• This Blog Is Inactive!

    On of May 8, 2009, I moved my blog over to a new domain: DaveSteinsBlog.ESResearch.com

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  • ESR’s STVG

    Here is ESR's highly acclaimed Sales Training Vendor Guide, Third Edition.

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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
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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
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ESR’s Survey On Social Media Use in B2B Selling

With the assistance of The TAS Group, ESR recently surveyed nearly 400 users of the following technologies to determine the effects that these new technologies in helping them win B2B sales opportunities:

  • Jigsaw;
  • LinkedIn;
  • Twitter;
  • Plaxo;
  • Facebook;
  • Hoover’s or OneSource.

The pace of technology development today is dizzying. It seems as though a new sales-related technology appears daily. The question is, do these new technologies produce additional sales or just consume valuable selling time and distract sales leaders and their teams from focusing on what can really improve performance?

A few specifics from the survey:

  1. 35% of respondents say that LinkedIn has helped them win sometimes or often;
  2. 69% of respondents say they don’t use Twitter. Of those that douse the tool, 20% say it has not helped them win;
  3. 8% of respondents say that Facebook has helped them win sometimes or often.

Buy the 10-page ESR/Insight™ Brief, The New Social Media: Do They Enable B2B Selling? now.

Photo credit: © altiso – Fotolia.com

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

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

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.

ESR’s 2008 Sales Training Arena

Click on the image for full size.  Do not make a sales training decision based solely on this chart.Each year ESR publishes its annual Sales Training Vendor Guide.

The 2008 Guide, which was published last December, compares and contrasts 19 leading sales training providers across many different capabilities such as depth and breadth of offering, program effectiveness, educational design, available customization, post-program reinforcement, learning technology support and measurement.

Although the 2008 Guide came in at 170 pages, the ESR/Arena (right) was, for many, the highlight of the report.  With appropriate deference to the Gartner Magic Quadrant, we designed the ESR/Arena to provide a quick, graphical perspective for those who would read the report.

We released a standalone copy of the ESR/Arena early in 2008. We found that some buyers of sales training were leaning toward making decisions about vendor selection based solely upon a single glance at the Arena.  We’re certainly delighted that they have that degree of trust in us, but that is precisely the wrong way to go about such a critical decision.

Selecting the right sales training company—the right way—is a process.  There are no shortcuts.  The foundation, and most critical component of the process, is a comprehensive assessment of the selling company’s situation.  I’m not talking about a quick, “The reps need training in cold-calling,” or “They need to get higher in the customer’s organization.”  Hundreds of millions of dollars a year are wasted on training based upon such short-sighted and matter-of-fact statements.  I know.  Performing postmortems on failed sales training interventions is part of what we do at ESR.  And now is a really bad time to spend money getting your people trained only to find that there has been no measurable improvement.

Now that I’ve offered that disclaimer you can take a look at the 2008 ESR/Arena. (Click on the graphic for full size.)  There are a few things for you to keep in mind:

  • This graphic is a year old.  A number of vendors have gone through changes during the past year.
  • There are eight additional vendors that ESR has included in our coverage that are not represented in the 2008 ESR/Arena.  (Here is a complete list.)
  • There are literally hundreds of other training firms, from one person to many, that could very well be the right one to meet your company’s training requirements.  Your perfect partner may very well not even be on this chart.
  • No single vendor that ESR covers is right for every company.  It’s your job, not theirs to make sure you’ve selected the right one.

ESR’s 2009 Sales Training Vendor Guide will be published early in the year.  It will include 26 vendors and considerably more information about training programs, CRM integration, Sales 2.0 technology, and other critical capabilities than previous Guides.