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

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The Economy Is Down, So It’s Webinar Time!

I’ve delivered lots of webinars over the years, working with all the well-know providers and others as well.  With only two exceptions where the audio was lost for all the participants, I’ve had very good experiences.  That’s not by accident.  My content is always relevant to the audience, I rehearse, I’m facile with the technology, I understand the medium, and I always use a checklist to make certain I don’t forget something.

I’ve delivered a few webinars with Boston Conferencing.  They really impressed me with their professionalism, the quality of the technology, and their turnkey approach.  In fact, I’ve got a webinar coming up with FranklinCovey Sales Performance Group on Wednesday, March 11, 1:00 pm ET — Strategies For Getting Your Customers Through the Financial Crisis. (Disclosure: I’ll be delivering a webinar for pay with Boston Conferencing in July.)

So in these times of reduced travel, I asked Boston Conferencing President, Dave Will, to help us make better use of this medium.


Dave Stein: Web conferencing has been around for a decade or so. What’s changed in the past few years with respect to the technology?

Dave Will: Actually the biggest change has not been with the technology as much as with the integration into day to day business processes. A decade ago, very few organizations outside of the technology sector were using web conferencing. Even 2 – 3 years ago we found that a lot of organizations were still trying to identify if webinars were a worthwhile marketing/training tool. Now webinars are a line item in the budget. The decision has been made and the vast majority of organizations have incorporated them into their business. The question has changed from “should we do it” to “when and how do we get it done.” It is no longer a competitive advantage to run webinars. It’s a “must-have” in order to keep up.

But to answer the question more directly, web conferencing technology is doing a better job of streaming video and audio over the internet. It’s also come a long way in providing simple one-click entry to events. Webinars and Web Conferencing are no longer for the tech companies or the geeks. It’s a common tool in all organizations. One more change is that there are tons of small unknown software tools in the market that may or may not be good for business use. What has not changed is that the major “industrial-strength” conferencing tools are still Microsoft LiveMeeting and WebEx. Continue reading

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Let’s Get Real Or Let’s Not Play

Last July I was honored to be sent a final draft of Mahan Khalsa and Randy Illig’s revised and expanded edition of Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play.

Mahan and Randy are key members of FranklinCovey’s sales performance practice.  (Here is a podcast interview I did with Mahan.)

What is immediately significant about this book is its extreme richness—the product of four concurrent layers of considerable substance.

First, and perhaps the most important, is the underlying, immutable philosophy of seeking and handling the truth—the truth about our clients, our solutions, our sales opportunities, and the truth about ourselves.

The next layer is methodology. This is not like many books about selling, which are compendia of random tips and tricks. Here Mahan and Randy lay out the case for process and then employ one of their own to transport us efficiently through their content.

Then the “What you have to do” is layered throughout—clear, unambiguous guidance that takes us through the most difficult challenges we face as sellers.

Finally, the “How”—the words your client will say and how you might respond, powerful graphics that represent new concepts, and detailed checklists are examples.

Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play isn’t for the casual, opportunistic skill-and tip-skimmer who PLAYS at sales. It’s for those who need to get REAL about selling.

I highly recommend this book.

ESR’s 2008 Sales Training Arena

Click on the image for full size.  Do not make a sales training decision based solely on this chart.Each year ESR publishes its annual Sales Training Vendor Guide.

The 2008 Guide, which was published last December, compares and contrasts 19 leading sales training providers across many different capabilities such as depth and breadth of offering, program effectiveness, educational design, available customization, post-program reinforcement, learning technology support and measurement.

Although the 2008 Guide came in at 170 pages, the ESR/Arena (right) was, for many, the highlight of the report.  With appropriate deference to the Gartner Magic Quadrant, we designed the ESR/Arena to provide a quick, graphical perspective for those who would read the report.

We released a standalone copy of the ESR/Arena early in 2008. We found that some buyers of sales training were leaning toward making decisions about vendor selection based solely upon a single glance at the Arena.  We’re certainly delighted that they have that degree of trust in us, but that is precisely the wrong way to go about such a critical decision.

Selecting the right sales training company—the right way—is a process.  There are no shortcuts.  The foundation, and most critical component of the process, is a comprehensive assessment of the selling company’s situation.  I’m not talking about a quick, “The reps need training in cold-calling,” or “They need to get higher in the customer’s organization.”  Hundreds of millions of dollars a year are wasted on training based upon such short-sighted and matter-of-fact statements.  I know.  Performing postmortems on failed sales training interventions is part of what we do at ESR.  And now is a really bad time to spend money getting your people trained only to find that there has been no measurable improvement.

Now that I’ve offered that disclaimer you can take a look at the 2008 ESR/Arena. (Click on the graphic for full size.)  There are a few things for you to keep in mind:

  • This graphic is a year old.  A number of vendors have gone through changes during the past year.
  • There are eight additional vendors that ESR has included in our coverage that are not represented in the 2008 ESR/Arena.  (Here is a complete list.)
  • There are literally hundreds of other training firms, from one person to many, that could very well be the right one to meet your company’s training requirements.  Your perfect partner may very well not even be on this chart.
  • No single vendor that ESR covers is right for every company.  It’s your job, not theirs to make sure you’ve selected the right one.

ESR’s 2009 Sales Training Vendor Guide will be published early in the year.  It will include 26 vendors and considerably more information about training programs, CRM integration, Sales 2.0 technology, and other critical capabilities than previous Guides.

Making the Number: How to Use Sales Benchmarking to Drive Performance

I’ve been writing about measuring the impact of sales training for a while.  ESR published a report on the subject.  We know from our research that there is little to no measurement taking place—not by most sales trainers and not by their clients and customers.  This is one of the factors that is preventing the degree of sales performance improvement we should be seeing, based on the $6 billion or so a year that is being invested in sales training in the U.S. 

Opinions differ on the subject of measuring the impact of sales training.  For example, Charlie Green (Trusted Advisor Associates) is a sales expert whose work I respect and appreciate.  He wrote a post with a strong opinion that we should stop measuring ROI on soft skills training.  Although I agree with some of his points in the post, there are others with which I don’t agree.  Charlie writes:

“But what if I take one course in trust, and another in listening. Suppose my sales go up next year by 50%. Which course did it? Or did my company’s 70% growth have something to do with it? Or my happy new marriage? Too many variables.”

With the right measurement system in place—simple, few metrics, easily implemented and managed—one can, with considerable accuracy, determine the impact of both the program in trust and the other in listening. 

Enter Making the Number: How to Use Sales Benchmarking to Drive Performance by Greg Alexander, Aaron Bartels and Mike Drapeau, of Sales Benchmark Index.

Although we have different business models, ESR and SBI are quite aligned in our philosophies.  We both know that sales managers, as a whole, think of sales more as an art than a science.  And that gut instinct has no place in decision-making.  On the positive side, we both know that collecting, analyzing, and using the right data about sales team performance, in the right way, can make a substantial difference in sales effectiveness.

If you’re a sales manager who has decided that now is the time you are going to start running your sales operation more like a business, Making the Number is a terrific place to start.  But let me warn you.  It’s not a silver-bullet-of-the-week book.  Not by a long-shot.  This is serious, but powerful stuff. 

Greg, Mike and Aaron take the reader (presumably a sales manager or someone whose success in their job is based upon sales productivity, like a Sales Ops director) through pretty much all you need to know about sales benchmarking with a detailed and logical step-by-step process. 

The authors provide an insightful list of common objections to sales benchmarking, including “sales benchmarking is a fad,” “it isn’t worth the emotional cost,” “and it won’t really work.”  In fact the best counter to the “it won’t really work” objection is their case studies: Netsuite, Discover Financial Services, FranklinCovey, Covad Communications and Smart Modular Technologies.  If you’re skeptical, you might want to start reading the book there, and when you’re convinced that this is all real and doable, skip to the beginning.

I like this book.  I like what it represents—taking sales management more seriously, and what it can deliver—a proven path to measurable and ongoing sales performance improvement.

Disclosure:   SBI and ESR have an informal business relationship whereby we have each referred business to the other.

Changes at FranklinCovey Sales Performance Group

Note: This post replaces the one published earlier.

During the past several months there have been significant changes at FranklinCovey.  In May the company sold off its Consumer Solutions Business Unit.  The company is now focused on global consulting and training in the areas of strategy execution, customer loyalty, leadership and individual effectiveness.

The Sales Performance Group (SPG) has been reorganized into a fairly typical practice area.  ESR subscribers will remember that SPG earned one of the two top leadership positions among the 19 sales training providers evaluated in the 2008 Sales Training Vendor Guide.  (We will continue coverage in our upcoming 2009 Guide.)

SPG has a team of very talented and committed individuals.  Since 2006, when ESR began covering SPG, we felt that the group was underfunded (and underappreciated) by the FranklinCovey organization.  We scratched our heads wondering why that company-within-a-company wasn’t able to leverage the FranklinCovey brand.  That was our observation—not anything specifically conveyed to us by SPG. 

I spoke today with the Covey’s senior leadership team.  They were enthusiastic about the sales performance practice’s prospects going forward.  They described FranklinCovey’s broad restructuring of the business into practice areas. It makes a lot of sense.

The sales performance practice (formerly SPG) is transitioning into the mainstream of the company.  Their sales performance solutions will be sold through the FranklinCovey salesforce worldwide. (There are 70 sales people in the U.S.—plus twice as many internationally, counting partners.  That’s a hefty sales force as compared to many of the other players.) 

As I understand FranklinCovey’s new approach, I see the end customer benefitting.  They will now have a salesperson calling on them with a portfolio of solutions to potentially address multiple challenges and opportunities, rather than just one.  Those salespeople will have practice specialists available as resources and backup during the sales effort.

FranklinCovey is serious about growing their sales effectiveness practice.  They’ll be investing in marketing and in the specific areas of development that ESR has highlighted as critical for a sales performance improvement provider to meet the requirements of their customers going forward. 

SPG was underleveraged.  Now, after this restructuring, the sales effectiveness practice has an already-effective distribution system.  With a brand-new marketing budget and funding for product development, they are determined to keep their position in the upper right-hand corner of ESR’s Sales Training Arena.

Coaching Sales People

Name one professional athelete that doesn't have a coach.

Quiz: Name one professional athelete that doesn't have a coach.

Coaching is the component of a sales effectiveness initiative that is most often sacrificed when costs must be contained.  (More accurately, coaching workshops and post-program reinforcement for first-line sales managers are what gets cut.)  Considering that coaching is the most important single mechanism for reinforcing and sustaining the impact of learning, this is a big problem. 

During a podcast interview I recorded Tuesday with Barry Trailer, partner with CSO Insights, the subject of coaching came up.  Barry feels as strongly about the subject as I do.  He considers getting a coach to be the first step on the path to sales mastery.  Both Barry and I have had coaches during our careers.  We agreed that if a salesperson is serious about selling as a lifetime career, then hiring a coach on their own, if their company won’t provide one, is mandatory.

Coaching is a skill.  It can be learned. The impact of coaching on an individual salesrep’s performance can and should be measured.  In my view coaching is a required capability for a sales manager.  It’s right up there in importance with hiring.  HR Chally’s The 2007 Chally World Class Sales Excellence Research Report  states, “World class sales forces implement processes and measurements to make coaching a top priority.” Continue reading