Yet Another Misguided Sales Training Decision


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A while back a well-known and well-respected company approached ESR about us assisting them in an upcoming sales training provider evaluation and selection process.  Right up our alley!

We asked about their requirements definition.  Mary (not her real name), from the corporate training department, was managing the project.  She told me that a boutique consulting firm was doing that phase of the project.  I was concerned, so I asked a few questions about that firm’s approach.  It didn’t take long for both Mary and me to realize this firm wasn’t going to be able to get the job done.  They have no real understanding of how complex B2B selling works, nor how to assess sales performance improvement requirements.  It’s somewhat like having your auto mechanic diagnose a problem with your knee.  Mary said she’d get back to me at some point in the future.  She did wind up purchasing ESR’s Sales Training Vendor Guide as a show of good faith.  I appreciated that.

As I expected, several months went by.  Then Mary contacted me again.  She reported, quite dismayed, that what the consulting firm delivered was quite useless.  Mary wanted to engage ESR to read through the consultant’s report, ask additional questions, and bring the requirements definition up to the point where it could be the foundation of the rest of ESR’s sales training provider evaluation and selection process.  ESR agreed to look at the report before we committed to going any further.  A that point, I wasn’t sure that requirements definition had any value at all.  If it didn’t, ESR would decline the invitation to engage with Mary’s company.  (The reason is that we can’t effectively guide a client through a training provider selection without a set of objective and comprehensive requirements.)  That plan was fine with Mary.  We scheduled a conference call a week later for ESR to go over the report, but the call never took place.

It turned out that the company hired a new senior executive, who, while appreciating what the training department was trying to do, decided (apparently without any further consideration) to hire the training company that he had brought into his previous company.  I’m very familiar with that last company; they are in an entirely different business from his new company.  (To carry my earlier analogy further, this is like having that auto mechanic, who is the best there is when it comes to doing tune-ups and brake jobs on simple cars, attempt to diagnose and fix your 3-Series BMW’s completely automatic convertible top that is stuck in the down position, with a red warning light that won’t stop flashing.  Take it from me.  It just ain’t happening.  I had to take mine to a BMW dealer, just like you’d probably have told me to do in the first place.)

Trust me on this:  ESR understands enough about the client’s business and the capabilities of that particular training provider to know that—let me state this professionally and diplomatically—the client isn’t going to derive maximum value from their sales training investment.

I give Mary and her training department a lot of credit here.  They tried to do things the right way.  They listened very carefully when I talked about the mistakes that companies make when selecting a sales training partner.  I believe they really understood points two and three in the slide above, which I presented to them long before the new executive was hired.  But, like their counterparts in other companies, they were overridden by a senior executive who evidently thinks, “I’ll listen to what you have to say but I’m going to do what I want anyway.”

What about the sales training company?  This was certainly an easy win for them.  But I know, they know, and sooner or later the client will know this: it’s more than likely this story won’t end well. In situations like this they rarely do.

I wish the training company and their new client well.  I am sincere about this.  It doesn’t help anyone in sales or sales training to have yet another training initiative that doesn’t achieve its objectives as the result of yet another misguided senior executive decision.

Slide: © ES Research Group, Inc.  All Rights Reserved

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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