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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


What’s Your Sales Strategy During This Recession?

Josh Gordon did a really nice job writing a white paper (registration required) on the results of a survey done by The Customer Collective.  Josh interviewed Jill Konrath, Denis Pombriant, David Bonnette and me.  Our observations and recommendations were incorporated into the piece.

It became clear with the first of the findings that many sales leaders are headed in the wrong direction. Thirty-eight percent of sales organizations are being directed to go after new categories of customers, with only 33% being directed to spend more time with core customers.  My comments on that statistic.

“First, during a recession many clients will ask, ‘Is the economic situation hitting our suppliers as badly as it’s hitting us?’ They are looking at risk right now, and are very concerned about doing business with suppliers who may not be viable; this is especially true of smaller suppliers. So, clients will tend to do business with companies that they have done business with before, where they feel a degree of security.

“Security issues aside, there is the practical matter of an organization’s ‘cost of sales.’ The calculations for bringing aboard a new customer versus selling to an existing one have been around for ages. It simply costs much less to sell to an existing customer. These basics do not disappear in a recession. Why pick an uphill battle at a time when sales are challenging and clients are pulling back? Why not use these same forces to your advantage? The key is having more products to sell to your existing client base. Besides developing new products, you can reconfigure others and pull back older ones that still have useful life in them.”

I recommend that you read about this and the other five findings in the white paper, look at the statistics, consider the opinions of the experts, then come up with a strategy for your team.

Photo credit: © Karen Struthers – Fotolia.com

CanDoGo: STaaS (Sales Tips as a Service)

Why can't all the experts agree?  I'm confused.

All the experts don't agree. I'm confused.

I’ve been speaking with Larry McClymonds, VP Corporate Sales & Co-Founder of CanDoGo.  Been in touch with his customers as well.

In case you’re not aware of CanDoGo, it’s an new Internet destination that hosts articles, audio and video clips from 140 sales expert content providers (and counting).   The list is impressive:  Dr. Tony Alessandra, Jim Cathcart, Paul McCord, Tony Parinello, Jonathan Farrington, Neil Rackham, Tom Hopkins, Lee Salz, Jill Konrath, Denis Waitley, Zig Ziglar, and many more.

CanDoGo’s user interface is solid.  You can search by topic or expert. There is plenty of content covering most topics that sales people would want or need coaching on.  If you key in “price is too high” or “too busy” selected 30 to 90-second, hard-hitting “insights” are listed that contain coaching to provide guidance for the salesrep.  Larry told me that they have 75 articles on dealing with voicemail alone.

I’ve taken a strong position with respect to sites, articles and books with sales tips.  Directing salespeople toward a buffet of tips (and tricks) as a sales performance improvement strategy rather than training them on the use of a specific sales methodology (followed by coaching them to assure the appropriate behavioral change is taking place) is generally not in their best interests.  In fact, in many cases, it prevents the company from building and executing a strategic approach to sales effectiveness. 

If “tips” are to be used at all, the best of them collected from books and websites should be formally integrated into a company’s overall sales approach during the design phase.  For example, we’ve worked with companies that had integrated Tony Parinello’s VITO approach into the cold-calling component of their overall sales approach. The same goes for Jill Konrath and other experts.

I think CanDoGo has a potential market, but it certainly isn’t for every salesperson or every company.  If you have an interest in other Sales 2.0-type coaching tools, see my posting on Avitage.

Note: If you’re interested in taking a deeper look into CanDoGo, and whether it’s right for your company, you can purchase today’s ESR/Insight™  Brief.* 

* I’m trying something new, here.  I’ve been very reluctant to sell on this blog.  After reading a terrific Chris Brogan post, I’ve decided to follow his advice.  Let me know what you think.

The Fragmented Sales Training Industry

I get calls periodically from private equity fund managers and other investment bankers about the demographics of the sales training industry.  Journalists I speak with are interested in it as well. 

What’s so noteworthy?  The degree of fragmentation of the sales training industry.  It’s certainly not the most fragmented.  Law firms are considerably more so, for example, with Baker & McKenzie topping the list at 3,300 or so lawyers.  Here’s a fact: 50% of the 1.14 million lawyers in the U.S. are practicing alone.

With lawyers, your requirements will determine which lawyer (or law firm) best matches your requirements.  Certainly defending Microsoft against a $1.3 billion fine levied by the European Commission isn’t a job for your average storefront lawyer.  And you don’t need a $750 per hour senior partner to incorporate your sole proprietor sales training business.  The same goes for buying sales consulting and training.

Think about it, though.  You’ve got AchieveGlobal at $100 million or so (even though they aren’t a pure-play sales training company).  Wilson comes in at around $60 million.  When you study at the top 25, as I do, it doesn’t take long before you understand you’re down in the single-digit millions.  And you’ve got many hundreds of one- and two-person shops who may be doing business now and then with some of the Fortune 500.

There are no 800-lb. gorillas in the sales training industry. No vendor has claimed that space, although several are pushing hard in that direction.  Continue reading

The Front of the Funnel

I had the opportunity to interview Jill Konrath last week for an ESR podcast. (Here is ESR’s list of podcasts.)

Most of the top tier sales training companies have little to say about how to fill the pipeline. They typically focus on sales opportunity and account management. If a company’s marketing department isn’t doing its job, salesreps are left to fend for themselves.

Jill has a real understanding of what it takes to gain access to decision makers. Her approach isn’t anything new, although she does present it in a unique way.

One of Jill’s main points was that the new generation of sales enablement tools can help salespeople achieve the relevance and immediacy required to capture the attention of a busy corporate executive.

There are a number of interesting perspectives found on the TAS Group’s Sales 2.0 Blog