of Brandon Hall Group
The world economy has created a complex and expansive competitive environment for most companies. Competition used to be the “guy around the corner”. Now your chief competitor may be half way around the globe. Adding to this complexity is the highly evolved buy decision-making processes of both consumers and businesses. Buyers are more sophisticated than ever. Driven by the economic conditions that we all face and armed with a plethora of information from the internet, buyers often times know more about a product or service than the salesperson be asked to call upon them. There has been a premium placed on providing valuable information to sales professionals in a timely manner.
World Class Organizations trying to sell goods and services have not stood still as these changing and evolving market conditions have impacted their business models. Companies around the globe have turned to consultants, key opinion leaders and subject matter experts to help them understand how to develop sales teams that are effective in this type of business climate. Sales force effectiveness has become a hot issue and businesses from every industry and part of the globe are spending a lot of time and dollars searching for the right approach to improving sales performance.
One of the critical success factors to improving sales performance is re-investigating the need for sales training. The challenge to revamping sales training lies with the ability to assemble dynamic training content and then deliver it in a way that creates a measurable change in performance. Coupled with the content and deliver challenges is the opportunity cost for pulling sales teams out of the territories to deliver traditional “bricks and mortar” instructor led training. This type of instruction for years has been the backbone of corporate sales training around the globe. However, economic conditions have forced organizations to think of new and different approaches to delivering sales training.
Sales leaders have turned to their HR counterparts to leverage the benefits and advantages of e-learning. HR teams have known for some time that e-learning is a cost effective and highly impactful approach to delivering training and education to employees. E-learning embraces the principles of “just in time, just for me” learning and development. E-learning can be a powerful tool for sales training but there remains one more barrier to learning – proximity of the sales team to the learning environment. In the e-learning environment for all other employees, the delivery of training and education is more straightforward than for sales teams. The reason for this is clear – other employees are “in the building” and sales teams are “in the field”. This is where sales leaders have taken another chapter out of the HR team’s playbook – the leveraging of learning management technology to deliver sales training.
Sales teams have joined the ranks of their fellow employees in accessing their training and education through learning management systems. What has been labeled a part of “extended enterprise learning”; sales training has become a rapidly growing application for learning management systems. Leveraging the capabilities of an LMS for sales training is a logical and practical solution to bricks and mortar instructor led training. If you are interested in exploring the ability to leverage your learning management system for sales training you need to consider the following:
- Does your system support mobile learning?
- Can your system be accessed easily from individuals outside your firewall?
- Will your system support the development and delivery of sales training oriented learning material (e.g., video or voice over PowerPoint)?
- Will you be able to track a sales person’s learning progress and report their progress based on the current configurations of your system?
- Can your system support offline learning?
- Does your system support an easy and straightforward way to repurposing learning content?
- How does your system support social and collaborative learning?
These are just some of the questions that need to be asked in order to evaluate whether or not your system will support sales training effectively and efficiently. It may be time for you to re-engage your learning management system provider and learn more. A more productive sales team may be just around the corner for you.
Two notable sales training providers that have embraced the concept of sales training and learning management systems working together are Richardson and Holden International. These companies clearly understand the connection to enterprise learning and sales training.
In our 2011 Gold Case Study our members can learn about the results seen from SunTrust’s sales and talent development program.
As far as LMS providers, there are a good number of providers that position themselves as supporting sales training with their technology platforms. Blackboard, Kenexa, Certpoint, Firmwater, and Knoodle are just a few of these providers.
To learn more about these providers or how sales training can be supported by your LMS, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On my commute to the office this morning I received a call from another “master” seller – this is why I love pre-election season! While there is an air of wait-and-see inertia for some of corporate America, the best sellers are using this time to their advantage. Are you? I’ve had national sales teams in my office this week working on “fox” hunting and intelligence gathering in their major accounts. There is a sense of urgency that is contagious among the best sellers.
Do you know how the outcome of the election impacts your customers and your customer’s customers? If you find yourself in a holding pattern for even 30 minutes, use it to prepare for post-election productivity. Regardless of the election outcome, influence and authority in your accounts will change with the election. Once the certainty, either way, takes hold – the sellers who
know how the election impacts their customers and their customer’s customers will lead Q4 and FY2013.
Check out p. 75 of the New Power Base Selling for six customer research activities you can do in 30 minutes right now and what to look for: executives, biographies, social media profiles, public presentations, news releases and the chairman’s letter. Don’t let anything get in your way!
-Ryan Kubacki, President
The New Power Base Selling has been named the #1 Best Selling business book by the premier distributor, 800 CEO Read.
Check out The New Power Base Selling and other bestselling business books at:
Join Holden International and Selling Power Magazine at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston on July 23rd.
As a platinum sponsor, Holden will be hosting a breakout session:
"Sales Management: Using Science to Coach a Competitive Deal Review"
Drawing from the new book, The New Power Base Selling: Lessons from 28,000 Sellers and 50,000 Deals, Holden President and Author Ryan Kubacki will present strategies that sales managers can use to coach repeatable sales performance. Research shows that high-performing sales reps leverage three intangibles – politics, unexpected value, and strategy – to win business and maximize value to their customers and companies. This session will walk you through how to coach a competitive deal review. You'll build critical insight, including the ability to coach your sales reps to develop these selling strengths:
- Professionally leverage customer politics with new and advanced concepts and techniques.
- Create unexpected value for customers to build new demand.
- Formulate a complete strategy–and implement it with tactical precision.
- Increase customer satisfaction and your competitive differentiation.
800CEORead recently published this manifesto by Jim Holden on ChangeThis.com. Click the cover image or link below to be directed to ChangeThis.com where the PDF can be downloaded.
Issue 95 - 04 | Selling, Art or Science?
By Jim Holden Published June 13, 2012 11:00 a.m.
“Having been in the sales training business for more than 30 years, we have seen all manner of sellers; strong performers, average sellers, and those who just don’t make the grade. But behind all of this has always been the debate as to whether sales is an art or a science, almost to suggest that for some, sellers are born and not made."
In our last blog post, we mentioned the tangible and intangible aspects of How to Run a Successful Customer Meeting. Today, let's take a deep-dive look at the tangible process, as shown in the figure below:
- Capture Attention: Establish credibility and rapport by sharing insight regarding the customer’s business, industry, company, or customers. Senior executives are motivated to meet with external thought leaders to gain objective market insight, which they cannot always get from the people who report to them. Earn the right to talk about your company as it relates to the customer’s business. For example, if you are speaking with a CIO, share emerging trends in IT that could enable him or her to significantly advance the company’s growth objectives.
- Engage Critical Business Issues: Confirm your understanding of the issues most critical to the customer’s business success. Work to build a deeper understanding, along with new insights into the customer’s world, in order to strengthen the solution that you are selling. It is powerful when you can formulate a solution or even the basis for a solution in real time during one of these executive meetings.
- Test the Value of Your Solution: Having formed a solution or, again, even a framework for a solution, experiment with your questions to determine how to most clearly articulate the value that you will provide. Make certain that there is a direct or indirect connection to the customer’s priorities.
- Secure Sponsorship: An executive will endorse your solution if the business value you say you can provide is both relevant and credible. But also take time in the meeting, or at a more informal moment, to understand what is personally driving the executive. That is, how a successful solution will affect him or her within the company. Perhaps it could lead to a promotion or strengthen a relationship with a key executive or better justify an increase in the department’s budget allocation.
- Confirm a Return Ticket: Before you conclude the meeting, agree on how you will report back to the executive. Suggest that you will close the loop with him or her only at significant points in the process. You don’t need to send the executive an email informing him that you’ve set a meeting with someone he recommended. Instead, report back after you have met with the other person on, for example, the magnitude of the financial impact your solution could have on their business. That is a noteworthy matter that warrants touching base with the executive.
The process or Executive Meeting Checklist for conducting an executive meeting is a type of model. Another model would focus on how to prepare for such a meeting. As you can see, something becomes a management science when all the right factors can be modeled. This drives understanding, measurability, directional predictability, and most importantly, manageability. The result is to increase sales proficiency, along with scalability within an organization. In our view, the reason so many sellers do not do well in setting up and conducting executive meetings is that they are missing key models. And when selling is viewed as an art, no one looks for these models. But when selling is viewed as a management science their absence becomes readily apparent.
Learn more about this topic in our book, The New Power Base Selling, which is now available for pre-order from your favorite bookseller. Download Chapter 1 here.
Having been in the sales training business for more than 30 years, we have seen all manner of sellers; strong performers, average sellers, and those who just don’t make the grade. But behind all of this has always been the debate as to whether sales is an art or a science, almost to suggest that for some, sellers are born and not made.
Let’s look at what we mean by “art.” For us, art is an expression of one’s imagination and talent. It may result in a painting or sculpture, or it could be a wonderfully designed building, or something as intangible as an ingenious strategy to defeat a competitor, in order to win an important deal. Or is it?
Artistic ability is generally considered to be innate; coming from within an individual. A person is simply born with it, suggesting that if you’ve not been born with it, don’t expect to paint like a Picasso. In addition, such talent is difficult to understand and explain - we see the result of talent, but not the talent itself. Who can say what was in Picasso’s mind when he revolutionized European painting and sculpture with something like Analytical Cubism, an example of which is the following.
1Picasso, Pablo. Guernica. 1937. Pablo Picasso. Web. 5 Apr. 2012.
Science, on the other hand, is quite different. It seeks to systemically organize knowledge in a very reliable way that can be repeated and predicted. So, if you hold a tall glass of beer above your head and let go, the result is predictable, not to mention, tragic. As such, science seeks to eliminate all unknowns, precisely explaining cause and effect relationships in the natural world. But, the laws of physics do not apply so neatly to people, their abilities, and actions. And so, we must rule out sales as a pure science. At the same time, if you are able to define the intangibles of selling, the stuff that people generally don’t see, but know exist, perhaps we can move away from the view that selling is totally innate in nature.
For example, let’s take into account How to Run a Successful Customer Meeting. There are two aspects to conducting a successful customer meeting, the tangible and the intangible. On the tangible side, we know that a successful meeting requires the right process, which is shown in the following checklist:
On the intangible side, a successful meeting is as much about managing emotions, as it is about implementing good process and conveying information. High performing sellers know that productive conversations are actually less about what they say or what they think the customer individual has heard, as they are about how the executive feels at the end of the meeting. Will he or she support the seller and a particular solution with enthusiasm? Will the executive be indifferent or perhaps feel challenged? Sensing emotional reactions, reading them correctly, and responding appropriately in real time are essential to executive meetings. To accomplish this, sellers are trained to observe carefully, ask the right questions, and excel at listening. The same could be said for giving presentations that are both informational and powerful. Sellers don’t need to understand the psychology that drives emotional response, but instead need to know what to look for and how to respond to what they see. So, in this example, selling, while not pure science, is also not entirely innate, as in an art. But where does that leave us? The answer lies with a new perspective on selling, which views it as a management science.
Holden has developed a Four Stage Model that addresses key factors (intent, focus, relationship, value and knowledge) within a context that describes the customer and competitive environments. True to any management science, it enables sales proficiency to be documented, measured, understood, and managed. This in turn, increases sales proficiency, consistency of performance, and scalability within sales organizations. Success is based upon both tangible and intangible factors. These factors approach art and science, sales as a management science conceptually sits in between them bridging the gap.
Finding Your Competitive Advantage: Product is Not Enough Download a hard copy of this white paper: Finding Your Competitive Advantage.pdf
Is the product you sell “so good it sells itself”? Congratulations. Either you’re one of the few sellers remaining in the world who still enjoy such an advantage, or you’ve just awakened from a state of suspended animation. For the rest of you, today’s marketplace demands more—the advantage of Power Base® Compete Sales Strategy.
A decade or two ago, sellers could get away with simply presenting the information about their wares. If they offered a product that stood alone astride its category, such as Intel computer chips in the 1980s or Microsoft Office a decade later, that was often enough.
For most sellers, that success became the root of the problem. Even when their product advantage evaporated, sellers who had succeeded with the old ways had been lulled into a false confidence, still believing they had the necessary sales skills. But in the new world of international competition and freely available online information, most products now had viable competitors—and most customers, knowing they could simply visit the Internet for information, knew they no longer needed the salesperson as a data source.
Today, most products don’t sell themselves, but many are good enough that they don’t knock themselves out of consideration either. For this reason, most salespeople don’t lose the sale because their product’s deficiencies knocked them out of the running—they lose the sale because, quite simply, they are outsold.
The graph above illustrates the evolving role of the seller in this “post-product” era of selling.
The Product, represented here by the innermost ring, remains the core of any offering. The next ring, Financial, represents the product price point and the organization’s ongoing investment in research and development. The third ring is the ability to create a positive Industry Presence, like the one enjoyed for years by Microsoft and Intel.
These first three rings only constitute the “what” is being sold; a strong product at a competitive price point with a recognizable brand name. Today’s sellers must seek out additional sources of competitive advantage.
These advantages lie outside the Product itself. They can be found in a clinical analysis of the people doing the buying: the Power Base® of influential people in your prospective customer’s organization, under the unofficial leadership of the influencer known as the Fox. A company can have multiple Foxes, even different ones for different occasions. What’s important to note here is that there are scientifically proven techniques for identifying these key influencers, so your selling efforts are spent delivering the right message to the right individuals. This discipline is at the heart of Holden International’s Power Base® Compete selling.
One example of Holden’s exhaustive research is a recently released, 12-year study across more than 28,000 enterprise sellers found that fewer than one in five sales professionals had begun to consistently apply these contemporary selling principles, while only four percent of those surveyed had achieved the level of Compete sales proficiency that merits the term Sales Superiority. Meanwhile, over half of all sellers were still relying on Product and Price to make the sale—and an additional 27% were still trusting their fate to their Product alone!
After three decades in the vanguard of sales knowledge, Holden International remains in the vanguard of strategic and tactical know-how to help sellers achieve Sales Superiority. With the development of Power Base® Compete sales methodology, Holden has advanced the state of the art for this ruthlessly competitive age—developing and teaching the strategies that are preparing sellers around the world to win in today’s evolving marketplace.
Your chance to achieve Sales Superiority depends on your willingness to embrace a lesson that most sellers have never learned: In sales as in life, change is vital to survival. Today’s sellers must change their focus, with new concentration on developing relationships and recognizing influence, in order to outfox the competition—the reason why a Compete sales strategy is essential to your success.