” Clearly they did not know us and what we needed. Mostly old stuff about selling yourself, unique selling points, making a pitch, handling objections, and closing techniques from the age of the dinosaur.”
Recently I sat with the HR director for a major firm (by Caribbean standards) in the distribution sector. He was deeply concerned because the majority of his business development people were not meeting their numbers even though he had “invested” in extensive sales training last year. He knows he has good people so; did he choose the wrong sales trainer?
He had received a well-written proposal from someone who was employed in the sector until recently and who was at one time manager for a small sales team. Naturally Trainer had an MBA in finance from a recognised university, spoke very well, appeared eminently qualified, and, the price point being competitive, they received the nod.
A gap in communication?
As the conversation developed I noted that the majority of the business development officers were graduates of the University of Technology Jamaica (Caribbean’s proud answer to MIT) with a BBA in marketing. To my certain knowledge this is a rigorous programme with a heavy focus on consumer and business buying behaviour. Further, they all took a comprehensive course in sales, had a keen understanding of the Manning and Reece text (Selling Today) on the subject and did not need a conventional sales trainer. To this particular audience the selling era ended a long time ago, and what they needed was a new strategy to be effective in the era of the enlightened buyer and what Kotler and Keller describe as the holistic marketing concept. Not getting that from the sales trainer, many tuned him out and went to their smartphones. One of the sales reps put it bluntly, “Clearly they did not know us and what we needed. Mostly old stuff about selling yourself, unique selling points, making a pitch, handling objections, and closing techniques from the age of the dinosaur.”
What the firm really needed
As the discussion progressed it turned out that they really needed three things:
- A strategic marketing plan (which their marketing manager did not know how to construct) which if properly implemented would pull the target customers into the channel to demand their products.
- A comprehensive sales plan that, picking up where the macro-marketing left off, would serve as their road map for the revenue generation process.
- This being a B2B sales team they needed to be capable of discussing small business management with owners/managers rather than persuading them to stock products that would be too difficult to resell with implications for stock-turns, cash flows etc.
Net result of this sales training? A very disappointed HR Director who paid good money and got what he was persuaded by a sales trainer to buy: not what he really needed.
Watch out sales trainers (and every other service provider for that matter) for where there is little perceived value, there can be serious reputational damage.
Herman D. Alvaranga is founder of the Caribbean School of Sales Management. We improve the competitiveness of Caribbean businesses through world-class, contextual marketing and sales education and consulting services.