Sometimes I despair about the message some of my traditional competitors give to the sales effectiveness market. I’m responding to a blog from Miller Heiman, one of the oldest providers of sales training, one of the best known names in the industry, and a company that should – in my opinion – be providing leadership. One blog post starts … “Product Innovation as Growth Strategy is Sexy but …” and then goes on to relegate the value of product innovation to little more than a distraction. A follow up post adopts an almost ‘King Canute like’ attitude to the application of technology to supporting and automating the selling process. (Legend has it that King Canute the Great, seated on this throne on the seashore, waves lapping at his feet, commanded the sea to advance no further.)
Technology and innovation plays a very important role in the advancement of any profession. Consider the advances in productivity, and improvements in customer experience, delivered by innovations in technology or business process, from companies as diverse as Salesforce.com, Southwest Airlines, Apple, Google, GE, IKEA or Nordstrom. These companies’ efforts drive their competitors to improve and raise their game – all to the ultimate benefit of the individual or corporate consumer.
The use of technology and innovation is extremely light as it has been applied to sales effectiveness solutions. Maybe this is because it’s a hard problem to solve, though few things worth doing are easy. Perhaps it’s because sales is not always an exact science, or technology might be seen to de-value the attendant artistry. I would suggest that technology can liberate creative intuition by removing drudge and providing a foundation for more informed judgment.
Trivializing the value of automation that improves productivity of sales does the sales professionals a disservice. Instead of trying to stem the flow of new ideas, creative approaches or new thinking, we in the sales effectiveness industry should continuously be seeking innovative products and services to help our customers succeed.
There’s a problem that has to be solved. Sales is the engine of any company, and on a macro sense, sales is the growth catalyst of the economy. Getting sales working, and working in a sustained, predictable and effective way is critical to any company or economy’s success. Since 2005, as CEO of The TAS Group, my goal has been to fundamentally improve how companies adopt and approach sales training and sales methodologies, by leveraging technology. I believe that there is a huge benefit to be gained by our customers, and that we can deliver dramatic and sustained value. Most sales professionals understand the value of applying sales methodology best practice to their selling efforts. However, as with many learning endeavors, learning without application produces only a Hawthorne effect with short-term un-sustained behavior change.
As you can see in the graphic (click to enlarge), the typical level of knowledge retention after a sales training event falls off dramatically (87%) after 30 days without effective reinforcement. We help companies solve that problem with our Dealmaker Virtual Learning System for ‘knowledge transfer’, and the complete Dealmaker Sales Performance Automation platform for ‘knowledge application’ and ‘knowledge reinforcement’. Rather than force compliance (by the salesperson) we work really hard at designing solutions that entice adoption. Our goal is that the sales person wakes up in the morning and says, “Today I want to use my sales methodology in Dealmaker, because it will help me win that deal.”
Technology on its own is rarely the answer. It’s certainly not for the doctor reading your cancer test results, or for your pilot flying you home. But where would the doctor or pilot be without the results of the related innovation in their fields? In the field of sales effectiveness, a useful analogy may indeed be the pilot. His CRM system stores the data in the black-box in the plane, but his Sales Performance Automation system shows him the flight-path. It’s the map to his destination. The flight-path removes the need for him to figure out each turn he has to take, but it frees him to add the value that only human interaction can bring – and yes, it’s automated.
At The TAS Group we focus on helping companies solve three really important problems; (1) Increased Revenue, (2) Improved Sales Forecast and Metrics and (3) More Effective Sales Execution. We think these are critical for any company to get right, and we invest a lot of time in working with our customers to help them do that. At the same time we invest heavily in research and development in both core sales methodology intellectual property and supporting technology to help make our customers more successful. In fact, we spend millions of dollars every year in our R&D center to find better ways for our customers to address these three important challenges.
We guide our customers to be more innovative in what they do, and where appropriate to leverage technology to increase the effectiveness and productivity of their sales organizations. Yes, we innovate – and we advise our customers to innovate. We make no apologies for innovation, or for automating the tasks that we feel can be automated for the sales professionals or their managers. It’s working for our customers – and that’s our goal.
We believe all companies who profess to increase sales productivity have both a commercial and moral obligation to embrace change in this fast moving world and seek and to continuously innovate in the service of their customers. It’s not something to be afraid of, and we’re happy to help any company in our industry (competitor or not) who wants to join with us in raising the standard of sales effectiveness solutions.