Tis The Season of Sales Training RFPs


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Before I go any further with this post, I should modify the subject of this post to be:

There Is Presently A Lot Of Activity
With Companies Performing Serious
And Methodical Evaluations Of
Sales Performance Improvement
Alternatives And Providers and
What I’ve Learned

We’ve been involved in a number of them (that’s why I haven’t been blogging a lot recently), with more in the pipeline.  That’s a substantial part of ESR’s business.

Here are some of our observations:

  • ESR’s ongoing assertion that no sales training company is right for every company’s requirements still holds.  Our clients span many industries including financial services, media, technology, energy, manufacturing, consumer package goods, hospitality, and professional services.  Each company within those segments is unique.  Reading through RFP responses from a half-dozen vendors highlights just how differently each approaches the same, documented set of client challenges.  And no response we have seen to date is a perfect fit.  The closest has been 90% or so, potentially leaving client challenges unmet or opportunities unleveraged.  Here’s the thing:  We believe that if our clients didn’t use a formal process for evaluating alternative providers they would think the fit with most providers would be closer to 100% and would not be able to really differentiate between those who were really a better fit and those who were not.  That leads to selecting the wrong provider for the wrong reasons.
  • Some well-known sales training companies don’t do an effective  job of competing in a formal, RFP-driven evaluation process.  Sure, I know that no one wants to respond to a blind RFP.  We make it more palatable by assuring the participants that 1) no vendor is presently in the account, nor has influenced the RFP in any way, 2) only ESR, in collaboration with the client, wrote the RFP, 3) there is a budget and executive sponsorship, and 4) everyone receiving the RFP has an equal opportunity to win.  It’s interesting how some vendors complain about not having unfettered access to people within the client’s organization during the process.  They say doing so is a vital element of their approach to selling.  I understand.  I really do.  Another perspective is what a lot of sales effectiveness firms preach but aren’t so willing to do:  aligning their selling process with their customer’s buying process. If the buyer needs to employ a fair and formal evaluation and selection process, why wouldn’t a competent seller adapt to that and still devise and then execute a winning plan?
  • Here is another observation.  Sales training buyers are very influenced by the personal as well as presentation styles of the providers.  They think, after seeing the charismatic and articulate founder of a training company present, “Wow, I really want my salespeople to be selling like that.”  In three recent cases, I asked the evaluation team questions such as these, “You are sales leaders.  Would that style help or hinder a sale to a group of non-sales people on your customers’ evaluation committees?”  Silence.  And, “Do you believe that the people delivering the training are all clones of the CEO you just observed?”  I loved it when each group deciding, on their own, to get back to comparing alternative providers through objective criteria.

A formal evaluation process is good for the buyer and the seller.  If they wind up doing business together, it’s for the right reasons, with the strengths and weaknesses of both parties out in the open.  No bad surprises.  Bad surprises are what we need less of in sales training.

Photo source: http://www.memorial-walls.com

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Stein
Dave specializes in helping his clients win critical B2B sales opportunities as well as helping them hire the best sales talent.Dave is co-author of Beyond the Sales Process. He wrote the best-selling How Winners Sell in 2004.


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