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  • 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,
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Sales Training And Travel Budget Cuts

Click on the image for full size.In my post yesterday I wrote about how sales training companies are faring during this economic crisis.  Some are doing well.  Others less so.

An area of considerable concern to those companies that are investing in sales performance improvement is the cost of travel.  This is yet another area where the traditional hotel conference room training session falls short.

Some of the vendors that have strong technology-enabled learning offerings are in a much better position (all other capabilities being equal) to service those travel-curtailed sales teams.

York Baur, CMO of The TAS Group, provided me with the attached slide, which was part of a recent webinar on the subject of the virtual delivery of “sales success.”  The TAS Group*, along with Richardson*, SPI*, Sandler Training, and others have been investing in non-traditional learning delivery platforms.

If you’ve had to cut back on travel, you aren’t alone.  Back in October, SAP saw the handwriting on the wall, and froze travel as well as other expenses as outlined in this internal email:

* Travel: “Cease ALL internal non-customer-facing travel in October…Any non-customer-facing travel already booked should be canceled immediately, even if this incurs penalties.” SAP sales people will also have to fly coach from now on unless they use miles to upgrade.

“…Until further notice, all external training is to be canceled…”


What’s my message here?  Sales effectiveness initiatives mustn’t stop now.  If you’re engaged with a vendor that already has virtual learning delivery capabilities, work with that vendor on cost-effective interventions to take advantage of the situation.  If your vendor doesn’t have these capabilities, first ask them why they don’t!  Then, work with them to find tactical ways to deliver the required learning and reinforcement to keep your sales coming in.  That could be one-on-one phone coaching, targeted webinars, podcasts, etc.  If the vendor doesn’t jump at the chance, find another vendor.

* Disclosure:  These sales effectiveness solution providers subscribe to ESR’s research.

Technology-Driven Sales Learning At Cisco

Click on image for full sizeSuzanne McLarnon, Director of Worldwide Sales Force Development at Cisco, presented at Richardson’s 2008 Client Forum in late October. 

Suzanne’s topic was Using Technology To Drive Sales Force Performance.  Suzanne’s mission at Cisco isn’t trivial.  Cisco’s sales force is a huge global community, consisting of 17,000 sales professionals and over 200,000 partners, and, as you can imagine, it’s not a homogeneous workforce.  Suzanne knows she has to make learning consumable for the community—any time, any place.

Among Suzanne’s many insightful slides, there are two I want to draw your attention to.  The first, “The Workforce Spans Four Generations of Learners,” is by itself a strong argument to reconsider traditional two- to three-day classroom training programs.  I delved into this subject before, including in a podcast with Cam Marston.

Attempting to provide a multi-generational (and heterogeneous in culture and experience) audience with the same content, presented in the same way, with the same learning expectations is generally not going to work.  (Click on the image to view it full-size.)

That challenge, along with others, such as the increasing sophistication of customer needs, the rapid pace of availability of new products, services and solutions and expanding global and mobile field sales forces require a change in learning that only technology can support.  Cisco’s learning strategy, developed by Suzanne, calls for them to open the aperture for learning while orienting it around exemplar performance.

Click on image for full size.Here are the critical characteristics of The Learning Strategy:

Consumable:  Sellers need answers at the moment of need.  The need for just-in-time information for Cisco sellers has resulted in a web service that provides search capability of content down to the presenter’s spoken word.  Today that service hosts more than 7,000 presentations, with more than 380,000 downloads/year, and usage across 95% of their global System Engineers.

Collaborative: Jay Cross at the Internet Time Group said, “It is more practical to think of learning as tuning our human networks to the problem at hand as opposed to filling our head with content.”  At the moment, Cisco has 74 “Communities of Experts” with a total of 3,000 members.  In addition, Cisco’s virtual classrooms and virtual interaction facilities save money and insure consistent experience among learners.

Immersive:  Suzanne quotes Roger Shank: “The human mind is better equipped to gather information about the world by operating within it than by reading about it, hearing lectures on it, or studying abstract models of it.”  Sales simulation and support desk simulation are two immersive platforms that have sped up the onboarding process.

Hopefully before long, the word “traditional” will no longer be associated with sales learning. 

Thanks to Suzanne McLarnon for permission to use her content.

Richardson Client Forum 2008

This morning I delivered the keynote speech at Richardson’s 2008 Client Forum at the Sofitel in downtown Philadelphia.  I was honored to have been provided the opportunity to address their personnel, their clients and a few important business partners.  Richardson is a company that continues to be a leader in the sales training arena. 

Linda Richardson herself is someone that I’ve respected for many years—long before I founded ESR.  She’s oozes experience and insight, is a wonderful communicator and a charming person.  If you haven’t read any of her books, you should.  Start with Perfect Selling to get an idea how she and her company think about selling. 

Linda has built a solid team.  David DiStefano, CEO and President, is an enthusiastic, committed and knowledgable leader. He comes out of PWC and brings that flavor of professionalism to the party.  I sat with Jim Brodo, VP of Marketing, last evening at their client dinner before the event.  Jim and I see many things the same way.  He’s got a tough job, but does it exceedingly well.  My sponsor was Debbie Antonelli, Richardson’s SVP of Sales, who hosted the event.  What a great job.

The topic of my talk was Sales Effectiveness 2012. I shared with the audience some sobering sales research statistics—what I’ve been writing about on this blog and the subject of much of ESR’s work to date.  The research paints a pretty dismal picture—high salesrep and manager attrition rates, disturbing forecasting statistics, the pains of mis-hiring, lack of sales process and measurement.

I then discussed five critical imperatives that companies must implement for them to maintain, if not gain, a leadership position in their market over the next four years.

We had a number of stimulating discussions during my time with the audience.  Richardson’s guests included learning and sales professionals from some well-known (mostly large) technology, financial services and other companies.  Additional presenters included Patrick Stakenas, CEO of Forcelogix and Chris Hens from White Springs.  Both are Richardson technology partners, providing critical components to Richardson’s Sales 2.0 technology-enabled selling strategy.  I was sorry that I couldn’t stay for the rest of the day.  Patrick and Chris, through the software technologies they provide, are making great strides supporting the deployment and use of sales process and measurement.  There can be no compromise in those area. Sales has a lot of catching up to do. 

Richardson is a class act.  Not only does ESR cover them as one of the leading vendors, but we had the opportunity to recommend that they be included on a long list for a client’s evaluation earlier this year.  Richardson won the business.  That project is underway.  We’ll be reporting on the progress of that engagement over time.

Richardson isn’t the perfect solution for every companies’ sales performance improvement requirements.  But they’re a serious player; they are making substantial forward progress, have a track record and history of innovation and customer success, and have an experienced and committed team.  All that adds up to make them a winner.

Photo: Cosmos.com

Innovation in Sales Training

Training Magazine recently published an article I wrote.  It’s about innovation in sales training. 

There are a couple of points in the article I’d like to comment on.  The first:

© JJAVA - Fotolia.comInnovation has been slow to come to some of the larger training companies, as well. There are two major reasons for that. First, some of the companies that have been around for many years are still being run by the founders, some of whom are reluctant to invest in content, educational design, technology support, and high-quality facilitators. The reason? Investments such as those impact their personal income, and as a result, innovation suffers.”

Last week I spoke with Tim Young, who joined CustomerCentric Systems (one of the sales performance improvement providers that ESR covers) last January.  Tim’s background is in marketing services.  He’s a savvy guy focused on growing CCS.  Unlike some other companies in the sales training space, here is a company whose principals, Mike Bosworth, John Holland, Frank Visgatis, and Gary Walker decided to invest in the future of their company. 

I go on to discuss special requirements that companies have with respect to sales training:

“Most companies have heterogeneous sales teams with salespeople who are experienced and inexperienced, skilled and not so skilled, with right-brained tendencies (selling as an art) and their left-brained counterparts (selling as a science). Employing a one-size-fits-all approach to training results in little learning and considerable resentment on the part of a fairly large percentage of classroom attendees.”

Companies that are moving toward individualized learn-anytime and -anywhere will have the advantage going forward.  Leaders like SPI, The TAS Group, Sandler, Miller Heiman and Richardson (among others) are providing technology-enabled learning tools to meet those challenges head on.

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