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Smart Sales: Ireland's Vision for Sales Effectiveness

I've been facilitating workshops on international selling in Ireland since 2003. My audiences are sales executives, VPs of sales, and CEOs of Irish companies across all sectors.

To backtrack a bit: In 2002, I delivered a keynote speech to 300 technology executives and CEOs in Dublin on the subject of competitive selling. The Irish audience knew they were at a disadvantage selling in the international arena. Their business culture—specifically, the clear and present distaste for sales, selling, and salespeople—was a serious obstacle. However negatively salespeople are perceived in the U.S., it was much worse in Ireland.

Three people came to the rescue: Aidan Stack, a key player at Enterprise Ireland (Ireland's Department of Commerce); Paul O'Dea, co-founder of a small but very well-respected sales consultancy; and Kathryn Raleigh, president of the Irish Software Association.

These three drove the development of an innovative program called SalesSTAR. During its five-year run, we delivered our module program on building an competitive sales infrastructure to well over 100 technology CEOs and 50 VPs of sales. So successful was the program, Enterprise Ireland enlisted the help of the Dublin Institute of Technology (where I am now an adjunct professor of sales and sales management) to expand the program across all sectors. Participants pay a per-attendee fee, but the program is funded in part by Enterprise Ireland.

That fully accredited program, now in its third year, has graduated nearly 200 to date. The initial draft of the evaluation of the pilot program showed clear and measurable impact as a result of participation, with 100 percent of respondents to the survey element citing in excess of €500,000 new sales as a direct result of participation. The icing on the cake? Fifty percent of the respondents cited €1 million additional sales.

This is significant. It puts the Enterprise Ireland and Dublin Institute of Technology course in the leadership category among sales performance improvement programs anywhere.

Even after seven years, I continue to be amazed by Enterprise Ireland. The support they provide start-ups and high-potential Irish companies is something we all can learn a lot from. EI provides funding, programs, advisors, resources, introductions to key decision-makers, market research, competitive intelligence, advice on market entry strategies, partnering and acquisition strategies, and what appears to be endless support.

They have offices in 31 countries with support in an additional 39. They are serious about driving business growth, and understand sales effectiveness is at the core of their strategy.

Although Ireland is suffering through the same recession as us, Enterprise Ireland continues to invest. That investment in many hundreds of companies run by smart, hardworking, and determined CEOs will continue to leave Ireland in the best possible situation now…and in a better position than many coming out of the recession.

No question, all this costs a lot of money. But Ireland depends on exporting its goods and services to grow its GDP and increase their presence as a European, if not global, player. Evidently this country of only four million considers the significant ongoing investment in Enterprise Ireland, coming out of the pockets of the Irish people, to be worthwhile.

Dave Stein is the author of "How Winners Sell" and CEO and founder of ES Research Group in West Tisbury, MA. In addition, he delivers keynote speeches and workshops on sales performance.