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Management Marketing Personal Development

Tips for Succeeding as a First-Time Manager

Jennifer Gluckow, founder of Sales in A New York Minute, knows a thing or two about sales. She’s also a first-rate manager with plenty of street cred. When she was placed in a sales management position, she quickly learned how to motivate her reps. Here’s what she shared with us about young and first-time managers in her recent Manage Smarter podcast.

Immediate Feedback

It’s always great when your younger reps make a sale. But, they need you most when the sale doesn’t happen. When you, and they, are first starting out, make sure they discuss their disappointments with you. These sessions allow you to point out what they could have said or done differently. The discussions also give you a chance to boost their ego, so they don’t get lost in negativity.

Mind the Age Gap

Long ago, presidential candidate Dan Quayle questioned the suitability of his opponent, Ronald Reagan, based on age. Reagan scored huge points, and went on to win re-election, after he famously turned around the challenge by saying, “I am not going to exploit for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” If you’re much younger than the team members you’re supervising, be prepared to feel some heat. “They’ll seem nice and friendly, but they’re totally judging you,” remembers Gluckow, who was in the situation of supervising much older sales reps. You don’t have to form deep personal friendships with your team members. You just need to get them to do their best. To earn their respect, and cooperation, Gluckow quizzed her team members on what mattered to them about the job. Once she tapped into their emotional connection to the job, it was easier to convince them to work with her and make quota.

Make a List

Most sales managers have been reps. They’ve suffered under managers who were rude. Or, they’ve put up with constantly being handed the worst assignments. Or, they’ve had to figure out how to succeed on their own, because their manager couldn’t be bothered training them. You don’t have to be that kind of manager. Gluckow made a list when she first started managing people. She wrote down the traits of the best managers she had and made sure she emulated them.

If you want to start your management career on the right path, consider doing the same.

Categories
Marketing Personal Development Sales Technology

Boosting the Shopping Experience

Estimates hold that more data will be produced in 2018 than in all years previously. Much of that is consumer-focused—what we buy, how we buy it and why we buy it, among other information.

Thanks to the leverage and insight afforded by big data analytics, retailers of all sorts have the ability to enjoy an enormous opportunity to better focus and improve their customers’ overall shopping experience.

Big data analytics can now be used at every stage of the retail process, including identifying consumer trends, forecasting demand, pricing and pinpointing the most efficient means of delivery. That’s a proactive form of decision making, one of the benchmarks of my Anticipatory Organization Model.

That’s also good news for both shoppers and the organizations that serve them. Here are just a few areas in which data analytics is crafting a more rewarding shopping environment for everyone.

Product Recommendations

Most every Internet shopper has experienced “If you like this, consider this” and other similar pitches based on buying history and preferences. But, advances in data analysis and other related forms of technology hold the promise of more interactive, personalized forms of shopping guidance and suggestions. For instance, clothing retailer The North Face now offers an online tool called Fluid Expert Personal Shopper. The system, which uses IBM’s Watson cognitive computer technology, employs a “personal shopper” that can ask consumers questions about gender, location and even the sort of weather conditions where the clothing will be worn. From there, the system can provide specific recommendations.

Although still in an initial, limited stage, programs such as Fluid Expert Personal Shopper hold the potential for an even more comprehensive and useful customer experience. For instance, Watson is now using additional data to develop a “sentiment analysis” feature, which will allow systems to gauge changes in customer moods to better manage interactions with consumers. In effect, shopping systems will be able to interpret in an intuitive manner whether customers are pleased with a purchase, dissatisfied or interested in some other item.

More Useful, More Focused Apps

An increasing number of retailers are using mobile apps as a means to improve in-store shopping experiences and better interaction with store employees. That can begin well before a customer arrives at the store itself. For instance, retailer Nordstrom’s mobile app allows customers to check details such as product availability, size and color before they visit a Nordstrom store. The system also offers personalized recommendations based on gathered customer data. Customers who opt in can also have their profiles—including purchase histories—forwarded to in-store salespeople when they enter a store so they can receive immediate, personalized service.

In another example, Target’s mobile app leverages product location data, a store’s physical layout and customer profiles to offer personalized promotions to customers as they shop in-store. To that end, the company has begun installing beaconing technology at dozens of locations to gather movement and shopping pattern data from customers who agree to be monitored. This, in turn, promises to help customers not only make better buying decisions but to do so more efficiently instead of wandering up and down aisles in search of a particular item.

Greater Delivery Choices

The convenience of mobile Internet-based shopping has afforded consumers a greater range of control over not only when they shop but also where and when they receive items they buy. Locational data provided by the proliferation of smartphones takes that level of convenience and specificity to a completely new level. In one respect, that opens up the possibility that items can be delivered to customers wherever they happen to be—at home, on the job, at a restaurant having lunch and at any number of other locations.

Alternatively, by leveraging geolocation data, companies can also immediately notify shoppers when purchased goods have been dropped off at their homes or other spots. Not only does that lessen the chance of a delivery being missed, but time-sensitive deliveries—such as a gift that the buyer wants to keep secret from a family member—become that much easier to manage.

Consumer data isn’t limited to information about a particular shopper. Big data analytics allows organizations of all sorts to apply that information to make shopping more enjoyable, efficient and customer-focused for a broad range of consumers.

Ready to see the future and plan with greater confidence? Subscribe to my publication, The Technotrends Newsletter, now in its 35th year, and join thousands of leaders who have accelerated innovation and results by applying the principles I teach in my award-winning Anticipatory Organization Learning System.

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Best Practices Personal Development Sales

CRM: Is the Tail Wagging the Dog?

Note:  This is the first of a three part series on how sales performance management is evolving

According to their marketing materials, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications solve just about every sales problem your company has ever experienced. Are the promises true?  Or…does CRM just help make your existing processes (good or bad) more efficient –at best? Do your sales people feel like you own your CRM or that your CRM owns them? Is CRM the tail wagging the dog?

CRM systems have powerful functionality, and are able to analyze more data all the time.  And yet, an alarming percentage of CRM implementations don’t meet expectations – see the chart below (CIO magazine recently found 33%, a more current figure, but not out of line with history).  Those numbers look worse when you examine how “expectations” were defined.

What’s going on? CRM Alone is Not Enough

 There are a couple of reasons why CRM implementations miss expectations:

They typically focus on selling process alone.  I’ll discuss this in greater depth next week, but selling process is the easy part: aligning with the customer’s buying process is where big gains in effectiveness happen.

CRM can only analyze the data it has access to. Order history reports tend to be pretty accurate, but opportunity pursuit data is almost always sketchy at best…especially for lower-performing sales people.

For sales people, CRM is often simply a compliance tool; that is, it’s an administrative system to track actions. If it doesn’t help sales people win opportunities, it doesn’t get used.

Even worse, the actions tracked aren’t quality actions that lead to success, and everyone knows it.  If CRM’s intent is to streamline customer interactions, most implementations don’t measure up. Why? Many companies fall into the trap of tracking what is easy to capture, not what’s important.  Analyzing non-predictive data gets you lots of numbers, charts and graphs, but no real insights.

The tail wagging the dog:

If all CRM is in your organization is a tool to track (the wrong) activities… and you’ve become a slave to tracking those activities, you exist to serve your CRM, not the other way around.

There is a huge difference between a tool that makes sellers more effective and one used by managers to gather semi-meaningful data.  While I don’t want to ignore the importance of lightening a front-line sales manager’s reporting burden, that benefit may not be worth the cost s of implementation.

While they’re billed as sales performance tools, most companies’ CRM implementations fall short. When CRM becomes merely a compliance and reporting tool, you’re in trouble.

Worse, if you fall into the trap of measuring only the wrong activities (unfortunately, that means measuring activities that CRM finds easiest to measure and track), you’re in the worst kind of trouble.  You’re not leading with measuring the right things.  Opportunity counts mean nothing.  Winnable opportunity tracking means something. Understanding how to turn an at-risk opportunity into a winnable one is everything.

What should CRM be and do?

While CRM should also be able to analyze post-sale information, it should be a tool for sales professionals. Companies should set a high bar for their expectations. To be a genuine tool for sellers and their leaders, the next generation of CRM needs to:

1. Drive effective selling behaviors(not mere activity tracking). My expertise is selling behaviors that drive sales – as opposed to activities that sales people could perform.  For example: I want to drive great conversations with the right people, not number of calls completed.  Today’s CRM implementations typically help leaders track the latter, when they know they should be driving the former.  The ideal CRM should help alert sales people to the right behaviors at the right times.

2. Change deal outcomes: using expertise, a CRM system should proactively identify which opportunities in your funnel are at risk…and more importantly, why.  That same CRM system should automatically tell individual sellers what to do about it. Early risk identification and management (mitigation or de-resourcing) would be gold in the hands of a selling organization.

3. Replicate Winning Behaviors. The sales behaviors that predict selling success are observable, trainable, trackable and coachable. Uncovering those behaviors, then replicating them sales force-wide by training, coaching, and tracking those behaviors, allows you to bring all of the sellers on a team to a higher level. A CRM that does this would be a huge advantage for a selling organization.

Where CRM has been.  Where It’s Going

CRM has evolved through three major generations:

  1. Contact manager.An automated Rolodex and tickler file.
  2. Massive powerful DB that does everything – some are capable of managing the ordering and assembly logistics of a space shuttle…although integrating proposals and contracts with enterprise resource planning, etc. were common uses.
  3. Today, State of the art CRMs “’Manage’ the selling process”; that is, ather seller data on their activities.
  • Activity-based selling fits today’s CRM tools best.
  • Activities and behaviors that align selling activities with customer buying processes (customer-centric sales methodologies) are firmly out-of-scope.

My company has had, for years, a skinny software stack for CRMs that allows sellers to practice methodology within CRM.  It allowed sellers to benefit from CRM as a performance-enhancement tool.  Because of that, many clients find that CRM utilization by sellers dramatically increases, yielding data accuracy benefits to the organization. (Ironically, some companies have bought sales training –at least initially–to finally achieve acceptable compliance with CRM).

Today, even the best coaching is done in-person, by managers examining meeting plans, account plans and opportunity pursuits, diagnosing selling behavior gaps, and conducting coaching conversations.  The skinny stack is great for this. Tools that score opportunities and selling methodology behaviors (methodology is what connects sales process to customer buying process) have enhanced the skinny stack tool even further.

The three requirements of a great CRM implementation above are met with this skinny stack.  The challenge:  coaching is almost 100% in-person, a large demand on front-line-manager time resources.

What if there was a true sellers-first tool, that helped sales professionals be great?  What would that look like?

Watch this space…or contact me right away to learn more.

To your success!

Categories
Sales Skills

Three Sales Strategies for Even Keel/Indifference

Indifferent or “Even Keel” mode happens when  a buying influence sees no compelling reason to change what they’re doing. Because any change (including a purchase of something different) needs to overcome the uncertainty and interruption factor of that change, indifference happens any time the perceived value an improvement doesn’t outweigh the perceived cost of change.  To get someone out of Even Keel, you need to change their perception somehow:  reduce the perceived cost of change — or increase the perceived payoff from making that change.

Indifference is common, threatening many sales opportunities by causing the prospect to default to the status quo.  It’s often the biggest competitive threat in play. Great sales professionals prepare for indifference so they can plant the seed for perception change during that next meeting…the only one they can count on ever getting.

I was recently asked for a list of the strategies that a sales professional can use to get a buying influence out of “Even Keel” or “indifferent” mode.  He’d read in The New Strategic Sellingabout waiting for the person’s perception to change, and knew there had to be more options available.

Perception is personal. Thus, changing perception should be about people. Let’s examine whomight serve as catalyst for changing a buying influence’s perception to leave indifference behind.  There are three sources of perceptual change:

  1. The prospect changes their own perception based upon perceived change in their environment or situation.
  2. The sales person is the agent of change. That is, the sales person influences the process of changing the prospect’s perceptual change.
  3. A credible (to the prospect) third party acts as perception-changer.

Here are some thoughts on the three strategies for dealing with indifference, to help you prepare for your next sales interaction:

Let the buying influence (BI) change their own perception.

I list this strategy first because many sales people don’t consider it fully. When you are taught to “take control of the call” or something similar, the strategy of letting the flow of events do your work for you is counterintuitive.  While it’s not always the shortest path, it works directly on the perception of the prospect.  There are a couple of variations.

1. Let them fail on their own. When this option works, it works great.  Prospects are likely to transition directly into “I’m in trouble” mode, which is highly leveragable.  It also means you need to politely maintain contact.  Be the one with share of mind to get their first call, then be the most responsive.  Unfortunately, this route can take a long time.  This option is one of the few viable options when the prospect is so overconfident in their current solution that their willingness to listen to anyone is limited.

2. Let them watch as a competitor begins to win. This is a variation of the ‘let them fail” option.  Only certain buying influences will be in a position to see this or care that it’s happening: affected sales people and sometimes  top executives (it can be less impactful to User or Technical buying influences).

The Seller changes the  Buying Influence’s perception

 Note: credibility is foundational for this strategy.  If a prospect doesn’t trust what you are telling them, you can’t build a case for change.  I work with my clients to establish and build credibility at all times — for this reason and more.  Once you’ve got credibility, you can:

Show the prospect that reality isn’t as acceptable as they perceive it; that potential losses from doing nothing are higher than they perceived.  Help them see their problem more broadly (in MHGroup terminology:  help them change their Concept, or solution image.). My readers, who are familiar with my focus on customer value will recognize the imperative to uncover unrealized value.

  1. Uncover and crystalize needs. With deeper investigation, implicit needs become explicit.
  2. Examine the impact of any existing gaps in more detail. What is the “impact of the impact” (including monetizing it).
  3. Think about the prospect’s role in the sale and in the decision dynamic for ideas on possible perception changes. This will help you prepare some high-impact discovery questions.

Mutually discover that you can help them solve a business problem that they didn’t see being connected to your solution. Again, you need credibility with this prospect to secure time to do extra discovery…or to do it in small bites over time.  This means expanding their concept.

Find a sufficiently compelling personal win,tied to a result. If a buying influence sees an adequate (but previously not compelling) business benefit plus a significant newly-realized personal win, that business benefit will become one they are willing to advocate to their peers. Some possible wins:

  • Be the first to respond to a budding problem.
  • Propose a solution before a rival within the company does

Have a trusted third party change the target’s perception.  

 Much of what I said about salesperson-led change above applies below—if your credibility is less than needed, this option might be a good one.  To execute this strategy when needed, you’ll need credibility with that third person.  Here are some options:

A co-worker changes their perception. This person’s credibility will be the key to their mind, and helping that co-worker find a role-appropriate gap may be needed.

  • Might you need to coach that co-worker? How?

Executive adjusts their perspective. Credibility with the target prospect is not a big problem when it’s their boss. Making sure the buying influence saves face or comes out with a personal win should be a point of emphasis.

A Coach changes their perception. A Coach is anyone who has credibility with your target, and who wants your proposal to succeed (Miller Heiman Group alumni: there’s one more criterion. Quiz:  what is it?).  These people can advance and promote the case for change.  Caution:  don’t let your coach cross the line to selling on your behalf, or do anything that damages their own credibility with other buying influences.

Takeaways:

Every salesperson soon learns that status quo is often the biggest hurdle to be overcome in many sales situations.  Buyer inertia is a presence in just about every sales situation, and salespeople need to be able to deal with it.

Salespeople need to build credulity in every customer interaction. This lays the foundation for everything they try to accomplish in the future:, open the prospect’s view to new options , establish value of options…even gain the right to secure a meeting in the future.

Pre-plan how you will bring value to every interaction.  Using your domain expertise in your offer/solution/service/product is of limited value to most prospects.  Apply that domain expertise with insights and knowledge of the prospect’s unique business situation, and your perspective can have that rare value sought by today’s more sophisticated buyers.

If you’d like to talk about creating value with prospects, it’s a skillset I am passionate about helping my clients improve..  Comment below, or contact me directly (mark@boundyconsulting.com) to share your unique challenges.

To your success!

Categories
Best Practices Entrepreneurship Management Marketing Personal Development

Why Your Elevator Pitch Still Matters


If you want to attract an investor, get a job, get a raise, or maybe even get a date: you’ve got to have an elevator pitch. Or, more accurately: The NEW Elevator Pitch.

Some might think of the elevator pitch as a throwback to a long-ago era, before technology became commonplace. And that’s true: the elevator platform has been replaced with the social platform.

While it’s true that you can swipe right to make a connection, that’s only the start of the conversation. An employer might be interested because of your LinkedIn profile. But sooner or later, someone is going to say,

So, tell me a little bit about yourself. What do you do?

The online conversation can only take you so far. According to this article in Harvard Business Review, over two-thirds of managers are uncomfortable communicating with employees. Are we losing the ability to have an effective conversation?

The need for a new kind of conversation has never been greater. The influx of technology is crippling our ability to interact, and that old-school “facetime” conversation is now stilted, awkward and uncomfortable. Why?

  • We still need to persuade others, and get them enrolled in new ideas
  • Investors still want to hear from you, personally, before they part with their money
  • Hiring the best and the brightest means being able to share your story quickly – clearly – concisely

When you want to persuade and influence the people that matter most (whether that’s your life partner or business partner), you’ve got to understand these key components of a new kind of conversation. That conversation is what I call the NEW Elevator Pitch.

  • If it doesn’t matter to your listener, it doesn’t matter: Have you ever met someone who can only talk about themselves? I know one guy who was out on a date and his conversation starter was, “So what have you heard about me?” Wow. Yikes. Ouch. And for entrepreneurs, the problem can be just as challenging: focusing on your business, without looking at the impact for the investor, is deadly. Sure, you’ve worked hard, and your life experiences make you who you are, but at the end of the day: what matters most? Is it your past…or your potential? Ultimately, you have to turn what you’ve done in the past into what you can do for others. Otherwise, what matters to you won’t matter much.
  • Create a “Tell Me More..”: If you want to know if you’ve got a great pitch, remember this: the best ‘pitch’ isn’t a pitch at all. It’s a conversation. A conversation that makes your listener say, “Tell me more.” Those three words – tell me more – let you know that you’ve started a dialogue. That’s how you know if someone is interested. And if you’re wondering, “What’s the opposite of ‘tell me more’?”, the answer is: “So what?”
  • Include an invitation: The NEW Elevator Pitch is a persuasive conversation. In other words, you want someone to take action. That means that just providing information isn’t enough. Information is everywhere. I know, because I just googled it. Information doesn’t always lead to action. Think about it: you know you shouldn’t eat that second donut. But there it is. Your knowledge can’t stop you from snarfing down that delicious chocolate covered donut. What is it that makes people want to take action? This video can tell you more, but basically: you’ve got to remember to include an invitation. An invitation that’s easy to say ‘yes’ to. An invitation that’s logical, simple and clear. If you don’t offer a next step, how can people know what action you hope to create? And more importantly, how can someone learn what kind of outcome you might be able to achieve, together?

 

You don’t need to be an entrepreneur to be in the market for a great pitch. You just have to have an idea worth sharing. All you need is a story to tell. You have ideas you want to share. The NEW Elevator Pitch can help you to deliver your message.

My question for you is: do you know how to bring your ideas to life?

For more resources that can help you to access your authentic story, take a look at my YouTube channel. And, if you would like some help with your pitch, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

New results could be just one conversation away.

 

About the Author

A coach to entrepreneurial leaders on four continents, Chris Westfall has helped transform brands across the globe. His clients have appeared on Shark Tank, Dragons Den in Canada and also Shark Tank – Australia. Recognized as the US NATIONAL ELEVATOR PITCH CHAMPION, he regularly provides guidance to C-Suite executives on powerful communication skills.  Follow him on twitter or Instagram, and check out over 200 videos on effective communication, via his YouTube Channel.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Management Marketing Personal Development

The Sudden Death of Products and Services

Texas Sunset


Your customer has spoken: products and services are dead.

Consumed by new marketing strategies, all products and services have been replaced.

The next next thing in marketing and branding?

“Experiences”.

Marketing and Branding with Chris WestfallCalling something a product or service just doesn’t make any sense in the new economy. The description is out of date. Those words don’t apply to today’s consumers or companies.

Marketing professionals and sales people need to understand:
Products and services are dead.

Every leader has to understand: every company, everywhere, is selling experiences.

 

Think about it: The things that we buy and consume, either as individuals or as a corporate entity, are not products. These things are not services.

We buy, acquire, endure and enjoy experiences.

Related: Four Ways to Overcome Your Blind Spot on Entrepreneur.com

Today, commerce trades on the experience you have, and the experience you provide.

Consider these experiential products:

  • A vacation in Hawai’i
  • Purchasing a new Porsche Panamera
  • Transitioning your organization to SAP CRM
  • Changing vendors for your outsourced call center

Which of these are products, and which are services? Answer: None, and all. The old words don’t work anymore; we need to choose new ones if we want to tell a story that’s authentic and complete. And all customers – all consumers – crave authenticity.

Marketing Products and Services in a VaccuumYou see, no product exists in a vaccuum.

Even a vaccuum cleaner.

No service stands alone without products. These things are really events, or experiences, made up of a series of products, services and interactions.

And so many things are outside the scope of either products or services. For example: what if you donate to a non-profit? What about that last iPhone app, or a new piece of software – what is it exactly, product or service?

What we want, what we pay for and what we get can all be summed up in one way: experiences.

Today’s customer (whether a corporation or a person, and by the way they are NOT the same) wants an experience. Perhaps an experience that is fantastic (like visiting the most beautiful place on the planet, Hawai’i) or excruciating (transitioning to SAP CRM, for example, because your CFO chose the low-bidder on the job).

Even a traditional product purchase, like buying a new car, requires a series of events that create an experience that circumvents the “product” (whatever the hell that is, anyway). For example, when you buy a car, unless you have $108,433.00 cash (that’s a nice car! welcome to the C-Suite), you are going to need financing.

Maybe you will lease the vehicle. Maybe you will talk to the finance manager, or the sales manager, about your options. You go through a series of events and choices; this is all part of the experience of ownership. The most traditional “product” in America (the automobile) gives you an experience. The experience of the purchase, the experience of the service, and the experience of the brand. How does your car make you feel about yourself? Are you comfortable, and do you feel powerful behind the wheel? Those feelings are as real as the tires and the spark plugs – a very real experience, indeed.

Marketing Matters

“Product” and “service” are incomplete definitions. Consider the experience you want to have, as a consumer or a corporation. And, if you want to reach new customers in new ways, think long and hard about the total customer experience. Services and products alone just aren’t cutting it anymore.


 

Bullet Proof Branding by Chris WestfallMore Information and Additional Resources: 

Check out Bullet Proof Branding.  Find out how Cisco, Cargill, the Huffington Post and other organizations are creating impact in the digital age.

With a foreword by Ted Rubin, this book takes a look at how the conversation is changing for companies and individuals, in the age of social media.

About the Author: Chris Westfall is the publisher of seven books, including BulletProof Branding. His latest book is called Leadership Language, coming from Wiley in the fall of 2018. A business coach to entrepreneurial leaders on four continents, Chris Westfall has reshaped brands around the globe – creating multi-million dollar results in the process. His clients have appeared on Shark Tank, Dragons’ Den in Canada and Shark Tank – Australia. Find out more on his website and follow him on twitter.

Photo credits: Texas Sunset by the author. Girl with laptop and vacuum cleaner: creative commons via flickr.

Categories
Best Practices Management Personal Development Sales

You Can’t Test Your Way to (Sales) Performance

In the sales performance space, there is a growing disconnect between performance focus and learning focus.

If my email and voice mails are any indicator, there is an explosion in learning technology options crowding into the sales enablement world. An important part of my business is learning about these powerful tools for knowledge dissemination, especially as they apply to sales forces.

Learning and training tools are more accessible, more available, more efficient and more effective than ever before. There has never been a better time to be involved in the adult learning industry. However, adult learning is the least interesting part of my business. My true business is achieving lasting results for my clients.

There are two big differences between a learning focus and a results focus:

  1. Improving sales performance requires far more than knowledge acquisition.
  2. Knowledge acquisition isn’t the weak link in the chain.

My own company, The Miller Heiman Group, is innovating in many areas including improving the learning portion of the “sales performance improvement” chain. The chain metaphor fits: knowledge transfer without behavior change achieves little of lasting commercial value. If all my firm became known for was innovation in learning, we would fail our clients. “Watch this space” for exciting innovative performance management tools, though.

Sales performance improvement is far more than “training…poof!”

A great instructor can teach all of the techniques of a golf swing—grip, stance, backswing, body motion, hand action, hip turn, follow-through, etc. – in a couple of hours. That couple of hours won’t land anyone on the pro tour, though. That’s even if the student scored 100% on a post-training assessment; confirming that they acquired every atom of the instruction.

Similarly, sales performance is about adopting new selling behaviors; working to turn them into “muscle memory”. Teach those behaviors and test for comprehension all you want, but without coaching and guided practice, little or no performance change will result.

Alarmingly, many learning professionals claim that “training effectiveness” should be measured by testing for effective knowledge acquisition. The trap: testing for knowledge acquisition is easy via (electronically-administered) tests. This is a classic application of John Tukey’s quote “Far better an approximate answer to the right question than a precise answer to the wrong question…”. Testing for comprehension is so much “the wrong question” it verges on criminal: sales training comprehension alone won’t deliver the results sales leaders need. Sales training simply isn’t that kind of simple “know it = do it” material.

The pitfall to “teach-and-test only”:

Knowledge acquisition isn’t the weak link in the chain.

Training events are easy… compared to getting your sales teams to consistently adopt sales methodology behaviors. Behavior adoption requires observation and effective coaching over an extended period. Think about the time to train you to swing a golf club vs. the time it takes to achieve proficiency — then excellence. Also, think of the difference that great coaching can make in ramp-up time.

Sure, training and testing have their place. Training introduces and describes desired behaviors. Testing confirms understanding. Knowledge and understanding are important steps along the adoption path. It’s difficult to coach effectively without a clearly communicated set standards and expectations.  Thus, there is a chain of events –with training and testing for comprehension as one link.

In my experience, a training event ends where the most powerful work starts. That’s where behavior coaching begins, where new habits are formed, and where lasting results are embedded…where a performance initiative becomes consequential.

The “weak” link in the chain is building new habits with your people. I call it the weak link not because of a lack of coaching tools, or ineffective ones. Rather, weak refers to the reality that people and organizations generally struggle with change. Unsurprisingly, changing behaviors is the most common failure point in a sales performance initiative. Organizationally, behavior change requires that you plan, communicate, involve, lead, and commit. Individually, sales leaders need to develop, observe, diagnose, coach, and persist. Once behaviors are instilled, the methodology becomes sustainable. I use the chain metaphor because if a coaching/sustainment piece is missing, the whole initiative risks missing on the desired outcome – and the investment has limited return.

A stronger chain

To achieve strong results, put together all of these elements:

  1. Great sales methodologies…yes, and teach them effectively. I’m aligned with the most successful B2B methodologies in the world, and can tell you why. My company is now a leader in learning innovation, and I’m proud align myself with them.
  2. Great coaching and training tools that help front-line sales managers (one key point of differentiation between success and disappointment) become effective behavior coaches. My clients can access a full set of rich coaching and sustainment tools, plus my commitment to integrate those tools into working solutions that result in meaningful outcomes.
  3. A great execution and change plan individualized for your organization. Just buying “butts in seats” from any training company — no matter how good their material is — runs the risk of assuming away this critical component. This link in the chain doesn’t come from a training company.

Understand: testing for material mastery is not a predictor of outcomes. Not even remotely.

The overwhelming differentiator in successful sales performance initiatives is effective behavior change, not behavior description. Make sure you have a clear change management path before you decide to “train your people”. Be sure you understand how your learners will be coached into becoming performers.

I’ve seen some e-learning tools claiming to perform automated coaching – verifying behavior change. Now that’s a cool concept, and I’m eager to see those technologies mature. In the meantime, feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss behavior change and organizational change management that works. For you, your organization, and your aspirations.

To your success!

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