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    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.

Complimentary Sales Performance Optimization Report Offer

Jim Dickie and Barry Trailer, our colleagues over at CSO Insights, are currently in the process of launching their 15th annual Sales Performance Optimization study, the past results from which have been regularly featured in Harvard Business Review, Business Week, Entrepreneur Magazine, Selling Power Magazine, Inc., CRM Magazine, etc.  We at ES Research have also presented some of their key findings in our articles.  In fact, we have a feature article in the November/December issue of Sales and Marketing Management magazine, where we make specific recommendations based upon the results of their current report.

As we feel this information is very valuable to sales and marketing executives, we would like to invite you to take part in the CSO Insights new survey and in return be able to tap into the insights of your peers to optimize the performance of your organization when the new 200+ page report is published in January, 2009.

In appreciation for taking part in this study, you will:

  • Be able to access CSO Insights’ new reports on Sales 2.0: Hype, Hope, or Happening upon completing the survey.
  • Receive the 2008 Lead Generation Optimization report; highlighting the areas where companies are achieving the best ROI from their lead generation investments, sent to your email address.
  • Receive a complimentary copy the full 2009 Sales Performance Optimization report from CSO Insights when it is released early next year.

To take part in this project click on the following:  CSO Insights 2009 Sales Performance Study Link

Questions on this survey can be directed to Kim Cameron, Executive Director of Research, CSO Insights: kim.cameron@csoinsights.com.

Should You Trust Sponsored Research?

Real insight or just propaganda?

Authentic and balanced insight or just plain propaganda?

I wrote a post a while back about white papers.  I said, “In most cases, white papers are marketing documents rather than the unbiased analyses they appear to be.”

The same can be said for a subset of marketing collateral labeled “Sponsored Research.”

There are three prominent flavors of non-academic, sponsored research:

  1. Legitimate sponsored research.  A corporation (or more than one) funds some or all of an independent research project.  The research is sound and not manipulated or skewed in any way.  The funding entity benefits by having a quality fulfillment piece to drive targeted visitors to their site.  The research firm gets their project funded and has that research distributed by a company with presumably a much larger audience. An example of this is Salesforce.com and Kadient’s sponsorship (along with other entities) of CSO Insight’s annual research report. 

  2. Sponsored research about a vendor.  A vendor pays a research firm to write a report that positions the vendor in an advantageous position versus their competitors.  Unfortunately this is a common practice in the IT industry and is growing in other industries as well. The problem, of course, is that the reader assumes that the research was done by an independent research organization, considers what is said in the report as fact, and then makes decisions based upon what they learned. 

  3. White papers positioned as research reports. The functions of a vendor-written white paper and a research report (presumed to be written by an independent authority) have been deliberately blended for the very purpose of manipulating the opinions of prospective buyers.  Take for example this page.  The URL is findwhitepapers.com. The title of the webpage is “Technology Research for Business Professionals.”  The heading on the page says “Popular Research Reports.”  I didn’t look at every page, but the ones I did have vendor-written white papers exclusively.  It’s self-serving propaganda.  Nothing more, nothing less. 

On the other hand, some firms won’t play the game.  Burton Group, a technology research firm has this on their site:

“Since our founding in 1990, we have not published vendor-sponsored research of any kind. We cover relevant vendors and products without regard for vendors’ subscription to our services. We maintain complete independence from vendor agendas, providing unbiased assessments of markets, vendors, and products…”

Several years ago, Forrester Research announced that they would no longer perform vendor-sponsored research. 

My warning to you:  If you are in the market for sales training, sales consulting, or technology-enabled selling tools, and you are reading whatever you can get your hands on to help with your decision, make sure you understand 1) who wrote the piece, 2) what they are selling, and most importantly, 3) if the information that is presented is independent of any vendor’s agenda.

(Full disclosure: My firm, ES Research Group, independently evaluates sales performance improvement programs and tools as well as the vendors that provide them.)

Analysts Are Optimistic About CRM – I’m Not.

Help me through this logic, please.

Help me through this logic, please.

Ann All (with ITBusinessEdge.com) posted an entry in her blog today about the optimistic outlook for CRM sales.  She wrote, “Datamonitor, KensingtonHouse, CSO Insights and Gartner are among the companies with an optimistic outlook on CRM.”  She then added AMR Research to the list.

I won’t dispute the prediction. 

What I will say is that progress is painfully slow with respect to CRM meeting the requirements of salespeople.  Help me through this logic, please: 

  • CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, right? 
  • Sales, Customer Care, Marketing and Finance managers all need their reports from the CRM system to do their jobs managing customers, right?
  • Who inputs a fair amount, if not most of the data?  Salespeople, right? 
  • They have to be prodded, threatened, incentivized and shamed into keeping their information up to date, right?
  • Follow me on this, please.  If the salespeople don’t sell anything, there aren’t going to be customers and customer relationships for a CRM system to manage, right?
  • So, why isn’t there anything in it for the salespeople?  In fact, don’t most of your salespeople use your company’s CRM system for little more than basic contact management? 
  • So why does the task of keeping the CRM system up to date at the expense of their selling time make any sense at all? 
  • Why don’t the CRM companies design systems help salespeople sell more?  Because salespeople aren’t their customers.  Management is.

What we need is more companies like White Springs and The TAS Group that understand the size and the impact of the CRM problem and are providing solutions.  And we also need CRM companies to start adding capabilities that will contribute to, rather than hinder, a sales person’s ability to sell.  When that happens I guess we should call it CRM 2.0.

What’s Wrong With Articles Containing Sales Tips?

How many sales people do you think regularly seek out tips about selling on websites, in magazines, books, newsletters, etc.?  ESR\'s Sales Performance Solutions Continuum (c) ESRWe have not done any research on this (if someone has, let me know), but I would expect the answer is: “a lot.”

What’s wrong with it?  Same answer: a lot.

Here’s why.  Many salespeople think that these tips (almost all of them are tactics) are all they need to win.  Read enough articles and books and grab enough of these skills, they think, and they’ll never lose another deal.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think that many of the hundreds of sales experts out there have something valuable to say.  (I certainly felt that way when I wrote How Winners Sell, as well as a hundred or so articles.)  Sure, some have copied what others have done before them and represented that as their own.  And sales tips that other so-called experts are writing or speaking about have been proved ineffective years ago.  But all in all, I’m not questioning the advice.  That’s not the issue. Continue reading