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    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,
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Miller Heiman. What A Brand!

When it comes to marketing, Miller Heiman leads the pack.  I recently spoke with Elizabeth Vanneste, their Chief Marketing Officer. Elizabeth brought Miller Heiman into four telecommunications companies where she had previously worked. She joined the Miller Heiman team last June as a sales VP and took over marketing three months ago.

Elizabeth shared with me that her firm just added 15 sales consultants and kicked off a new partnership in India.  They have a new program, Securing Strategic Appointments, in which the participants learn, among other things, how to craft the right message, with valid business reasons, to meet with customer executives.  In addition, the program lays out specific plans for getting those critical appointments.  Elizabeth says there is a lot of interest in using these skills for selling to the government.

We talked about the economy and travel restrictions.  Miller Heiman has set up additional public sessions.  I wrote a post about public sales training sessions a while back.  They are, under certain circumstances, something to consider.

Elizabeth and I discussed technology as well.  According to Elizabeth, Miller Heiman has made significant progress with their e-learning offerings and their sales enablement tools that integrate with the top nine CRM systems (through White Springs).  Miller Heiman consultants are also now performing Blue Sheet reviews via webinars and conference calls, helping to keep their customers’ costs down.

Back to Miller Heiman’s marketing.  Miller Heiman’s brand equity is substantial.  That’s not only because they’ve been around for thirty years.  (Other training companies have been around that long or nearly that long.)  So far as sales training companies are concerned, Miller Heiman is predominant on the Web.  I’ve got Miller Heiman tagged in Google Alerts, as well as 40 or so other sales training companies.  There is no question that Miller Heiman significantly outnumbers the others with hits coming from blogs, articles, other companies’ websites (Hoover, for example), conference agendas, news, and other sources.

“Strategic Selling,” a trademarked Miller Heiman brand, is certainly widely recognized, but has become so often used generically, that it may not be connected to Miller Heiman as often as they would like.  This is similar to the issue that SPI has with their trademarked “Solution Selling.”

Miller Heiman’s leadership position in marketing isn’t something to take lightly.  After all, with the close relationship sales should have with marketing in most companies, a training company’s ability to market themselves effectively is a proof statement of an understanding of some of the most important issues, isn’t it?

Finally, this all may sound terrific to you if you’re searching out a sales training company. I can only warn you that selecting Miller Heiman or any other company based upon this or any other one-page write up is precisely the wrong thing to doESR’s Sales Training Vendor Guide, Third Edition, will be published later this month.  In the Guide, Miller Heiman and two dozen other providers are evaluated, compared and contrasted.

Disclosure:  Miller Heiman subscribes to ESR’s research.

Photo credit: DesignImage.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

Embedded Sales Learning

Chris Hens, President and COO of White Springs, presented at the Richardson client forum last week.  The subject was in-context sales learning and reinforcement.

With a background in sales training, Chris has a deep understanding of the challenges companies face with respect to sales performance improvement.  White Springs has worked with Complex Sale, Holden, Huthwaite, Miller Heiman, ValuSelling and SPI, among others, to automate sales and opportunity management processes and to connect those to a company’s CRM system.

Richardson has been, and continues to be, a leader in non-traditional (other-than-classroom) learning.  They’ve engaged with White Springs for embedding and integrating their sales learning content into their established tools and business practices.  Chris calls this embedded sales learning. (See graphic, courtesy of White Springs.  Click for full-size.)

esl1

Why is this so important?  In order to increase sales effectiveness, more salespeople must complying with the sales process that has been designed for their selling situation.  When that process is modeled in software such as this and they are provided learning reinforcement within that software, it will increase compliance, contributing to sales performance improvement.

Whether you’re shopping for sales training, sales process work, Sales 2.0 tools, or CRM, be certain that your sales processes (qualification, discovery, opportunity management, etc.) are top-of-mind. The vendors you should consider must have the proven ability to support technology-enabled selling and learning.  ES Research has done a considerable amount of research in this area. 

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