The Widening Divide: Two Points Of View On The Value Of Sales Training

Over the past several months, I’ve had conversations with a lot of technology vendors about "overcoming sales training challenges."  While all of the people I talked to fall into the Sales Enablement function, (meaning they come from product groups, marketing groups, and sales groups and are working to support the conversations that salespeople have) only 2 of those  people were actually from within the sales training function at their company.  In other words, there seems to be a lot of concern about sales training and a lot of work going on in the name of sales training but the discussion is happening outside the sales training group!

This finding led me to ask, "Is sales training strategic or tactical?" over on LinkedIn [check out some of the answers]. Taking a step back and looking through those answers in light of the conversations I've been having, I found an interesting pattern emerging. 

 Most of the people involved in sales training initiatives have a specific view on the role, scope, and value of sales training. This view biases the ways these people approach solving these sales training challenges or leverage training for solving the sales challenges their organizations face. At a macro level, these differing views, or paradigms, can be broken down into two camps which are often in direct conflict with one another. These competing mindsets can end up pulling in opposite directions, creating a sales training stalemate with noting really being solved and lots of money being wasted. 

Here are a few examples of these different, often competing views: 

1. Regarding the Scope of Sales Training

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Why Standards For Battle Cards Are A Good Idea

During the first week in August, Forrester launched the Battle Card Standards Group to address head on the challenges and opportunities that they face in creating competitive battle cards for sales teams. This group is meeting weekly to outline industry standards to help sales enablement professionals bridge the gap between what a myriad of groups create and what sales reps actually need to win in competitive deals.

Some challenges mentioned by participants include:

“Sales reps often ask for negative information about competitors - FUD (fear, uncertainty, or doubt) – but, customers usually react negatively when reps say derogatory things about competitors.”

 “We struggle to map our battle cards to (1) different selling situations or engagement models (transactional vs. consultative) and (2) the levels of stakeholders that we are addressing (influencers, decision-makers, or purchasing professionals).”

“We structure battle cards in a way that reps can use directly in their conversations with customers.”

As a next step, on August 9, 2011, I will be hosting a Forrester teleconference to address how:

1. Organizational silos result in battle cards that are mashups of product and competitive intelligence rather than assets that help improve win rates in competitive deals.

2. Gaps between battle card users (sales reps) and creators (corporate groups) are too wide to remedy by having sales “tell corporate what they need.”

3. Industry standards for battle cards become a common ground for creators and users of battle cards to line up their expectations and delivery.

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