• 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.

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
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.

Sales Playbooks

A few weeks ago the folks at Kadient briefed me on their approach and their sales performance improvement tools.  As you would expect, I posed the chicken-and-egg question with respect to what order a company should implement Kadient’s tools versus installing and implementing a sales methodology.  I liked their answers.

I picked up a tweet from Kadient’s Rich Berkman (@richberk) last week about a new guide they had just published, How to Create Killer Sales Playbooks: Four Steps for Designing Sales Playbooks that Win Deals.

Just from the title, I was immediately encouraged.  Here’s why:

  1. I believe in sales playbooks. I’ve used them and have recommended them to clients, who generally saw significant performance improvement;
  2. “Four Steps” represents process and sales leaders and sales people can often use a lot more of that;
  3. The guide is focused on winning deals.

I downloaded the guide and read through it.   These guys from Kadient get it.  Here’s a quote from the guide (with permission).  Highlights are mine:

Whether you decide to begin with a top-down or bottom-up approach, your playbooks should be aligned with your sales process.

“But, wait,” you say. “We don’t have a sales process!” This is a very common situation. Chances are that you do have some process or steps that define the stages of your sales cycle. Sales playbooks are an excellent organizational hub for defining them. Also, every organization has successful salespeople who are following their own processes.

If you don’t have a defined process, you can still get started quickly by defining a baseline set of sales stages and then using playbooks as your organizing tool for its development. Focus on mapping out your existing sales-to-buyer lifecycle or process. Some of the most successful playbooks have been those designed from a blank slate or ones in which it was decided that the sales process would be reinvented through the use of sales playbooks.

If you have a sales process (or multiple ones), align it with your customers’ buying cycle and create a map for your sales playbook. The goal is to stimulate a conversation between seller and buyer-the seller diagnosing the buyer’s needs and then providing the buyer with the right information at the right time.

In addition to directing salespeople to what they should do at each stage of the sales cycle, mapping will also identify specific activities that need to be completed to advance deals. This should illustrate how your sales teams engage with customers at every stage of the buying process.

You can download the guide here (registration required).  I highly recommend it.

Photo credit: © Sharpshot – Fotolia.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.)