I read a recent article in Training Industry magazine written by Steve Andersen and Craig Jones entitled, “Raising the Bar: The Impact of Sales Training on Effective Customer Engagement.”
Having covered Steve’s firm, Performance Methods, Inc., since 2005, we know that PMI holds a leadership position in the industry with respect to guiding their clients to a level of excellence in customer engagement. Having spent a bit of time with Steve on the phone recently, I wanted to share some of his thoughts with you. Here is the first of a two-part interview with Steve Andersen.
Dave Stein: In your recent article “Raising the Bar,” you and Craig Jones make a compelling case for taking a different view of sales training, and considering its impact in the broader context of customer engagement. What is PMI learning from clients that causes you to feel this way?
Steve Andersen: Clients tell us that customers expect more from them today than ever before, and this is substantiated in our interviews with them. The sales training industry has always focused on the small portion of the customer’s time that is actually devoted to the buying process, and we feel that this is not equipping the modern salesperson with the needed skills, tools and process to avoid commoditization, increasing competition and complex customer decision-making processes. More and more, the salespeople that only show up when the customer is buying are going to find themselves disadvantaged before the buying process ever starts.
DS: Your background as a former sales executive and now as a recognized consultant and thought leader in the industry provides you with a dual-perspective, both as a buyer of training as well as a provider of customized solutions. Is this issue a new one, or has it been around for a while?
SA: It’s not new at all, but it’s becoming more serious because of the rapidly changing face of B2B commerce. Having been a purchaser of sales training throughout my pre-PMI career, I can tell you that many of the offerings today are not substantially different than they were in the 80’s and 90’s, and yet B2B commerce has experienced significant evolution over the past 25 years, moving from product to solution and now to value focus. From a sales consulting and training provider’s perspective, I can say with certainty that the issues that our clients’ salespeople and account managers are facing today are dramatically more complex and challenging than those that we faced in the past. Business is happening faster, with more information available to the customer and more intense competition for suppliers than ever before. Sales training as an industry is far behind the engagement expectations of the modern customer, because at the end of the day it only cares about one thing: closing the deal.
DS: We’ve all experienced sales situations in which the customer and the salesperson are clearly not on the same page, and yet the sales professional will tell you he or she is doing exactly what they were told in sales training. What’s going wrong?
SA: It’s a matter of focus as well as resistance to change. What the typical sales training provider really wants to do is rush their clients’ salespeople to training, and conduct training the way they have in the past. I recently asked a client of mine how much of her time she spends actually buying things, and she is involved in buying a lot of stuff. She first said “maybe 10%,” but then paused, and revised downward to “more like 5%.” So that means that somewhere between 90-95% of her time is spent not buying anything. Customer engagement should be happening not just when the customer is buying, but before and after they buy, as well. Most sales training misses this point because it is what it says it is: sales training.
DS: More effective customer engagement would seem to be the natural evolution of sales training, but the reality is that this isn’t what most sales training firms are focusing on: it’s still all about closing deals faster. Why is it important that suppliers recognize this gap and begin evolving their sales and account management professionals to this new level of engagement?
SA: Someone joked recently that your customer doesn’t care about your sales training, and that’s surely true. And they don’t want to be processed, tricked, manipulated, or controlled. I can’t tell you how many of our clients’ customers over the past 10 years have told us that they intend to reduce the number of suppliers in target markets, and they want to do this because it will be more effective to do business with fewer but more strategic suppliers. Since customers are looking for ways to engage more effectively with their most important suppliers, doesn’t it stand to reason that suppliers have to become more focused on effective customer engagement?
I’ll be publishing Part 2 of this interview next week.
About Steve Andersen
Steve Andersen is President and Founder of Performance Methods, Inc. (PMI). He is the primary architect of PMI’s Keys to Effective Strategic Account Planning Methodology™, Integrated Opportunity Management Methodology™, Customer Engagement Methodology™, Collaborative Planning Methodology™ and SAM Portfolio™. Steve’s thought leadership in the sales performance industry is demonstrated through his long list of publications and work with many of the world’s largest corporations, and he is an active participant in the Strategic Account Management Association (SAMA) and SAMA’s Conferences, Universities and Academies worldwide.
About Performance Methods, Inc. (PMI)
PMI provides consulting and training services to assist clients in the design, development and deployment of customer engagement best practices. PMI’s unique approach provides clients with customized and integrated solutions consisting of sales processes, best practices and consultative selling skills. PMI has been selected by many of the world’s leading corporations as their sales best practices partner and has been widely recognized for the innovation, effectiveness and strength of its contemporary suite of customized sales performance solutions.
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