SMM March_April_2013 : Page 12
training Some advice on sales training RFPs How to get RFP-averse sales trainers to participate BY DAVE STEIN, CEO AND FOUNDER, ES RESEARCH GROUP, INC. I’ve taken some heat t recently y from sales training g company y executives regarding my y position on sales training g RFPs. They would be happy, of f course, never r seeing g an RFP again. But t I know w from experience that t under r the right t circumstances, an n RFP can make the difference between your company y selecting g the right t sales training partner and the wrong g one. Coming g out t of f sales, sales consulting, and sales training, I have a love-hate relationship with RFPs. I love them when I’ve written them for a customer or inﬂuenced their content t and, as a result, have exerted some control over that customer’s buying/decision criteria, leading g to a win. On the other hand, I hate RFPs (actually y I’m unemotional— I no-bid the opportunity) when one surprisingly y pops into my y inbox. When we ﬁrst t started sending g RFPs to sales performance improvement companies on behalf f of f our sales training buyer clients, the responses from sales training g companies were as you would expect: resistance, frustration, even anger. y of f those sales trainers After all, many train their clients’ salespeople on how w to get t around the RFP process. They y ask me why y they y should have to do what t they teach their clients not t to do—respond to RFPs. After all, they y say, RFPs have been written or inﬂuenced by y one supplier, putting g anyone else who chooses to bid in a disadvantageous position. As a seller, I couldn’t t agree more. On the buy-side of f the equation When we are involved in a client’s evaluation process for sales training, we perform the requirements analysis and deﬁnition. We do that t independently y of any y provider or any y inﬂuence they y might have among g the client’s stakeholders. It’s a bad idea a to allow w a training g company to write your requirements, or have a training g company y actively y selling g in your organization while requirements are being g deﬁned. Your requirements tend to mirror what t those trainers do best. Sell to the customer r in the way they y want to buy From the buy y side, we expect t anyone bidding g for the business to understand how w the customer (our client) wants to buy—by y employing g this RFP process— and to demonstrate a willingness to work under those parameters. You can imagine how w important t it t is for our clients to understand how w each potential supplier matches up against t the prioritized criteria as stated in the RFP—criteria a derived directly y from that t comprehensive and objective assessment t we performed. We’ve found over the years that t it t is important t to reassure each RFP recipient that: ƀǇ .Ɖ-b; ,f;b;& )**),./(#.3ź ƀǇ . "b;--f;(#), f;2f;d;/.#0f; -*)(-),-"#*ź ƀǇ . #-c;/e;!f;.f;e;ź ƀǇ "f; .#'#(! ) ."f;f;0f;(.-#(d;&/e;#(! t term. launch are short ƀǇ f; "b;0f; *f;, ),'f;e; ."f; requirements deﬁnition and wrote the RFP without t any y inﬂuence at t all from any y supplier. ƀǇ �e;) -/**&#f;, "b;-c;f;f;( #( ."f; b;d;d;)/(. since we were involved. It’s a bad idea to have a training company actively selling in your organization while requirements are being deﬁned. 12 MAR/APR 2013 SALES AND MARKETING .COM
Some advice on sales training RFPs
How to get RFP-averse sales trainers to participate
It’s a bad idea to have a training company actively selling in your organization while requirements are being defined.
I've taken some heat recently from sales training company executives regarding my position on sales training RFPs. They would be happy, of course, never seeing an RFP again. But I know from experience that under the right circumstances, an RFP can make the difference between your company selecting the right sales training partner and the wrong one.
Coming out of sales, sales consulting, and sales training, I have a love-hate relationship with RFPs. I love them when I've written them for a customer or influenced their content and, as a result, have exerted some control over that customer's buying/decision criteria, leading to a win. On the other hand, I hate RFPs (actually I'm unemotional — I no-bid the opportunity) when one surprisingly pops into my inbox.
When we first started sending RFPs to sales performance improvement companies on behalf of our sales training buyer clients, the responses from sales training companies were as you would expect: resistance, frustration, even anger.After all, many of those sales trainers train their clients' salespeople on how to get around the RFP process. They ask me why they should have to do what they teach their clients not to do — respond to RFPs. After all, they say, RFPs have been written or influenced by one supplier, putting anyone else who chooses to bid in a disadvantageous position. As a seller, I couldn't agree more.
On the buy-side of the equation
When we are involved in a client's evaluation process for sales training, we perform the requirements analysis and definition. We do that independently of any provider or any influence they might have among the client's stakeholders. It's a bad idea to allow a training company to write your requirements, or have a training company actively selling in your organization while requirements are being defined. Your requirements tend to mirror what those trainers do best.
Sell to the customer in the way they want to buy
From the buy side, we expect anyone bidding for the business to understand how the customer (our client) wants to buy—by employing this RFP process — and to demonstrate a willingness to work under those parameters. You can imagine how important it is for our clients to understand how each potential supplier matches up against the prioritized criteria as stated in the RFP — criteria derived directly from that comprehensive and objective assessment we performed.
We've found over the years that it is important to reassure each RFP recipient that:
• It's a real opportunity.
• It has senior executive sponsorship.
• It is budgeted.
• The timing of the events including launch are short term.
• We have performed the requirements definition and wrote the RFP without any influence at all from any supplier.
• No supplier has been in the account since we were involved.
• Every provider that receives an RFP has an equal opportunity to win.
If you will be employing an RFP process and you want to increase the number of participants, you might try reassuring them with those seven points.And objectives. At that point the client evaluates each presentation among other factors and makes a selection.
The short list
After the responses are read, analyzed, and ranked, a short list is determined.At that point the client meets with representatives from each short-listed company to answer any and all questions.That's also the time when the client and the short-listed firms get to know each other.
During finalist presentation day each short-listed provider offers insight into how they will contribute to the customer achieving their sales performance goals
The bottom line
As a result of this process, whichever provider is selected is almost guaranteed to have a successful implementation because all the risks, rewards, strengths and challenges of both provider and client will have been identified and discussed openly by both parties before a contract is signed. This is one of the surest ways to avoid a sales training train-wreck.
ES Research Group's in-depth industry research and independent evaluations of sales training companies helps companies make the right decisions about sales training programs.
Learn more at ESResearch.com.
Augment your RFPs
If your prospects request RFPs, Canadian-based marketing strategist Jacqueline M. Drew recommends offering insights at the category or industry level, not just client-specific insights. Show you understand their industry by including a little research or interesting facts in the “sidebars” of the proposal.
Are your salespeople coachable?
Continual learning is a basic necessity to professional improvement. In many cases, it’s other people who help sales reps advance. But they must be open to coaching.
Sam Parker, founder and publisher of GiveMore.com and SellMore.com, says being coachable means to be...
"It means you must listen with the intent to learn rather than to show what you know (not coincidentally, exactly the type of listening required in the sales process).To be coachable means to lack arrogance and defensiveness — to minimize pride and ego. Completely teachable.Completely trainable. Completely malleable."
To need no more training or coaching is to stagnate or die — and in many cases, to be dismissed, adds Parker.
He asks sales managers, how much development attention are you giving to your team? If only 20 percent of your week is devoted to development, that would be a full day. Bump that to 40 percent and you would spend two full days, beginning to end, on training.
Augment your RFPs
If your prospects request RFPs, Canadian-based marketing strategist Jacqueline M. Drew recommends offering insights at the category or industry level, not just client-specific insights.Show you understand their industry by including a little research or interesting facts in the “sidebars” of the proposal.
An 8-point check on ‘coachability’
Do you have a coachable sales team? Have them take this quiz, answering honestly which of these are true, and to what extent?
○ I usually allow my manager and others to complete their sentences before responding. (If you don’t, it’s not a good sign.)
○ When I’m given feedback/criticism, I usually think about it before responding, waiting just a bit. (If you don’t, you’re likely not giving it real consideration.)
○ When I’m given feedback/criticism, I rarely find myself defending a position or action immediately. (If this is true, you’re probably trying to really learn how you can improve.)
○ When I’m given feedback/criticism, I ask questions about it in order to try to better understand it. (A good sign.)
○ I feel my work’s purpose is to serve my external customers.(“You’re gonna have to serve somebody.” — Bob Dylan)
○ I feel my work’s purpose is to serve my internal customers (managers, colleagues and other departments).
○ I’ve changed/revised my position/approach because of the advice of another individual. (If not, how coachable do you really think you are? No one is always right.)
○ My manager invests time in my professional development (If not, it might be because of a perception that you’re uncoachable).
There’s no rating scale here. These questions are simply meant to raise awareness (when answered as objectively and truthfully).
Read the full article at http://pubs.royle.com/article/Sales+Training/1367707/153791/article.html.