• 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.

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I’m Presenting At The Sales 2.0 Conference In Boston. Join Me.

boston_7000_feet3I’m delighted to be both presenting and participating in a panel discussion at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston on May 21st.

Using recent research from ESR’s Sales Training Vendor Guide, I’ll talk specifically about technology-enabled learning—how technology is changing learning and why today, effective sales learning requires technology.

I’ve not been shy in voicing my concerns about the some of the hype and lofty expectations around Sales 2.0 and the distraction that it causes for some of our client companies struggling through the kinds of sales challenges that Sales 2.0 approaches and tools can’t immediately overcome.

At the same time substantive progress is being made on the technology front.  ESR has given credit to those companies who are making real contributions to sales effectiveness through technology-enabled learning and technology-enabled selling—companies like Kadient, Richardson, The TAS Group, SPI, Holden, White Springs, Primary Intelligence, The Brooks Group, Miller Heiman, LinkedIn, ZoomInfo, Jigsaw, Lucidera, and many more.

As a researcher and analyst, I’ll be in learning mode at the conference as well.  I’m looking forward to understanding more about the approaches and solutions of the companies presenting and sponsoring this event, and learning from those sales leaders who will be attending it.  Please introduce yourselves to me.

Hope to see you there.  If you can’t attend, I’ll keep you informed through Twitter.


Photo credit:  (c) 2008 Dave Stein — Boston from 7000 feet
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Donate $25 or more to the human rights charity Witness.org, email your receipt to me,
and I’ll send you the full-size jpg of this photo.  dave.stein @ ESResearch.com
Make sure your credit card number is not on the receipt, please.

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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.

You Won’t Believe What’s New In Sales Training!

For those of you who follow the ups and downs, ins and outs of the sales training industry, here is the latest, as of today, April 1, 2009:

  • Miller Heiman and furniture manufacturer Herman Miller have announced a merger.  The new business, to be called Herman Miller Heiman, will be offering a new, upgraded version of their highly popular Aeron chair.  It will be called The Silver Bullet™. Preliminary tests show that within two minutes of  a salesperson sitting in the chair (seen on the right), the phone starts ringing with people wanting to buy whatever they are selling, immediately, at any price.  An HMH spokesperson called the new chair, “The Silver Bullet that sales people have been waiting for.”

  • Huthwaite, Inc. has announced a new program called S.P.I.N. Stalling. Originally developed with cooperation of Procrastinators International, program participants will learn about the psychology of stalling and how best to strong-arm a reluctant customer into buying something—anything!  By the way, the 25-year-old Procrastinators International has still not scheduled their first membership meeting.

  • The TAS Group revealed this week that they have expanded their vision of the role technology will play in sales effectiveness and have decided to acquire Garmin, GE, and The Gap.  York Baur, The TAS Group’s CMO said, “We’re taking anytime, anywhere learning to the next logical level.  You’ll be able to get our content, learning, coaching as well as instant guidance on your deals directly, without a computer or PDA, from your Nüvi, your toaster and even your jeans.”  Baur continues, “By 2011 we’ll be licensing a TAS-chip which will be implanted just behind the left ear in a painless three-minute procedure.”   The TAS Group is negotiating with Seattle’s SEA-TAC airport to have its distance-learning video clips play 24/7 on televisions throughout the airport.

  • Selling to Big Companies author Jill Konrath told us she is increasing her productivity level for the remainder of 2009.  Each and every week she will be delivering five webinars, four videos, three white papers, two blog posts and a book for all of us to read.

  • The U.S. Congress is about to commence an investigation of why dozens of randomly selected sales trainers all have the same companies listed as references on their websites.  The CEOs from Oracle, Dell, IBM, Cisco, HP, Microsoft, Sun, and other technology companies are expected to testify next week as to who their sales training partners really are.

  • After almost a century of heated debate, two age-old questions have finally been answered unequivocally, once and for all:  “Are salespeople are born or made?” and, “Is sales art or science?”  Now we can move on to other questions such as, is cold-calling dead?

  • Fifty-three purchasing agents from New York City-based multinationals have been granted licenses to carry assault rifles.  They had claimed that during the current economic crisis, sales reps from New York have been even more threatening than before.  Mr. Blake, the New York chapter representative from SPA—the Sales Professionals of America—was outraged.  “If those #^%!@# buyers think they can threaten our &%$@#@$ members with AK-47’s and !#¢Æ§  Uzi’s, they can @!(*(*&@#.  And the horse they rode in on.”

  • Sales legend Rick Page was overheard in the Hartsfield airport in Atlanta saying,  “I really do hope I catch my flight.”

  • The next release of Salesforce.com will include an interface to activity sensor mini-applications on salesreps’ computers. If the salesrep is active on their computer but does not update the required data, Salesforce.com blocks access to MySpace.com, Facebook.com, YouTube.com, Ebay.com, Zillo.com, Meebo.com, Friendster.com, Orkut.com,  AdultFriendFinder.com, and Zappos.com  for 30 days.  Russian hackers are already selling software to bypass the restriction.

  • LinkedIn estimates that the number of sales-related groups on their site will top 1,000 by mid-year.  That will be close to one-half the number of sales-related blogs ESR expects to be live by that time.

  • In Silicon Valley, more than 10,000 out-of-work salespeople  paid $100 each to download a document entitled One Hundred Foolproof Ways to Hide Gaps in Your Resume. Another site was discovered last week already boasting 12,000 downloads of, How to Enlist Estranged Family Members As References.  You may remember that just one year ago today the video, How to Forge a W-2 and Other Income Verification Documentation surfaced on YouTube.  There have been more than one millions views.

  • With promotional webinar attendance down in 2009, WebEx is recommending that companies prospecting for customers pay them for attending the one-hour webinars.  A senior executive at WebEx said, “If you pay them, they will come.”

  • Following a number of snarking incidents Robin Fray Carey of SocialMediaToday.com has decided to change the name of The Customer Collective to the more appropriate The Customer Invective.

  • Well-respected, prolific, and seriously dapper UK sales top sales expert Jonathan Farrington has some explaining to do.  He recently dropped his signature eyeglasses whilst at London’s Heathrow airport, Terminal 1.  Coincidentally, a local ophthalmologist happened to be standing there, recovered the glasses and, after a moment’s inspection, noted that the lenses were, in fact, clear glass.

  • The Harvard and Stanford Business Schools announced today that they will be offering fully accredited Masters of Professional Selling degrees beginning in 2012.  Harvard’s Chancellor I. Kangettitforu Holsael said, “We’re thirty years behind the times.  With more than 7 million salespeople in the U.S. alone, and sales productivity at an all time low, we are taking a bold step.  We want our B-school to be relevant to the business community. Sales is not marketing.  It finally needs to be respected and supported.”

  • Immediately following the Obama administration’s announcement this morning of an investigation of plagiarism and pirating among sales trainers, as many as thirty popular sales tips websites were taken down, with “Under Construction” showing up on home pages.

  • A recent survey of eBay sales shows that a sales training shingle can be purchased for as little as $3.00.  Clever names for new sales approaches have leveled off at $1.03.  Names using acronyms are going for a dollar more.

  • Responding to the financial crisis, IBM issued new guidelines.  Their coveted top performer sales award club will be held at the Admiral’s Club at O’Hare airport later this month.  Each attendee will be given a voucher for a meal at the food court.  Tickets for short-term parking will be validated.

  • Social media advocate Axel Schultze announced today that he is upgrading his dial-up modem. “Present technology supports considerably faster communication.  1200 baud just doesn’t do it for me.  I know if I move to 9600 baud, everyone will quickly follow.”  You may remember that Axel was in the news last month after having convinced senior executives at Wal-Mart to have all their in-store sales associates spend 50% of their time at work on Twitter to prospect for additional business.

  • The interest around Sales 2.0 is expected to continue gather momentum.  The term has proved to be such a money maker for some, that Chrysler, who owns the Jeep brand, is making a Sales 2.0 model of their venerable Wrangler, in an attempt to duplicate the success of their Eddie Bauer model.  Celebrity Cruise lines is even considering a four week “Sales 2.0 Cruise to Nowhere.”

Thanks to Jonathan Farrington for his early opinion this post, with his real glasses.
My sincere respect and appreciation for many Sales 2.0 vendors and, especially, Nigel Edelshein.
Photo credit:  Herman Miller Heiman

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

Sales 2.0: Does It Enable Effective Selling Or Is It Yet Another Decoy?

As ESR continues to work with our clients, observe salespeople and research sales effectiveness, we’re frustrated and concerned with the increasing hype around Sales 2.0.

Is Sales 2.0 real?  Yes.  Are Sales 2.0 applications actually helping salespeople to win business? Yes.  There is no question about that.  But we believe in numbers significantly less than some would have you believe.  I expect the Sales 2.0 vendors will be all over me about this.  Yes, I know they can provide compelling case studies, references and testimonials.  The issue is much broader and quite serious.

Before I go any further, I want to acknowledge that there are highly effective sales enablement (Sales 2.0) apps on the market.  What immediately comes to mind are those of some of the leading sales training companies: The TAS Group with their Dealmaker and TAS:Pedia (we saw an exciting demo of new releases last week) and the effective technology implementations of a number of other sales methodologies by White Springs.

ESR knows that the sales methodology and the processes upon which it is built should be the backbone of a company’s sales approach.  Significant research bears this out.  Get that methodology thing right, provide all the support, training and coaching and get all your salespeople following it (with the requisite flexibility for differing situations, of course), and you are taking one of the most important strategic actions that determines sales success.  Automate it and you’re doing even better.  That’s what some of the leading training companies are accomplishing.  They’re helping companies improve sales performance by getting them to employ a process.  Then they’re automating the process to make salespeople more effective and efficient.  It works considerably more often than not, and in the world of B2B selling, that’s an accomplishment.

Here’s my concern: Sales 2.0 vendors are pushing hard, claiming that their software applications will solve specific selling problems.  Many of the vendors are right, but—here’s the thing—if the sales leaders who are considering investing in those apps don’t have their team lined up and fully compliant with the consistent execution of a sales process, with training, coaching and metrics in place, they will more likely compound the problem than fix it.  That’s what happened with CRM years ago.  Many of us saw it promoted as a paradigm-changing fix for most sales ills.  CRM’s big problem, was (is?) that there was nothing in it for the salesperson, and that’s why compliance was (and still is, in many cases) so low.  For many companies, CRM served to make the situation worse, not better.  It kept sales management from focusing on the real issues.  It was a decoy!

Will sales problems get compounded with the purchase of a few cool Sales 2.0 tools?  It’s like my problem with sales tips.  Allowing sales people to spend time seeking out and using random tips from unapproved (and sometimes incompetent) sources takes everyone’s attention off the real issue—no process!—and the lack of discipline to build one and follow one.  Sales 2.0 has become the new silver bullet—this year’s universal elixir to solve a company’s selling problems.  In those cases, Sales 2.0 may provide some value, granted, but with a steep price: it becomes a distraction from what really has to be done.  By the way, I spent better part of a week struggling to make the same decoy argument about the current state of social media with respect to B2B sales

Here’s an example of how a solid Sales 2.0 application can turn out to be a broken promise: There are some terrific sales analytics packages out there.  But what good are analytics if a company doesn’t have a documented and fully-complied with sales process?  What will happen when leading indicators show a bunch of deals are slowing down?  What will managers coach reps on?  How they themselves won business years ago?  Those managers should be coaching the rep on how the rep can better comply with the pre-established sales process—on what specific behaviors the rep must improve so they can effectively execute the process and move the deal along.  We have worked with companies that have installed analytics tools and the results were precisely as I described.  Lots of data, but no standard operating procedure for fixing the situation.

Another example would be Sales 2.0 lead generation tools.  There are some really good, innovative ones out there.  Sexy as hell.  So what happens when a sales rep uses one of these and winds up with some really good prospects and the rep can’t advance the sale from that point to closure because they don’t have the skills, proven path, tools and support to get that done?  I hope you get my point.

So here is my recommendation.  If you get all charged up about a Sales 2.0 tool that you think will help your sales team sell more stuff, faster and for bigger dollars, map the application onto the backbone of your overall sales process.  If you don’t have a sales process, stop right there.  That’s what you need to do first.  It’s not sexy, it’s not fun, it takes time, thought, focus and you’ll find every excuse not to do it.  But the research says it’s what you have to do.

Bottom line: If you want a real boost in sales effectiveness, get your selling methodology and process built, train your people on its use and support them in their effort.  Automate it all, if you like.

Then, and only then, when that’s ticking nicely along, and you can measure progress, start layering in the Sales 2.0 applications that will have the biggest bang for the buck.  Then you’ll really get some value out of Sales 2.0.

Let me hear from you.  Do you think a solid, complied-with sales process is the backbone upon which Sales 2.0 applications must be layered?  Or not?

Photo credit: © Valeriy Aksak – Fotolia.com