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Powering Through The Economic Crisis

You may have noticed that I’ve been posting less frequently during the past two weeks.  ESR is in the midst of a number of projects and new initiatives.  In addition, I’ve been on an increasing number of phone calls with clients, prospects, vendors, sales training associations’ leadership, and business associates.

I wrote Here’s What’s Going On two weeks ago.  There has been lots of activity (and some productivity, as well!) since then.

Here are some points, observations, and opinions I’ve taken from my activities over the past few weeks:

  1. I read all the news.  I understand the economic situation.  But deals are getting done.  Four of ESR’s clients I spoke with yesterday are cautiously optimistic about their Q1 numbers. They’re winning business.  A few others are struggling.  But the point is, there is still business going on.

  2. At the moment, ESR believes sales training will be down twenty or more percent in 2009.  If we don’t hit bottom and come out the other end of this situation soon, that number could go down much further.  That’s bad news for a lot of reasons.

  3. As a result of the slowdown in training, many of the sales training companies we cover have been hit hard.  They’ve significantly reduced their staffs and slowed or stopped development.  If you’re engaging with a sales training company, you really need to understand their current financial situation.  ESR isn’t interested in advertising which firms are having trouble.  But we do guide our clients in the right direction, helping them figure out how to mitigate any associated risks.

  4. We’ve convinced a number of our clients to redeploy salespeople who aren’t suited for the sales positions they hold.  By that I mean performing a comprehensive assessment of their past and current performance, their skills, traits and behaviors against what is required to comply with and execute their selling process.  Relative to that, I recently did a briefing call with DDI.  They’re a leader in the talent management and assessment area.  I’ve written about PIWorldwide as well.  HR Chally is another solid alternative.  Now, more than ever, every company, even the smallest, needs to have a talent management/assessment firm partner with a sales specialty.

  5. Under Brian Lambert’s leadership, ASTD is making significant progress in the sales training discipline.  Brian has a lot to offer the industry. I sit on the ASTD sales training committee along with a number of very experienced and professional consultants, trainers and practitioners.  (Al Case, ESR’s Principal Analyst, and I will be presenting at ASTD’s Conference in June.  The subject:  How to Measure Sales Performance Improvement.)

  6. We’ve had a record number of inquiries come in during the past month from people charged with driving sales training initiatives within their companies.  The common theme is that they have to “get it right this time. ”  They can’t waste any more money on ineffective training and, with this economy, they’ve got to get their salespeople bringing in as much business as possible.  Even with overall sales training down, this is encouraging.  Several of those people are charged with moving their companies from positions of commodity to value providers.  A bit late for that, but better late than never.

  7. With the last point in mind, Irish sales trainer, coach and consultant Niall Devitt wrote a post this week that describes precisely how sales leaders go about buying sales training the wrong way.  The post, entitled Need Sales Training? Let’s Sit Down and Talk About It is well worth reading.   Niall sets an example for sales trainers as well.  I commend him on his understanding of how sales performance improvement should be approached and his integrity for not folding, even with money on the table during these tough times.

  8. Louise Leonard, program manager for The Dublin Institute of Technology and Enterprise Ireland’s International Selling Programme, sent me a list of sales-related concerns expressed by the sales executives and CEOs who are participating in the program.  I’ll be addressing many of them during upcoming two-week, five-seminar trip to Ireland.  Although Ireland is plowing through their own set of economy-related challenges, the International Selling Programme has  a record number of participants this year.  Better attendance at each of the sessions as well.  This program is a seriously good place for Irish companies to be investing their money.

Photo: © 2004 Dave Stein — MacGregor Powering Through a Summer Day

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The Care, Feeding (and Training) of Salespeople

Brian Lambert of ASTD hosted a webinar this week where I presented The Care, Feeding (and Training) of Salespeople.  It’s targeted at learning and training organizations leaders and managers.

Registration will get you access to an archive of the event.

Beware of White Paper Propaganda

White papers serve a function: to position a vendor’s assessment of opportunities or challenges faced by their target market and serve up that vendor’s products or services as solutions.  In most cases, white papers are marketing documents rather than the unbiased analyses they appear to be.  (There are exceptions, including the white paper recently published by ASTD.)Be careful!

What about the research quoted in white papers?  What I question is what isn’t included in the white paper, not what is.  For example, one white paper I read states that companies that have adopted the vendor’s cold-calling technique have averaged 28% more qualified leads than they had previously.  What they don’t talk about is alternative methods of generating leads, some of which might deliver significantly more value to the customer.  I want to be clear.  I don’t expect a vendor to talk about other options or their competitors.  Their job is to convince you to see they world the way they do, so they can sell you something. Continue reading

Selling With Competence

I’ve written and spoken alot about the subject of the fitness of salespeople with respect to their jobs.ASTD Whitepaper.  Click to download.

Brian Lambert, who is both the Chairman of the United Professional Sales Association, and Director, Sales Development & Performance for ASTD, invited me to contribute to a whitepaper on the subject of salesperson competency.  (In fact I’m a member of an ASTD advisory committee doing some extensive work in this area.)

Here are a few of the areas covered:

  • Buyer expectations
  • Sales development analysis
  • Recent environmental and technology changes influencing successful selling

I strongly recommend that you read this whitepaper.