bob, a lot (certainly not all) of what’s going on around Sales 2.0 is a distraction.

  5. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  6. Dave, I couldn’t agree with you more! The argument should not be about the tools themselves—Sales 2.0 tools offer great potential.

    The issue revolves around the ability of most sales people to use the tools in an effective manner. Unfortunately, the failure of previous tools has been a result of people looking for those silver bullets or shortcuts, or misusing the tools.

    A great tool misused presents terrible results! And guess what, we blame the tool, not the people using the tool.

    I think there is great promise in Sales 2.0, (let’s not forget sales 0.0, 1.0) and sales training. But they are only effective if the right building blocks are in place and the tools are implemented as a complement to great processes, not a crutch.

    Thanks for sticking to your guns!

  7. Dave,

    I like it. You’re on base and the 4 points are simple to remember and focus on. I assume metrics are part of the methodology. I see a lot of transformation plans that have more steps and tasks than the darn thing they are trying to solve!

    The time line for implementing sales 2.0 will vary by organization, industry and customer maturity – so the one thing for everyone to remember is to not try and boil the ocean overnight with everything and everybody being “Sales 2.0” tagged. Sales 2,.0 will take time. It will require various iterations within the organization, the tools and processes will align over time and customer experiences (successes and failures) will help validate and refine the methodology.

    To answer you question – money should be spent on both. (they are complimentary and equally important) but without a unified game plan, sales people will quickly get frustrated and you will lose their support.

    Let’s take Sales 2.0 in small steps and help everyone make the move!


  8. Sales is about building relationships. I prefer to call what I do edu-marketing or conversational marketing and sales. People buy from those whom they like, know, or trust…and that only comes through conversation and interaction.
    Great article!

    Shannon Evans
    href=”http://www.yoursalesforce.com”>Your Ultimate Sales Force

  9. Dave, I couldn’t agree more with your position on this. I am a big fan of Jim Dickie and Barry Trailor at CSO Insights. Their platform has been consistent – if you want to improve sales performance, invest in your people (hiring and training), process, technology and knowledge.

    My strong opinion is that many (maybe most) sales organizations are underserved with technology that really helps sales people do their jobs. This statement acknowleges that the CRM system is the system of record or accounting system and essential infrastructure.

    My company sells direct to executives in sales and marketing and we enable selling teams with technology. I say that to point out that almost every b to b prospect we encounter has a commercial CRM system (many times more than 1), has a defined sales process (varying degrees of stickiness in the organization) but also has a lot of confustion about what they want their reps doing across a customers buying cycle on a consistent basis.

    Achieving repeatability across the activities that are proven to work – drives results. Achieving repeatability requires an investment in technology, tools (knowledge) for the reps and training on how to use the information and technology you are giving them.

    Finally – a leader who has the vision and resolve to make sure his/her organization takes advantage of the investment the company is making.

    • Brian,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Kadient has proven technology that supports effective selling. No issues there. You guys have done a great job.

      You wrote that your B2B prospects have “a defined sales process (varying degrees of stickiness in the organization)” That’s my concern. The number of companies that either don’t have a defined process or have one that isn’t being complied with is staggering.

      ESR just wants to continue to get the message out: Sales enablement technology can deliver significant competitive advantage. But it doesn’t replace process or enable people to be effective selling who don’t have the requisite skills and personal traits.

  10. Hello I have been looking at this blog and I am sure i will return to read more.

    I will try to add to the conversation by the following points:

    1. Creating value, can happen both via the products but a value creation can also happen through the sales process e.g. the communication between the customer and the sales person.

    Before some mentions the products and another “buying from the people you like, trust etc.” and both are valid.

    2. I see these sales systems as support for the sales personel mostly, it can provide the right information, concentrate the sales process for the sales personel.

    Without the right system – the process can get harder for the sales people, and with time using this information to adjust the sales effort correctly.

    Without the right people – as mentioned before no system will matter.

    So in reality too much focus on one or the other… will eventually be less than optimal.

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