About all this new sales enablement technology—The MOST knowledgeable AND experienced sales person is still MOST effective.

Shortly after reading the brilliant Gerhard Gschwandtner’s most recent blog post, http://sellingpower.typepad.com/gg/2009/07/is-sales-enablement-just-lipstick-on-a-knowledge-management-pig.html, I received a follow-up phone call from a sales person trying to rekindle my interest in purchasing sales enablement technology. His pitch was the now-familiar “clone your top sales performers through our capabilities.” To support his value proposition, he cited several highly recognizable companies that had purchased his product. Naturally he was unable to furnish examples where his company had created an army of successful sales clones. Indeed, even his super-charged company apparently does not have a sales force of 100% top sales performers.

I’ve long believed that a highly knowledgeable sales person is a more effective sales person, something I covered in my July 27th post. To further illustrate my credentials on this subject, a CEO for one of the nation’s leading surgical device distributorships recently forwarded a copy of an email he sent to his staff. It so happens that this CEO once worked with me, and his recent companywide email included the following:

“The region I was a part of was led by Mike Berman. It was here, I learned the power and responsibility of leadership to create the culture that would drive their regional sales force to beat these industry titans. Berman regularly read 10 newspapers a day, continually educated us.”

Needless to say, he and I worked together several years ago and the “Industry Titans” he writes of are FedEx and UPS; newspapers have long been replaced by the Internet. As a longtime practitioner for knowledge-based selling, well before it was known as “sales enablement,” I’m no less enthusiastic about it than I was back then. In fact, I’m certain it’s even more critical to a sales person’s success than ever before. But the mere suggestion that a highly-researched sales person is destined to be a high performer is pure rubbish in my view.

So as I listened to this highly enthusiastic sales enablement sales guy talk about his product, and after I spoke to one of his company’s reference accounts, I could draw no other conclusion that this highly useful capability is being bought and sold as some kind of a one-size-fits-all short-cut to success. Ultimately, that always ends in disaster and I look forward to learning about client retention rates for the sales enablement providers in a year from now (and I am willing to take bets what they will look like so please contact me if you want in on the action!) I’ve always been in awe of and will forever be in awe of top sales performers.

Any true top performing sales person has to be offended by the very notion that their breadth of knowledge and skill can be replicated through a software application and companies that buy this premise are simply out of touch with the hard work and continuous effort required to reach, let alone maintain, top sales performer status. Sales enablement vendors lose credibility with me when they overstate what their useful technology can do. Again, rather than selling to help a (prospective) customer really succeed in their field, these suppliers are apparently intent on just posting another sale themselves.

Whenever I’ve challenged anyone from the sales enablement companies on this the typical response is “oh, you just don’t get it.” Well, the sad truth is as much as anyone, I do get it, always have! But rather than embracing the technology being offered I’m staying away for the reasons covered in my July 9th post: GET REAL! Undoubtedly, the calculator has been a CFO’s blessing–just as effective use of sales enablement capabilities can be a most useful tool for a sales person. Having worked with several excellent and not-so-excellent CFO’s in my career I am most confident the difference wasn’t found in the choice of calculator. The right professional with the right tool and the right commitment to her/his craft will always be a top performer and this is earned, never cloned. And if it were this easy, Cody Ransom would be in uniform for this weekend’s Yankee/Red Sox series.

Leave a Reply