• This Blog Is Inactive!

    On of May 8, 2009, I moved my blog over to a new domain: DaveSteinsBlog.ESResearch.com

    I will no longer be posting on this URL. Comments will not be moderated. More information.

  • ESR’s STVG

    Here is ESR's highly acclaimed Sales Training Vendor Guide, Third Edition.

Selling Through The Slump: An eBook

I was asked by my friend Charlie Green representing The Customer Collective to contribute to an e-book that was just published. I recommend that you download it, read it and use it.

Selling Through A Slump: An Industry-by-Industry Playbook

A Guide by Salespeople for Salespeople on How to Sell Your Way to Recovery

Download this Free eBook

Selling in a recession is tough. And simply doing more of the same is not the way to survive, much less thrive, in a recession. There are important dos and don’ts in times like these. This eBook is your industry-specific roadmap out of the economic slump.

Selling through a Slump: An Industry-by-Industry Playbook brings together sales strategies and best practices from 11 top sales experts from 11 distinct vertical market sectors, ranging from retail to health care to telecom—because one size doesn’t always fit all. The practical tips and experience-based wisdom here aren’t just limited to any single industry, though. Regardless of your market sector, you’re bound to find value in this arsenal of great sales ideas.

Get access to exclusive tips on how to sell in a recessionary market, from renowned
sales experts like Jill Konrath, Charles Green, and Dave Stein. We know you’ve
got questions—this eBook was created to give you answers.

Click here for valuable sales strategies from experts in every industry:



Charles Green, Founder and CEO, Trusted Advisor Associates
Selling for Accountants and Consultants



Mike Wise, VP, Insurance Technologies, IdeaStar Incorporated
Selling for Insurance Agent


John Caddell, Caddell Insight Group

Selling in Telecommunications Markets


Skip Anderson, Founder, Selling to Consumers Sales Training

Selling for Retailers


Mike Kujawski, Founder,

Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing

Selling to Public Sector Clients


Matt Homann, Founder, LexThink LLC

Selling for Lawyers


Anne Miller, Founder, Chiron Associates Selling Media


Dave Brock, President and CEO,

Partners in EXCELLENCE
Selling to Manufacturers


Jill Konrath, Author, Selling to Big Companies

Selling in Services


Anneke Seley, Founder and CEO, PhoneWorks LLC
Selling in Health Care


Click Here to Download

(A simple registration is required)

Brought to you by The Customer Collective and Oracle CRM. Welcome to the conversation.

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ESR’s Sales Training Vendor Guide Published Today

ESR’s Sales Training Vendor Guide: Third Edition was published this morning.

The Guide analyzes, compares, and contrasts 23 leading sales training providers across many areas including:

  • Solutions Range
  • Range of Target Companies
  • Range of Target Audiences
  • Range of Training Programs
  • Adaptability
  • Range of Instructional Aids & Tools
  • Quality of Instructional Design
  • Measurement Programs
  • Post-training Reinforcement
  • Supporting Technology
  • Yield Growth
  • Return-On-Training (ROT)
  • Utilization among sales teams
  • Ease of Learning/Adoption

The Guide weighs in at more than 150 pages with 40 graphs and charts.

Based upon pre-publication sales, I believe this edition of the Guide is going to be the most widely appreciated and used to date.

You can learn more and order here.

ESR’s Survey On Social Media Use in B2B Selling

With the assistance of The TAS Group, ESR recently surveyed nearly 400 users of the following technologies to determine the effects that these new technologies in helping them win B2B sales opportunities:

  • Jigsaw;
  • LinkedIn;
  • Twitter;
  • Plaxo;
  • Facebook;
  • Hoover’s or OneSource.

The pace of technology development today is dizzying. It seems as though a new sales-related technology appears daily. The question is, do these new technologies produce additional sales or just consume valuable selling time and distract sales leaders and their teams from focusing on what can really improve performance?

A few specifics from the survey:

  1. 35% of respondents say that LinkedIn has helped them win sometimes or often;
  2. 69% of respondents say they don’t use Twitter. Of those that douse the tool, 20% say it has not helped them win;
  3. 8% of respondents say that Facebook has helped them win sometimes or often.

Buy the 10-page ESR/Insight™ Brief, The New Social Media: Do They Enable B2B Selling? now.

Photo credit: © altiso – Fotolia.com

An Important Message About An Important Message

A while back messaging and branding expert Maureen Blandford asked me to lend an endorsement to what was then her new book, Branding Doesn’t Work in Business to Business. I had not met Maureen.  I was skeptical. By the time I got through with the book, I was a Maureen Blandford fan.  Why?  Maureen provides the quality of insight and advice that is too rare these days—she’s passionate and completely devoid of B.S.  See for yourself:

Dave Stein: You’ve been pretty strident on Twitter about companies not getting the messaging thing right these days. What’s your perspective on what they’re doing wrong?

Maureen Blandford: It seems the sales thought leadership community is pretty aligned that selling collaboratively is where sellers need to be. I’m a huge fan of sellers asking great questions, building relationships, uncovering pain AND holding their opinions and solutions until they’ve first uncovered and quantified pain.

But HQ folks are busy flooding the marketplace with a lot of noise. Corporate marketers have a tough time shaking the Brand—the Dog & Pony Show sell. They’re creating boatloads of copy for upfront in the sales cycle when prospects are least likely to be paying attention. They spend days talking about tactic aesthetics (color, shape, size, etc) that are meaningless to our prospects. Our prospects want a solution that can solve their pain for less than the pain is costing. And if they can work with someone they like and possibly even trust to implement that solution – all the better.

Marketing and sales support tools essentially need to be the feet on the street in place of salespeople. Our sales folks can’t be everywhere at once. So we really need our tangible tools to mimic what we want our sellers doing: Be cool, confident, savvy. Ask great questions. Don’t assume you know all the answers. Intrigue the prospect enough to want to talk to a rep. Think: questions, bullet points, phrases.

DS: Is this any different from how it’s been in the past?

MB: Here’s the thing. We’ve been selling the same way for, what,  thousands of years, right?  Show your product, do a song and dance, negotiate price, close or lose the deal. Classic dog and pony show. That type of selling is in our DNA. Relationship Selling has only really been around for probably between 15 & 20 years. So, even though we can all be fans of Relationship Selling, it’s still really hard for salespeople to make that transition.  If you get Jill Konrath’s newsletter, she just wrote about some classic mistakes she’s made just recently. And she’s a fabulous seller. So, again, it’s tough to get this great model right.

But Marketing hasn’t even begun to make this transition. They’re still in Dog & Pony Show + Branding glory days. Marketing must make the transition to supporting how we sell today. The problem with that for marketers is (sorry, marketers) they’ve always been more concerned about shooting that next commercial, or winning that next ad club award, than they have been about how to help sales move the ball down the field. It’s a new day. Sales organizations are the stars now and marketers need to be happy and find the honor in being the back stage crew.

DS: Can you give us an example of a company that recently made a change in this regard, what the symptoms were and how they are faring now?

MB: Wow. I wish I could. Most of the orgs that are really successful at this fly under the radar. (I guess they value success over a globally-recognized brand. Huh.) Remember that there are thousands of B2B companies in the US alone. The big ones (IBM, Microsoft) get a lot of attention. But there are so many good companies out there, with salespeople generating revenue that many of us will never know about.

The way I see B2Bs today is in a kind of suspended animation. Our sales organizations need help making the transition fully to the consultative sale model. But where’s the budget, Dave, for on-going, sustainable training, mentoring, and support? (I can see you shaking your head, Dave…) Those budgets have vanished. Meanwhile, we only need to read the national news to understand the silly ways corporate is spending the revenue that the sales folks generate.

DS: Other than what you just described, how would a sales leader know that it’s their messaging that may be part of a sales problem?

MB: Most salespeople and sales leadership have given up on getting help with bad messaging. A colleague of mine, a VP of sales at a very successful biotech company, was at a product launch for a truly breakthrough, efficacious cancer drug targeted toward premier oncologists around the country. The marketing folks modeled their product launch campaign after, get this, a popular laundry detergent campaign. Uh huh. You read that right. Cancer drug, laundry detergent. Sheesh.

If I’m ever strident (!) about these issues, it’s because it’s unbelievable to me what’s going on in B2Bs. How long are we going to starve our salesforces of the training and support they need when their marketing teams (most of whom have never carried a bag) have the keys to extraordinary budgets but are quite clueless about the tactics necessary to support a consultative sale.

DS: Without asking you to give the entire content of your book away, could you enlighten us on why branding doesn’t work in B2B?

MB: Branding is a great methodology for consumer marketing. The consumer buying process, however, is the polar opposite of the B2B buying process for big deals. Universities don’t teach the difference between marketing for Consumer v. marketing for B2B. It doesn’t make sense to take the methodology for one and try to apply it to a completely different model.

Great B2B marketers need to think much less about what color does X need to be? And more about the revenue targets, prospect and customer buying processes, how sales needs to sell to match the buying process, who influences the prospects, and what are the best support tools to land new accounts and grow existing accounts.

Trust. Confidence. Relationships. Deals. Branding can’t get us there. But our people can.


Coming up…

  1. Please join me on April 8th when I present Nailing Your Sales Training—An Independent Expert’s View a complimentary webinar sponsored by The TAS Group.
  2. On Tuesday, April 14, I’ll be joining a stellar panel of sales experts for The Top Sales Experts Kickoff Event: The Future of Professional Selling.

Photo credit: © Beboy – Fotolia.com

The New Social Media (Wars)

I’ve been involved in a number of posts on The Customer Collective where there have been some personal attacks by a few social media zealots against some of us that have a more balanced view of the capabilities and tools required for effective B2B selling going forward in this new(est) economy.   Jonathan Farrington1, Dave Brock, Niall Devitt, and I have a somewhat similar opinion of the role of social media.  (These are smart guys.  I recommend you subscribe to their blogs.)

The four of us had an email exchange today after some comments to one of Jonathan’s posts.  The comments sounded like sweeping indictments of “old school,” and the four of us as well.

What’s really worth considering, as Dave Brock pointed out in the email thread, is that people are attacking the four of us for being old school, when we’re all entrenched in the new social media: blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, virtual meetings, and much of the rest.  Are they attacking our not being immersed in the new social media, which you would think might be their mission? No.  They’re attacking us for the opinions we voice about the social media from within the social media environment.2 We’re not outside observers.

Here is an edited slice of my thoughts on the subject of social media zealotry and “old school” from that thread:

ESR has studied the issue of inter-generational selling. It’s a big challenge for companies and for consultants and trainers. It will become even more challenging. How do we “experts” stay relevant to younger salespeople, managers and CEOs is one question. The bigger question is how will younger salespeople become relevant to serious corporate buyers?

Here are a few more questions: The Millennials (Y’ers) show considerably less willingness to follow convention (read process) than those who are older—a generalization, I admit. Salespeople in general have less discipline and process-orientation than professionals, which compounds the problem. B2B customer buying patterns and practices are getting tougher, requiring more discipline, process, strategy, etc. on the part of those who sell to them. So how will the Millennials, many of whom are rejecting much of what has come before, wind up selling though this capability gap? Answer: Many will not! Companies will have to tighten up their profile for B2B salespeople and a boatload of soft skills with little else won’t be a desired characteristic—not in the kind of serious B2B selling that drives the economy. So the pure social media types will have that to play with that in their spare time, or lock on to a subset of buyers in corporations who may be open to that stuff.

A client of ours went into a very tough negotiation with a well-known company yesterday.  Big, big bucks! They were meeting with a senior strategic procurement executive. Facebook? Twitter? Blogs? Virtual or online anything?  No. Weeks of research, customer profiling, political positioning, testing approaches, strategizing, number crunching, competitive positioning, collaborative brainstorming and one very, very important face-to-face meeting. Is that model going to change in the next few years? Sure, in some sales environments, but not in mission critical areas of most companies over $200 million in sales.

With all this being said, with respect to the business side of my life, I’ll listen to and consider anyone’s opinion on any subject, so long as they can express their opinion clearly and succinctly and don’t resort to manipulation, games, or personal attacks.  I believe passion is good.  So is being a zealot, if your goal is benevolent as well as your means of getting there.  I confess:  I’m a sales effectiveness zealot.

Notes:

  1. Jonathan Farrington is hosting the kick-off event for the Top Sales Experts Roundtable:  The Future of Professional Selling on Tuesday, April 14th, 2009 at 1.00 pm EDT.  I’ll be a panel member.  With Jonathan in charge, it’ll be worth your investment.
  2. ESR will be publishing the findings from our recent survey on the new social media’s role in B2B selling next week.  If you’d like to be notified of the publication of this report, subscribe to this blog or the ESR/AlertTM.

Photo credit: © Carsten Reisinger – Fotolia.com

Old Habits Are Hard To Break

After seven days on a bike tour through Northern Thailand, my wife and I wound up at the Anantara Resort at the Golden Triangle.  She was ready to sit by the pool for the day.  I was ready for one more ride.  Last day.  Only 25 miles.

I got used to the left-side-of-the-road traffic the very first day.  No problem.  I lived in England.  Drove quite a bit there. Also in Australia, Ireland, Jamaica, and other places as well.

Most days we biked 30 miles or so.  Two days we biked 70.  That’s a lot on a mountain bike.  I was strong and confident.

I was uncharacteristically late getting myself ready for the ride.  I missed the briefing.  No worries, the guide told me.  Better hurry down the hill, he said.  Catch the rest of the group.

I jumped on the Trek and tore downhill.  I couldn’t see the group down the driveway (opens up the location in Google Earth).  I pedaled faster.  Two-thirds of the way down there was a sharp right turn.  I figured the group was just around the bend.  As I got closer a guy on a moped came around the corner.  I was doing about 25.  I moved to the right.  He moved to the left.  I moved further to the right.  He moved further to the left.  Just before we crashed I remember the guide telling us on that first day, not to get hurt to the point you’d need a blood transfusion.  This is Thailand, he said.  I remembered that as I was flying over the guy and his moped.

Somehow I wound up with nothing more than a scratch on my right elbow and one on my knee.  I still can’t imagine how.  The guide, who had been following me in the van was astounded that I was OK.  I was as well.  I asked for a new wheel.  Done.  The guy on the moped was fine.  His moped wasn’t.  Employee of the hotel.  Don’t worry, sir, he said.  Within a minute I was on the bike again, catching up to the group, staying diligently on the left side of the road.  In fact, locked on the left side of the road.

Breaking a habit is like that.  Everything is fine.  Feeling comfortable.  Maybe you even get a bit complacent.  Then an interrupt resets the circuits in your brain and you react.  Not as you learned you should. But as you used to.

New times call for new approaches and new habits.  And practice and discipline so they stick.