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Comments

Anup Mody

Jill, your argument makes perfect sense and is one that has been made whenever things have been "rough". I'm curious about two things: 1. I'm sure you communicated your value prop very well. So how come the Sr. VP wasn't convinced?
2. A Sr. VP IS part of the executive team. How come he had to go still higher to get a bunch of books approved?

We develop Business Acumen via simulations and we are facing similar challenges with our prospects. We're now having deeper conversations about metrics and it seems to be helping.

Nigel Edelshain

Jill,

Yup "perception is reality". I believe the situation you mention is going to change fast as the economy recovers. A friend of mine calls it the "turtle position".

But soon enough companies will start looking at their competitors and wanting to be better than them then the spending on growth will start again.

We're going to go back to growth mode shortly. It's the American Way.

Nigel

Bill

Offer his executive team a half-day seminar, expenses only, to demonstrate that your offer will drive sales if the sales staff is brought on board. Quickly. As well, you could make the same offer to MainCompetitor, Inc. If one accepts, use this knowledge to secure two sales.

Mark Goodson

Jill
You see it all the time. The other "death spiral" factor is that because business is bad, the head honchos want extra forecasts, forecast review meetings, sales reports... all of which take time, thereby reducing still further the effectiveness of the sales team.

Steve Richard

This same thing just happened to us with a software company based in NC. We initially proposed a 2 day workshop, then a 1 day workshop, then a series of webinars exactly like Jill. Everything got shot down. The Sales Director emailed me yesterday asking my opinion about various sales books on getting in the door. It was an exhaustive list. He probably spent the equivalent of one day researching this list of books. Assuming this Sales Director earns $150k a year (safe bet), one day of his time is worth about $600. As his team looks for ways to up-skill themselves, I promise that they are doing similar searches. For a 10 person sales team we're talking about $6,000 searching for alternative cheaper solutions. Coincidentally this number is the same as the one day abbreviated workshop I proposed.

To all of you head honchos out there, please consider the value of the time of your people and how much more ROI that time can bring to your business if you arm them with the tools that they need to do their jobs. Paying a person $150k then nickeling and diming on a $5k solution that can make the person 50% more productive makes no business sense. Even as a 29 year old CEO of a tiny 25 person company, I know this.

Camaurer

Roger Martin's Article "The Age of Customer Capitalism" in Harvard Business Review issue January-February 2010 should be mandatory reading for all head honchos.

When you read the article you will see what a colossal mind shift has to happen right at the top. Nothing less than the shareholder value orientation has to be left behind us. This takes a lot of courage to fight the financial sharks who want to stick with it for obvious egoistical reasons; wanting to return to play the games of the virtual economy. Not fighting the cause though will lead to a painful death spiral for the real economy. And this spiral might turn faster than we think.

Customers have gained immense power and they will sanction those that are hoping to sit out the crisis and then to continue business as usual.

Andy_Rudin

Hi Jill: Thanks for bringing this up. If anyone thinks sales training isn't important, listen to the outcome without it.

I cringe every time I hear the recording. Forget about what causes a VP of Sales to break into a sweat. Think about the CFO. What you just heard is her quarterly cash flow projection falling off a cliff.

Ongoing professional sales development and training enables strategy. If you think your product "isn't that hard to sell," or that you just need "someone to go start knocking on doors," then I have a great deal on land in Florida to offer you.

Jill Konrath

Thanks everyone for the great comments so far - and I'd like to add a few more of my own ...

- Anup: My contact, the SVP of US sales, reported to the executive team in a different country. They weren't willing to invest in training because revenue was down. Period. End of discussion. Personally I didn't even pursue it because I have better prospects who "get" the value I bring.

- Nigel: I'm already seeing a turnaround this year. My business is way up. But, I am also seeing companies who are in the early stages of their death spiral. Things will only get tougher for them in the upcoming years.

- Bill: Great ideas! If I had more time, I would implement them!!!

- Mark: Amen re: the head honchos contributing to the problem. It's like they get fixated on the data, while the opportunities are slipping away.

- Steve: I agree 100%. It makes no sense. As Ben Franklin would say, "They're penny wise, but pound foolish."

- Christian: I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to read that article. Whoever wrote it is a person after my own heart.

- Andy: That link with the message is painful to listen to - and, unfortunately, that's what the majority of salespeople sound like on the phone. A big OUCH!

Ron McFarland

As I read through your posts I am reminded the more things change the more they stay the same. I attended my first SPIN training class while working for the other copier company in 1987 in Dunedin New Zealand.

The message then was - learn your customers business - listen - ask systematic questions - wait to offer solutions - today its called different things. Still comes down to good selling is helping your prospects / customers get what they want and need.

What is missing from your story above is the importance of timing. Your prospect company may have had legitimate and multiple reasons for not actioning your training proposal - change of management - a merger - buyout - even your contact being replaced.

I feel you mentioned the most important skill in selling and that is having a large prospect list that enables one to move on to the next deal - the deal that has the right timing for all parties.

A solid prospect list creates confidence and that is what people buy in the end.

It seems like every-time I have had either an easy deal or tried to force a deal to my timing - they turn to mush at some point.

Enjoy your site - it is helpful as I work through repackaging myself and finding my next gig.

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