• 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.

Five Minutes With Gerhard

Here is today’s featured video on SellingPower.com.

Gerhard Gschwandtner interviewed me before one of his sales leadership conferences.  If you click on the link (or the photo) you’ll have access to other videos as well, featuring Howard Stevens, Jim Dickie, and a other thought leaders in the area of sales performance.

Note:  I understand the upcoming Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston is sold out.  If you happen to be attending, please say hello.

The Value and Perils of Customized Sales Training

Yesterday during The Top Sales Experts Roundtable, Linda Richardson made a strong case for customized sales training.  It’s not something she has to convince us at ESR about.

Many organizations want a customized sales training experience, whether it be live or virtual.  This can be good or bad, depending upon what experiences and materials are customized, and to what degree. It’s important for sales training buyer to understand any and all customization requirements and objectives; and, it is incumbent upon that person to have an effective strategy for customization.

ESR have yet to find a client who says, “Yes, off-the-shelf training is just fine for my organization.” Every organization feels that it is unique, that its problems are unique, and that only a unique program can maximize their potential.

The Problem

When an organization brings in a sales training company, there is a challenge that the organization is trying to overcome or an opportunity to leverage.

This fundamentally implies that a change is needed—that the status quo is not sufficient to continue to propel sales growth. The sales training company is brought in to effect some change, usually a behavioral change, in the participating sales people, to stimulate that sales growth.

ESR recommends that the first place to look when considering any degree of behavioral change is your sales methodology.  That’s the backbone on which all your processes, tools, training, hiring, measurement system, and sales approach will be built. Fix or replace the methodology first. If you don’t have a methodology, you will need to build one.  (Training your team on how to employ that methodology eventually follows.)  This is an old song, but everyone needs to hear it until they can sing along.

Change vs. Status Quo

By acknowledging the need for change, it’s important to understand the meaning of sales training program customization. There are two types of customization:

  1. Tailoring—adapting the training materials to reflect the sales organization’s products, services, sales force characteristics, as well as market and corporate specifics;
  2. Modification—altering the intellectual property of the sales training company resulting in different learnings, or modifying the instructional design of the program so that there is a core difference in the way the materials are presented.

Tailoring is almost always useful. Tailoring materials gets your company name in front of the sales people and personalizes the experience. Tailoring can replace canned, generic workshop examples with actual examples from your sales force’s existing pipeline, or recent wins or losses, personalizing the experience and maximizing the probability that the sales person will identify with the program. Tailoring, if limited to phrasing, word usage, workshops and case study examples, is often helpful.

Modification is a two-edged sword. Modification can be helpful if there are processes within your sales organization that you know factually and empirically work, and if you can separate these working best practices from those processes which you know, or suspect, may be constraining your sales growth.

The Risk of Modification

Modification carries a potential risk—LCD—”lowest common denominator.”  There is an observable tendency among course and methodology modifiers, resulting from pressure from certain stakeholders, to fine tune the new methods and processes taught in the course materials to such an extent that they are “devolved” into a mere reflection of the existing, flawed sales methodology. Customizing course materials to make the program “more like our business environment” can effectively negate the original objective of the program, which was to effect behavioral change.

With that in mind, ESR has recognized some leading sales training companies for their very effective approaches to modification.

Avoiding “Devolution”

How do you avoid “devolution” in your customized sales training programs?  Four considerations:

  1. Invest in a comprehensive, objective assessment of the performance of your sales team—know very specifically what works and what doesn’t;
  2. When documenting and implementing best practices, make sure that you have empirical metrics that denote that those practices do, in fact, stimulate behaviors that increase sales;
  3. Evaluate your sales training company’s methods for modification of educational programs;
  4. Stick with tailoring of your training provider’s content, assuming you’ve selected the right partner.

Number three is important. Some sales training organizations resist modification of their programs at all.  Some have a core set of learnings that are assembled and designed around a study of your organization’s best practices. Others have designed proprietary systems or methodologies for modifying course materials that are specifically designed to maximize the value of nomenclature tailoring, while minimizing the probability that the structural integrity of a course will be damaged by the customization effort.

My recommendation is this: Don’t make a snap decision on either a trainer or on your customization approach.  Do you have to spend all this time and effort figuring this out?  Only if you want to get it right.

Source:  The Value and Perils of Customized Training, an ESR/Insight™ Brief.

Photo credit: © bugman – Fotolia.com

Give Some Sales Advice! Get Your Name in Print!

My friend and colleague, Brian Lambert (ASTD Sales Training Drivers) is writing his third book titled 10 Steps to Successful Sales. It will be published by ASTD press in October 2009.

His new book targets brand new salespeople.  He is collecting 100 great quotes of advice for entry-level salespeople. He’s got a link that allows you to provide a short (25-75 word) gem of advice that will help any new salespeople get off to the right start in selling. For example, what one thing do you tell all new salespeople? What do you wish someone told you?

If he uses your piece of advice/quote, he’ll send you a copy of the book for free!

Submit your quote to Brian and to ASTD press by May 1st, 2009.

Webinar: Sales Training – The Independent Expert’s View

The TAS Group has invited me to deliver a complimentary webinar next Wednesday, April 8th, at 1:00 pm EDT.  During the webinar, I’ll be sharing ES Research Group’s latest findings about trends in sales training and sales training providers from ESR’s Sales Training Vendor Guide, Third Edition, which will be published next week.

  • How to get funding for sales training in a down economy.
  • What comes first, CRM system, Sales 2.0, or sales methodology?
  • Should you engage with a sales training provider, employ internal resources or wait until times get better?
  • Why classroom-based training isn’t getting the job done anymore.
  • How leading training companies are leveraging sales-enablement technology.
  • The 2009 ESR/Arena™—what is it and what value does it bring to companies seeking sales training solutions?

Please join me for this event.

My 2009 Word of The Year, So Far

One of my most-used words these days is “scrutinize.”  Merriam-Webster says it means to examine closely and minutely.”

At ESR, we find ourselves using the word fairly often:

  • VPs have been asking us about how to determine which sales reps to keep and which to redeploy.  In this current economic situation some of what salesreps depended on to win in the past will simply no longer work.  It’s the old, “the past does not equal the future.” We recommend scrutinizing past performance as well as all the reps’ strengths and weaknesses against the new set of required skills and traits. And we strongly recommend psychometric testing. It’s very effective objective scrutiny.

  • We know from work with our clients that business acumen is more important now in B2B selling than ever before.  Salesreps need to scrutinize their customers, clients and prospects.  (More about this and some disturbing data when ESR reports on the results of our social media in B2B sales survey, which closed today.)  By the way, I was recently briefed by Chip Terry, Vice President and General Manager Enterprise Solutions at ZoomInfo.  He demoed their product.  Within two minutes I could see how ZoomInfo can provide the breadth and depth of information about not only companies, but equally as important, people within those companies, on whom salesreps would be calling.)

  • Messaging.  How relevant are the messages your salespeople are delivering to your customers and sales prospects?  Those need to be scrutinized and relevance to what and how your customers are buying must be determined.

  • New approaches and tools.  I’ve written a lot about the new social media as well as Sales 2.0 (again here).  These are very hot topics. (Just the number and flavor of comments to these three blog posts will attest to that.)  ESR’s recommendation is to… You guessed it:  thoroughly scrutinize any new direction or investment with respect to either or both of these promising technologies. The time may be right.  But then again, it may not be.

  • Lead Generation and Lead Nurturing.  Brian Carroll (podcast) and I are working on a project together.  Just yesterday we were discussing the challenges most companies are facing these days in those challenged areas.  What’s required for many companies is significant scrutiny. Bring in experts if you need to.  Get the right one—someone like Brian perhaps—and it will be money well-spent.

  • Sales training.  I’m very concerned about the significant drop in sales training during the past quarter.  Sales training may be precisely the right area to scale back in certain companies.  But certainly not in all, or even most.  Again, here’s where some significant scrutiny will enable you to determine where to spend your limited funds so that you have the biggest chance of making it through this economic situation.

  • Here are a few more areas that should be targeted for some scrutiny: Territory assignments, compensation, coaching mechanisms, measurement and analytics, sales process, sales support and readiness.  The list goes on.

Photo credit: © Sandor Kacso – Fotolia.com

My Interview with SMT

I was recently interviewed by Lori Champion from SMT (The Professional Society for Sales & Marketing Training) as part of the ramp-up for their annual conference in Orlando October 14 – 16, 2009.  I’ll be keynoting at the event.  The topic will be Sales Excellence 2012: Overcoming Tough Obstacles,  Achieving Measurable Results.

Lori’s interview begins:

What do a CEO, a Trumpet player, a computer software programmer, a VP of Sales, and an expert in landing “very big contracts” have in common? They describe the background of one man and he is Dave Stein! Let’s add “Opening Key Note Speaker” to the list. He is, after all the Key Note for SMT’s 2009 annual conference in Orlando, Florida this October.

I had the privilege of sitting down and speaking with Dave about a week ago. I wanted to find out more about this very versatile CEO who will be addressing us this fall.

Dave Stein is the CEO and Founder of Massachusetts based ES Research Group, Inc. (ESR) which provides Gartner-style, independent advice about sales training programs, sales performance improvement tools and approaches. It also does  evaluations and comparisons of the companies that provide them.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Customized Sales Training

From ESR’s Sales Training Vendor Guide — Third Edition:

“Most buyers of sales training want a customized sales training experience. The question is, what categories of modifications are positive for their organizations and which limit the impact from the learning experience?

Universally, sales training companies claim that they will customize course materials.  But the buyer needs to understand what forms that customization takes. Customizing case studies, workshops, and examples can often enhance the learning experience for the student.  However one must be very careful requesting significant content changes to a course developed over many years by a reputable vendor. The tendency when making these changes is to modify the course so that it closely resembles the company’s current sales process. This works only if the current sales process is known to be effective.  We have found that only in rare occasions is that the case.”

What Do Diets And Sales Approaches Have In Common?

Last month the National Center for Health Statistics revealed that nearly 70 percent of Americans are overweight. Thirty-four percent of those people are not merely overweight—they are obese.

Do you think the silver bullet for all these people is the 231st diet? Probably not. What do you think the solution is? Take a look at the list below and see if you can draw any conclusions.

Now think about the dismal statistics relative to sales effectiveness. Is the newest trick, tip, or approach going to be the answer to your team’s selling problems? Probably not. What do you think the solution is?

  1. Abs Diet
  2. Acai Berry Diet
  3. Acid-Alkaline Diets
  4. Acne Diet
  5. ADHD Diet
  6. Anabolic Diet
  7. Anne Collins Weight Loss Program
  8. Anti-Aging Diet
  9. Anti Estrogenic Diet
  10. Apple Cider Vinegar Diet
  11. Arthritis Diet
  12. Atkins Diet
  13. Beck Diet
  14. Bernstein Diet
  15. Best Life Diet
  16. Beverly Hills Diet
  17. Biggest Loser Club
  18. Bikini Bootcamp
  19. Blood Type Diet
  20. Body Ecology Diet
  21. Body for Life
  22. Body Building Diet
  23. Brazilian Bikini Body Program
  24. Bread for Life Diet
  25. British Heart Foundation Diet
  26. Cabbage Soup Diet
  27. Calorie Restriction
  28. Cambridge Diet
  29. Candida
  30. Carbohydrate Addicts
  31. Cardio Free Diet
  32. Change One (Reader’s Digest)
  33. Children’s Diet Programs
  34. Chocolate Diet
  35. Cholesterol Lowering Diet
  36. Coconut Diet
  37. Cookie Diet
  38. CSIRO Diet
  39. DASH Diet
  40. Delivered Diets
  41. Detox Diets
  42. Diabetic Diet
  43. Diet Divas
  44. Diet Smart
  45. DietWatch
  46. Diuretics and Diet
  47. Diverticulitis Diet (also diverticulosis)
  48. The Dorm Room Diet
  49. Dr Amanda’s Don’t Go Hungry Diet
  50. Dr Bernstein Diet
  51. Dr Feingold Diet
  52. Dr Kushner’s Diet (Personality Diet)
  53. Dr Seigals Cookie Diet
  54. Duke Diet
  55. Eat Clean Diet
  56. Eating for Life (see Body for Life)
  57. Eat, Drink, Be Healthy
  58. Eating Mindfully
  59. Eat to Live
  60. eDiets
  61. Elimination Diets
  62. Every Other Day Diet
  63. F-Factor Diet
  64. F-Plan Diet
  65. Fad Diets
  66. Fast Food Diet
  67. Fat Burning Diet
  68. Fat Flush Diet
  69. Fat Loss 4 Idiots
  70. Fat Resistance Diet
  71. Fat Smash Diet
  72. Feingold Diet
  73. Flat Belly Diet
  74. Flavor Point Diet
  75. Food Doctor Diet
  76. Food Pyramids
  77. * USDA Food Guide Pyramid (1992)
  78. * USDA Food Guide Pyramid – MyPyramid (2005)
  79. * Mediterranean
  80. * Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid
  81. French Women Don’t Get Fat
  82. Frozen Food Diets
  83. Fruitarian (Fruit Diet)
  84. Fruit Flush
  85. Gain Weight Diet
  86. The Genotype Diet
  87. Gluten-Free Diet
  88. Glycemic Index Diets
  89. Glycemic Impact Diet
  90. Glycemic Load Diet
  91. Gotti Diet
  92. Gout Diet
  93. Grapefruit Diet
  94. Greenlane Diet
  95. Hallelujah Diet
  96. Hamptons Diet
  97. Herbalife Weight Loss Program (ShapeWorks)
  98. High Fiber Diet (and diverticulitis diet)
  99. High Protein Diets
  100. Hilton Head Metabolism Diet
  101. Hip and Thigh Diet
  102. Hollywood Diet
  103. Hot Latin Diet
  104. How The Rich Get Thin
  105. IBS Diet – High Fiber Approach
  106. IBS Diet – Low Starch Approach
  107. Idiot Proof Diet
  108. Israeli Army Diet
  109. Japanese Diet
  110. Jenny Craig
  111. Jerusalem Diet
  112. Jillian Michaels
  113. Juice Fasts
  114. Karl Lagerfeld Diet
  115. Ketogenic Diets
  116. Kids Diets
  117. LA Weight Loss
  118. Lactose Interolance
  119. Lemonade Diet
  120. Leptin Diets
  121. Lindora – Lean for Life
  122. Liquid Diets
  123. Liver Cleansing Diet
  124. Low Carb Diets
  125. Low Fat Diets
  126. Low Glycemic Diets
  127. Low Protein Diets
  128. Low Sodium Diet
  129. Low Starch Diet
  130. Lunch Box Diet
  131. Macrobiotic Diet
  132. Maker’s Diet
  133. Martha’s Vineyard Detox Diet
  134. Martini Diet
  135. Master Cleanser (see Lemonade Diet)
  136. Mayo Clinic Diet (fad diet NOT endorsed by The Mayo Clinic)
  137. Mayo Clinic Plan (officially in collaboration with eDiets.com)
  138. Medifast
  139. Mediterranean Diet
  140. MediterrAsian Way
  141. Michael Thurmond’s 6-Week Makeover
  142. MyPyramid (US Govt Diet Guidelines)
  143. Neanderthin
  144. Negative Calorie Diet
  145. New York Diet
  146. No Fad Diet
  147. No Flour, No Sugar Diet
  148. No Grain Diet
  149. NutriSystem
  150. Okinawa Diet
  151. Omega Diet
  152. On-line Diets
  153. Oprah Diet
  154. OPTIFAST Diet
  155. Ornish Diet
  156. Osteoporosis Diet
  157. Packaged Food Diets
  158. Paleo Diet
  159. Peanut Butter Diet
  160. Pen and Paper Diet
  161. Perricone Diet (Skin Care)
  162. Personality Type Diet
  163. Picture Perfect Weight Loss
  164. Pocket Diet
  165. Popular Diets
  166. Pregnancy Diet
  167. Pritikin Diet
  168. Prostate
  169. Protein Power
  170. Raw Food Diet
  171. Raw Food Diet: Eating in the Raw
  172. Raw Food Detox Diet
  173. Reverse Diet
  174. Rice Diet
  175. Rosedale Diet
  176. Sacred Heart diet
  177. Scarsdale Diet
  178. The Schwarzbein Principle
  179. Seattle Sutton
  180. Seven Day Diet
  181. ShapeWorks (Herbalife Weight Loss Program)
  182. Shangri-La Diet
  183. Shape Your Self
  184. Skinny Bitch
  185. Slim4Life
  186. Slim Fast
  187. Slimming World
  188. Sonoma Diet
  189. South Beach Diet
  190. South Beach Diet Supercharged
  191. SparkPeople
  192. Special K Diet
  193. Specific Carbohydrate Diet
  194. Stress Eater Diet
  195. Strip The Fat
  196. St. Tropez Diet
  197. Subway Diet
  198. Sugar Busters
  199. Sugar Solution
  200. Supermarket Diet
  201. Suzanne Somers Diet
  202. Teens and Kids Diets
  203. Thermogenic Weight Loss
  204. Three Day Diet
  205. Three Hour Diet
  206. UltraMetabolism plan
  207. Ultimate Tea Diet
  208. Ultimate Weight Loss Solution
  209. UltraSimple Diet
  210. USDA Food Guide Pyramid (1992)
  211. USDA Food Guide Pyramid – MyPyramid (2005)
  212. Vegetarian Diet
  213. Very Low Calorie Diets
  214. Volumetrics
  215. Warrior Diet
  216. Weight Loss Cure
  217. Weight Watchers
  218. Weight Loss 4 Idiots
  219. You Are What You Eat
  220. Zone Diet (ZonePerfect)
  221. 1200 Calorie Diet
  222. 21 Pounds in 21 Days
  223. 3 Day Diet
  224. 3 Hour Diet
  225. 4 Day Diet
  226. 5 Factor Diet
  227. 6 Day Body Makeover
  228. 6 Week Body Makeover
  229. 7 Day Diet
  230. 18 Pounds in 4 Days

Source of this diet list: http://www.everydiet.org/diets.htm
Photo credit: © Dave – Fotolia.com

Miller Heiman. What A Brand!

When it comes to marketing, Miller Heiman leads the pack.  I recently spoke with Elizabeth Vanneste, their Chief Marketing Officer. Elizabeth brought Miller Heiman into four telecommunications companies where she had previously worked. She joined the Miller Heiman team last June as a sales VP and took over marketing three months ago.

Elizabeth shared with me that her firm just added 15 sales consultants and kicked off a new partnership in India.  They have a new program, Securing Strategic Appointments, in which the participants learn, among other things, how to craft the right message, with valid business reasons, to meet with customer executives.  In addition, the program lays out specific plans for getting those critical appointments.  Elizabeth says there is a lot of interest in using these skills for selling to the government.

We talked about the economy and travel restrictions.  Miller Heiman has set up additional public sessions.  I wrote a post about public sales training sessions a while back.  They are, under certain circumstances, something to consider.

Elizabeth and I discussed technology as well.  According to Elizabeth, Miller Heiman has made significant progress with their e-learning offerings and their sales enablement tools that integrate with the top nine CRM systems (through White Springs).  Miller Heiman consultants are also now performing Blue Sheet reviews via webinars and conference calls, helping to keep their customers’ costs down.

Back to Miller Heiman’s marketing.  Miller Heiman’s brand equity is substantial.  That’s not only because they’ve been around for thirty years.  (Other training companies have been around that long or nearly that long.)  So far as sales training companies are concerned, Miller Heiman is predominant on the Web.  I’ve got Miller Heiman tagged in Google Alerts, as well as 40 or so other sales training companies.  There is no question that Miller Heiman significantly outnumbers the others with hits coming from blogs, articles, other companies’ websites (Hoover, for example), conference agendas, news, and other sources.

“Strategic Selling,” a trademarked Miller Heiman brand, is certainly widely recognized, but has become so often used generically, that it may not be connected to Miller Heiman as often as they would like.  This is similar to the issue that SPI has with their trademarked “Solution Selling.”

Miller Heiman’s leadership position in marketing isn’t something to take lightly.  After all, with the close relationship sales should have with marketing in most companies, a training company’s ability to market themselves effectively is a proof statement of an understanding of some of the most important issues, isn’t it?

Finally, this all may sound terrific to you if you’re searching out a sales training company. I can only warn you that selecting Miller Heiman or any other company based upon this or any other one-page write up is precisely the wrong thing to doESR’s Sales Training Vendor Guide, Third Edition, will be published later this month.  In the Guide, Miller Heiman and two dozen other providers are evaluated, compared and contrasted.

Disclosure:  Miller Heiman subscribes to ESR’s research.

Photo credit: DesignImage.com

8 Tips For Saving Money On Sales Training

Sales training is more important now than during any time I can remember.  I’ve written again and again about the right approach to training.  So long as you are following those guidelines, here are some tips to reduce the typical cost of sales training:

  1. Employ a blended-learning or distance-learning-only approach. Not every situation requires classroom training.  In fact, the trend among leading training companies is to move away from the standard instructor-led classroom training model.   Webinars, podcasts and conference calls, if part of a training strategy, can help keep costs down.  Some of the leading companies have very innovative and proven non-classroom sales training solutions.

  2. Consider weekend training.  If classroom training is called for, weekend training can help reduce airfare, the cost of conference rooms in hotels, and the “lost opportunity” cost of salespeople being out of their territories.

  3. Negotiate Fees.  If you’re serious about a strategic approach to training, vendors will appreciate that.  Some may be willing to work with you on fees for a long term commitment.  Note:  A number of vendors are having financial problems right now.  A number have scaled way back.  We expect several others to follow suit.  Make sure you understand the vendor’s financial viability to the extent that they will share it with you.

  4. Consider Train-the-Trainer. This approach works well for some companies but is absolutely the wrong thing for others.  If you have a trustworthy training partner, ask them to share the strengths and weaknesses of this approach for your situation.

  5. Don’t be cheap. Don’t go for the lowest cost company.  You get what you pay for.  And don’t negotiate a deal to the point the training company doesn’t make a fair profit.  You’ll both lose in the end.

  6. Don’t invest in training your company doesn’t need. Every training intervention should be preceded by a needs analysis.  What are your precise requirements?  Work with vendor in designing a curriculum to meet those and only those needs.

  7. Don’t skimp on learning reinforcement. Learning reinforcement is a critical component of your training investment, as is requirements definition.  Make sure you understand how your salespeople will be supported and coached so that real, measurable, and sustainable behavioral change will take place.  You won’t save money here, but you will increase your return on your investment if you take reinforcement seriously.

  8. Don’t assume bigger means better. Each of the big training companies is a perfect fit for some situations.  None of them are perfect for all situations.  Sometimes they are just to big to handle smaller, focused training interventions.  Or, if you run sales in a smaller company, a large vendor may not be appropriate.  ESR has found many smaller firms that deliver real value to their clients.  And they often come at a lower investment level.

(This list originated from an interview I did about buying sales training in Sales and Marketing Management magazine.)

Photo credit: © tasssd – Fotolia.com