• 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.

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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

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My 2009 Word of The Year, So Far

One of my most-used words these days is “scrutinize.”  Merriam-Webster says it means to examine closely and minutely.”

At ESR, we find ourselves using the word fairly often:

  • VPs have been asking us about how to determine which sales reps to keep and which to redeploy.  In this current economic situation some of what salesreps depended on to win in the past will simply no longer work.  It’s the old, “the past does not equal the future.” We recommend scrutinizing past performance as well as all the reps’ strengths and weaknesses against the new set of required skills and traits. And we strongly recommend psychometric testing. It’s very effective objective scrutiny.

  • We know from work with our clients that business acumen is more important now in B2B selling than ever before.  Salesreps need to scrutinize their customers, clients and prospects.  (More about this and some disturbing data when ESR reports on the results of our social media in B2B sales survey, which closed today.)  By the way, I was recently briefed by Chip Terry, Vice President and General Manager Enterprise Solutions at ZoomInfo.  He demoed their product.  Within two minutes I could see how ZoomInfo can provide the breadth and depth of information about not only companies, but equally as important, people within those companies, on whom salesreps would be calling.)

  • Messaging.  How relevant are the messages your salespeople are delivering to your customers and sales prospects?  Those need to be scrutinized and relevance to what and how your customers are buying must be determined.

  • New approaches and tools.  I’ve written a lot about the new social media as well as Sales 2.0 (again here).  These are very hot topics. (Just the number and flavor of comments to these three blog posts will attest to that.)  ESR’s recommendation is to… You guessed it:  thoroughly scrutinize any new direction or investment with respect to either or both of these promising technologies. The time may be right.  But then again, it may not be.

  • Lead Generation and Lead Nurturing.  Brian Carroll (podcast) and I are working on a project together.  Just yesterday we were discussing the challenges most companies are facing these days in those challenged areas.  What’s required for many companies is significant scrutiny. Bring in experts if you need to.  Get the right one—someone like Brian perhaps—and it will be money well-spent.

  • Sales training.  I’m very concerned about the significant drop in sales training during the past quarter.  Sales training may be precisely the right area to scale back in certain companies.  But certainly not in all, or even most.  Again, here’s where some significant scrutiny will enable you to determine where to spend your limited funds so that you have the biggest chance of making it through this economic situation.

  • Here are a few more areas that should be targeted for some scrutiny: Territory assignments, compensation, coaching mechanisms, measurement and analytics, sales process, sales support and readiness.  The list goes on.

Photo credit: © Sandor Kacso – Fotolia.com

Should You Spend Your Money On Sales 2.0 Or Sales Training?

Sales training is more than 100 years old.  With few exceptions, it’s not very sexy.  Many salespeople believe (PDF) they’ve been through enough of it to last a lifetime.  For many reasons, most of their managers don’t see any value, so they take a tactical, event-based approach just to check the “trained my people this year” box.

On the other hand, Sales 2.0* is sexy.  It’s new.  There are terrific, proven, Sales 2.0 solutions that can support the sales and marketing function in being more efficient and effective.  There are also enough white papers, advertisements, websites, articles, blog posts, conferences, books, tweets, strategies, tips, definitions, claims, approaches, experts, studies and hype to confuse any sales leader who is wondering how to come out the other side of this terrible economic situation.   The promise of success from this Sales 2.0 wave is  overwhelming.

What should you do?

First let me state that ESR doesn’t sell sales training or Sales 2.0 applications.  We sell independent research and informed advice.

As an objective observer, let me suggest a simple way to assess your situation:  Neither sales training nor Sales 2.0 will deliver any real, long-term value (measured in any number of ways: more sales, more profitable sales, bigger sales, shorter sales cycles, etc.) unless you have the right people and processes in place first.  (Hopefully this isn’t the first time you’re hearing this.)

Tens of thousands of companies invested in CRM, skipping one or both of those two critical success factors.  That’s why something like only one in six companies claim their CRM systems are contributing to their selling efforts.  And how about this: less than two in ten companies get sustainable, predictable performance improvement out of sales training!

If we invest in Sales 2.0 solutions without the proper foundations in place we aren’t just going down that same road?  You bet.

Do you have the right people selling for you? If not, start fixing that right away.  Is there isn’t broad compliance across your team with the use of a flexible, pragmatic sales methodology?  If not, get that in place.  (The foundation of the methodology should be based on the current and expected attributes of the markets you are selling into and the buying preferences and tendencies of your customers, e.g. if your buyers use Twitter to communicate with their suppliers, that capability should be built into your methodology…)

Spend your money on people and process first.  Then tools. Sales 2.0 isn’t a shortcut or a replacement for those or other critical, foundation components of a sales infrastructure.  Neither is tactical, single event-based training.

One more time, listed in the right order: (This is only a partial list for purposes of illustration.)

  1. Get the right people on board;
  2. Build or rebuild a flexible, pragmatic buyer-centric sales methodology;
  3. Train your team on the methodology;
  4. Then, provide them with the right Sales 2.0 tools to make them more effective and efficient in use of the methodology.

Tell me where I’m wrong or off base about this.

* Sales 2.0 is a registered trademark of Sales 2.0 LLC

Photo credit: © Vivid Pixels – Fotolia.com

Sales 2.0: Does It Enable Effective Selling Or Is It Yet Another Decoy?

As ESR continues to work with our clients, observe salespeople and research sales effectiveness, we’re frustrated and concerned with the increasing hype around Sales 2.0.

Is Sales 2.0 real?  Yes.  Are Sales 2.0 applications actually helping salespeople to win business? Yes.  There is no question about that.  But we believe in numbers significantly less than some would have you believe.  I expect the Sales 2.0 vendors will be all over me about this.  Yes, I know they can provide compelling case studies, references and testimonials.  The issue is much broader and quite serious.

Before I go any further, I want to acknowledge that there are highly effective sales enablement (Sales 2.0) apps on the market.  What immediately comes to mind are those of some of the leading sales training companies: The TAS Group with their Dealmaker and TAS:Pedia (we saw an exciting demo of new releases last week) and the effective technology implementations of a number of other sales methodologies by White Springs.

ESR knows that the sales methodology and the processes upon which it is built should be the backbone of a company’s sales approach.  Significant research bears this out.  Get that methodology thing right, provide all the support, training and coaching and get all your salespeople following it (with the requisite flexibility for differing situations, of course), and you are taking one of the most important strategic actions that determines sales success.  Automate it and you’re doing even better.  That’s what some of the leading training companies are accomplishing.  They’re helping companies improve sales performance by getting them to employ a process.  Then they’re automating the process to make salespeople more effective and efficient.  It works considerably more often than not, and in the world of B2B selling, that’s an accomplishment.

Here’s my concern: Sales 2.0 vendors are pushing hard, claiming that their software applications will solve specific selling problems.  Many of the vendors are right, but—here’s the thing—if the sales leaders who are considering investing in those apps don’t have their team lined up and fully compliant with the consistent execution of a sales process, with training, coaching and metrics in place, they will more likely compound the problem than fix it.  That’s what happened with CRM years ago.  Many of us saw it promoted as a paradigm-changing fix for most sales ills.  CRM’s big problem, was (is?) that there was nothing in it for the salesperson, and that’s why compliance was (and still is, in many cases) so low.  For many companies, CRM served to make the situation worse, not better.  It kept sales management from focusing on the real issues.  It was a decoy!

Will sales problems get compounded with the purchase of a few cool Sales 2.0 tools?  It’s like my problem with sales tips.  Allowing sales people to spend time seeking out and using random tips from unapproved (and sometimes incompetent) sources takes everyone’s attention off the real issue—no process!—and the lack of discipline to build one and follow one.  Sales 2.0 has become the new silver bullet—this year’s universal elixir to solve a company’s selling problems.  In those cases, Sales 2.0 may provide some value, granted, but with a steep price: it becomes a distraction from what really has to be done.  By the way, I spent better part of a week struggling to make the same decoy argument about the current state of social media with respect to B2B sales

Here’s an example of how a solid Sales 2.0 application can turn out to be a broken promise: There are some terrific sales analytics packages out there.  But what good are analytics if a company doesn’t have a documented and fully-complied with sales process?  What will happen when leading indicators show a bunch of deals are slowing down?  What will managers coach reps on?  How they themselves won business years ago?  Those managers should be coaching the rep on how the rep can better comply with the pre-established sales process—on what specific behaviors the rep must improve so they can effectively execute the process and move the deal along.  We have worked with companies that have installed analytics tools and the results were precisely as I described.  Lots of data, but no standard operating procedure for fixing the situation.

Another example would be Sales 2.0 lead generation tools.  There are some really good, innovative ones out there.  Sexy as hell.  So what happens when a sales rep uses one of these and winds up with some really good prospects and the rep can’t advance the sale from that point to closure because they don’t have the skills, proven path, tools and support to get that done?  I hope you get my point.

So here is my recommendation.  If you get all charged up about a Sales 2.0 tool that you think will help your sales team sell more stuff, faster and for bigger dollars, map the application onto the backbone of your overall sales process.  If you don’t have a sales process, stop right there.  That’s what you need to do first.  It’s not sexy, it’s not fun, it takes time, thought, focus and you’ll find every excuse not to do it.  But the research says it’s what you have to do.

Bottom line: If you want a real boost in sales effectiveness, get your selling methodology and process built, train your people on its use and support them in their effort.  Automate it all, if you like.

Then, and only then, when that’s ticking nicely along, and you can measure progress, start layering in the Sales 2.0 applications that will have the biggest bang for the buck.  Then you’ll really get some value out of Sales 2.0.

Let me hear from you.  Do you think a solid, complied-with sales process is the backbone upon which Sales 2.0 applications must be layered?  Or not?

Photo credit: © Valeriy Aksak – Fotolia.com

New LinkedIn Feature: Share Your Presentations

I subscribe to Chris Brogan’s blog.  His recent post about LinkedIn applications compelled me to spend a bit of time on the site.

In the past I’ve been very possessive about presentations I’ve done.  Now I’ve decided to share a bit more.  One of the new LinkedIn apps allows me to do just that.  There are a few limitations with the presentation-sharing application at this point.  For example, I can’t provide you with a link directly to the presentation within LinkedIn.  I can do so with a link to Slideshare.net, which is the embedded technology LinkedIn uses, but I figure that since LinkedIn went to all this trouble, I might as well direct you there…

So, to see the presentation, first you have to be a LinkedIn member.  There are few reasons not to become a LinkedIn member.  It’s free. 

Once you’re logged on, to LinkedIn.  Go to Dave Stein’s profile.  Look over on the rightand click on “full profile.”  When that page comes up, scroll down a bit, and you’ll see a section with Dave Stein’s Presentations (it will look like the graphic in the upper right).  The presentation I posted supported the keynote speech I gave last week at the Richardson Client Forum 2008

The other applications include embedding your blog and/or RSS feeds in your profile as well as your favorite (Amazon) books.  

I’ve been using LinkedIn more and more.  I can see from the requests I’m getting that a lot of other people are as well, especially job seekers. 

Are you still wondering what Sales 2.0 is?  Well, LinkedIn is a perfect example of a widely-used Sales 2.0 application.

An Authentic Sales 2.0 Killer App for Selling Competitively

Last June I wrote a post containing my Sales 2.0 Competitive Knowledge Wishlist.  I’d expect that any salesrep or manager who really knows how to employ advanced competitive selling strategies and tactics would love to have the Sales 2.0 capabilities in that list.  We’ll, we are apparently closer than I thought to realizing that dream.

I spent some time once again with Ken Allred, CEO of Primary Intelligence (listen to my podcast with Ken).  Ken, whom I hold in high regard for all the fine work he and his company have done in the area of competitive intelligence, has produced what I see as a legitimate killer app.  Actually, it’s a “killer suite” of three applications, all designed to help the sales reps be much more strategically competitive.

First, Sales Explorer enables salesreps (and their managers) to strategically plan competitive sales scenarios by identifying the unique differentiators for themselves as well as the competition’s differentiators based on the deal characteristics they’re working on (industry, deal size, deal type, region, etc.)  Based upon historical data collected during Win/Loss analyses, the software presents: the main reasons why specific prospects are looking for solutions, key decision factors from the view of the prospect, the level of difficulty you face in completing a deal, a road map to overcoming obstacles, top product strengths and main product weaknesses in the eyes of the prospect, resources to others who excel in similar situations, advice from prospects on how previous losses could have been avoided, advice from prospects on how wins could have been stronger, and accurate competitive pricing. 

Competitive Navigator provides unprecedented capability to compare your performance versus your competitor’s performance in every area that affects purchase decisions (Sales, Company Image, Solution and Marketing). It allows salespeople to narrow their focus to just the competitor, or competitors that they’re most concerned with and review their specific differentiators (see screenshot to right). Additional comparisons available in Competitive Navigator include:

  • Pricing
  • Product strengths and weaknesses when you win versus the competitor
  • Product strengths and weaknesses when you lose versus the competitor
  • Missing features as identified by decision makers

Horizon is the competitive intelligence forum, which is integrated with Sales Explorer and Competitive Navigator, so all of the content in the forums is available in the other applications.  The system automatically captures all the comments coming from decision makers on why they selected, or didn’t select a competitor, what that competitor’s specific strengths and weaknesses are, what pricing strategies the competitor utilized, what they did well and what they didn’t do well. Sales reps, executives, marketing, product managers, CI (competitive intelligence) professionals, and product development can then discuss, advise and leverage this competitive intelligence, along with additional ad hoc CI that the users will add to the system, in a message board setting that is archived and makes searching for specific competitive information very simple and fast.  So a sales rep joining the company six months from now will have access to all CI and conversations about a specific competitor and could be up to speed VERY quickly on what they need to know about a competitor they are competing with. I see this as a powerful Sales 2.0 tool that will provide sales teams with a tremendous amount of value.

The smart guys at Primary Intelligence are connecting all this to the standard CRM platforms, with Salesforce.com being first.

Joe The Salesrep and CRM User Adoption

Lee Allgood, a colleague from my days consulting with ERP provider MAPICS, sent me an email referencing a March 2008 survey performed by Sand Hill Group and Neochange.

Although the survey looked at enterprise software success from the software company’s perspective, some of the findings resonate with what we know about process alignment and user adoption related to CRM and Sales 2.0 implementations.

This is from the press release:

When asked how to best define “enterprise software success,” both providers and buyers agreed that the top indication is value realization for the company. 70% of buyers and providers believe that “effective user adoption” is the primary driver to realize the full business value.

And this is from the report:

This is not really a surprise.  One of the reasons that CRM software hasn’t reached its full potential is the lack of effective user adoption.  The software designers didn’t put themselves in the position of the Joe the Salesrep. 

Another point.  Process alignment is another factor in realizing value.  CRM is not a replacement for a sales process.  We’ve said it again and again.  Build your sales process.  Test it.  Train your team on its use. Run it for a while.  Adjust where needed.  Then look at a CRM solution that can be adapted to your process.  CRM should help salespeople sell more, not waste their time.

My advice on the adoption issue?  Before investing in any Sales 2.0 or sales-enablement technology, get your Joes and Janes to be part of the evaluation team and please, answer the question, what’s in it for them?