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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…”

Ouch!

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.

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The Sandler Sales Training Story, From A Franchisee

I got caught up a few weeks ago with Rich Geise, a friend and former colleague.  With 30 or so years in sales and sales management, Rich is a Sandler franchisee, based in Villanova, PA.

Rich told me Sandler’s appeal is growing.  He described that what most salespeople feel coming out of traditional training classes is frustration, having been sprayed with a blast of information.  It is then their job to go back to the office and try to weave what they learned into whatever they’re doing.  Rich points out that it’s very challenging to accomplish that; changing behaviors is very hard.  He tells me that he works on an ongoing basis to do just that—to change people’s behaviors.  To change their beliefs.  He accomplishes that through a process.

Rich’s approach differs depending on the company he is working with.  With some he seeks to understand their current process looking for weaknesses.  For other people and teams just some training is required.  

The life of a Sandler franchisee is different from a trainer in a traditional training company.  Sandler franchisees sell what they deliver.  They are in the midst of the very challenges their clients face: prospecting, working deals, competing, negotiating, closing.  Then they deliver what they just sold.  The Sandler people mix training and coaching.  They work with groups. They coach people one-on-one.  (Sandler’s tag line is “Finding Power in Reinforcement.”)

That ongoing reinforcement component of a sales effectiveness initiative is different with Sandler, Rich tells me.  They don’t let the salespeople figure out for themselves how to put the learning to use.  Rich describes the Sandler approach as providing “chewable little pieces at a time.”  That helps to support behavioral change.  The reps have plenty of ongoing reinforcement, including CD libraries and a wide choice of ways to practice what they’ve learned.  Plus that ongoing coaching of the Sandler consultant.  Sandler understands what a critical success factor reinforcement is. 

Rich described to me how he works on techniques, attitudes and behaviors with his sales people. Together they look at self-limiting beliefs (exploring a territory that a rep might shy away from, for example) and activities—what those people do every day.  Together they set goals—personal, client and financial goals.  Once the reps have plans in place, they work together on tracking the results of the behaviors.  The rep is taught to be accountable for the outcomes.

Rich talks about the Sandler approach being non-traditional.  “If everyone is doing something a certain way, do it differently.” He talks about pattern interrupt and the impact that can have on a sales person’s performance.

The goal for Rich and the other Sandler franchisees is having their client sales reps “attain mastery.”  To the end, Rich works with his client’s sales team to understand what their process is—what their people are thinking.  Rich finds out what is going on and finds ways of approaching the challenges.  Rich says emphatically, “No mind-reading.”

I asked Rich what kind of situation would be in his sweet spot.  Without a pause he said, “They have to have the time, the money, be willing to put in the effort, and have a willingness to change.”

Rich reminded me that Sandler has over 220 training centers around the world.  During the past year, they reoriented their focus somewhat, moving more toward the larger corporate client. 

I’ve spoken with a number of other Sandler franchisees over the past few years.  Among them were Rich Isaac (Long Island), Joe Ippolito (Beverly, MA) and most recently, Chip Reichhard (Northern New Jersey).  These are all very committed, experienced, and successful business people.

Note: Sandler Training is one of the 27 vendors ESR is presently covering.  This blog post is not a formal review.  Before you go any further with vendor selection, read this post.

Photo credit: © Stephen VanHorn – Fotolia.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.

Avoiding IT Salespeople

Is this how you look to your customer?

Is this how your customer sees you?

Paul Lanigan is the Sandler franchisee for Ireland.  I’ve been reading his newsletter for a while.

Paul posted a recent comment about an article published by ZDNet UK entitled, Top 10 reasons to avoid IT salespeople. Whether you work for a tech company or not, you need to read this article.

It’s not often we get such uncensored feedback from our customers.  I didn’t take this lightly.  I hope you don’t either. 

Here are excerpts from each of Sally Whittle’s ten reasons.  Continue reading