Miller Heiman Blog

Building a Culture of Accountability, Part 2

In my last post, I talked about the two cornerstones required for building a culture of accountability: alignment and commitment. However, no matter how well-laid the foundation, building the rest of the structure can be challenging. In this post, I’ll focus on three common obstacles that can cause problems for sales leaders.
Obstacle #1: Misalignment on the issue. Most sales leaders I know have a bias for action. When they see a problem, their natural inclination is to fix it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Letting issues fester only leads to larger problems later.
However, sales leaders need to remember to include the sales professional’s perspective when they diagnose the issue and prescribe action. Not including the sales professional in the discussion is like a doctor diagnosing a patient’s illness without ever talking to the patient. The patient – or the sales professional in this case – may not be right about what’s causing the problem, but they can give you the clearest view of the symptoms. They’re living them every day.
Furthermore, the sales leader must still convince the sales professional to take the appropriate action. In my experience, that’s a lot easier if the sales professional has been in on the search for a solution already.
Obstacle #2: No cadence of accountability. Holding salespeople and management accountable for performance is not a year-end activity. Nor is it something that takes place only when there’s a problem. Accountability must be built into the coaching that frontline sales managers do every day. It must be built into regular account reviews. And it must be built into regular performance reviews throughout the year. Too many organizations let poor performance at the beginning of the year slide, hoping that the sales professional will be able to make it up before the end of the year.
Obstacle #3: Management by exception. This is when the sales leader focuses on exceptions to the norm without taking into account other factors. For example, if a salesperson has a target of 10 calls a week, but only makes seven, this sales leader will call them on the carpet for not meeting their target. A more effective sales leader will want to know why. Perhaps one or two of the opportunities the salesperson is working on are extremely complex, but well-qualified and potentially very lucrative. It could easily make sense to sacrifice the target in this case. Of course, a plugged-in sales manager would probably have known this was the case ahead of time.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on building a culture of accountability in your organization. What’s worked for you? What challenges have you had to overcome? Drop me a line at or add your comments below.

Posted by Alvin LeBourgeois | Sr. Sales Consultant
Posted: 12/17/2014 6:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Building a Culture of Accountability, Part 1

It’s that time of year when senior leadership gets together to evaluate the past year’s performance. Hopefully, a lot of things went right. Too often, though, they’re trying to figure out what went wrong. In many of these latter organizations, it’s not too long before one sales leader or another says something like, “We need to hold our salespeople accountable for their performance!”
Of course that’s easier said than done. Unless you’ve already built a culture of accountability, holding salespeople accountable can easily lead to blaming them for everything that went wrong. That leads to management deciding that, with the exception of a few star performers, the sales team is filled with dead weight. This devolves into an “either these people need to shape up” or “they’re out of here!” kind of attitude. That’s not a very promising way to start the new year.
To make sure that doesn’t happen in your organization, let’s talk about how you can build a culture of accountability in the coming year.
Building the foundation
The foundation for a culture of accountability has two cornerstones: alignment and commitment. I’ll start with alignment, which in itself is multifaceted. First, accountability needs to be aligned to the company objectives. I’m all for holding sales professionals accountable for key performance metrics like number of new accounts, but make sure these metrics support the overall company objectives. If driving business from existing customers is critical but the sales professional is focused on new accounts, you have a problem. In short, if the company is going one way and the sales professional is going another, you have an alignment issue.
The frontline sales manager (FSM) and the sales professional also need to be aligned on the current reality in the territory. For example, if the sales professional is accountable for key performance metrics tied to a major account and that account goes out of business, alignment immediately falls out of whack. The FSM needs to step in and realign priorities.
It’s like taking your car to the shop as soon as you hit a bump and feel it start pulling to the left. Better to get it looked at than run into trouble down the road. In this analogy, the FSM is like the mechanic. While the sales professional might have some idea of what needs to be done, the FSM is focused on the big picture and how everything functions together. They are in a prime position to realign priorities with the company objectives.
Commitment is as much about sales leadership’s commitment to accountability as it is about the sales professional and, in a way, we’ve already covered much of this in our discussion on alignment. Clearly, FSMs need to be fully committed to a culture of accountability. When there is a problem with alignment, they need to step in. Less obvious, perhaps, is senior management’s role. For the sales professional and the FSM to be in alignment with company objectives, senior leadership needs to articulate clearly what they are. Don’t leave it up to the FSMs to figure it out on their own, or you will have an entire organization of sales professionals doing their own thing.
In some cases, FSMs or senior leadership may need to take remedial action with an underperforming sales professional. However, simply aligning accountability to clearly understood objectives goes a long way toward building a culture of accountability. In my next post, I’ll focus on some of the challenges I’ve seen in my work with clients and how we overcame them.

Posted by: Alvin LeBourgeois | Sr. Sales Consultant
Posted: 12/15/2014 6:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Best Practices for Successful Sales Trainings

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of blogs from a conversation with Josh Cardoz of SwissVBS and Lisa Schnoll, Miller Heiman Product Manager, Advanced ConceptsSM, and Lindsay Cavarra, Miller Heiman Marketing Manager for Products. Swiss VBS, a strategic partner of MHI Global, is a creative learning and development company that takes a solution approach to how they help organizations transform their learning.

Q. Once organizations have defined success, what are some best practices they can implement to ensure that a training initiative is successful?

A. [Josh Cardoz]: From our perspective, some of those best practices usually involve a storytelling component. A big focus these days in L&D and also in marketing and advertising is to focus on what’s the story behind whatever the situation may be. What’s the story of an organization; what’s the story of an individual employee going through a certain situation? Onboarding is a perfect example of this--when an employee first starts out and you’re trying to get them used to the organization. What’s the story happening there; what’s the story of the organization? At the end of the day, it’s about developing high engagement, and I think that’s what storytelling does best. We’ve been telling stories since the beginning of mankind. So that’s one success factor.

Q. What should organizations keep in mind when designing an advanced application to ensure the conceptual knowledge isn’t lost once the learner has completed the training?

[Josh Cardoz]: In the competitive landscape of the sales world, you’re looking for the tiniest of things to give you the edge. The Miller Heiman methodology gives you a skill set and a framework from which to work from. When I went to the Conceptual Selling® and Strategic Selling® in-person workshops, I found beneficial those moments when I could raise my hand and ask, “OK, but what does the Valid Business Reason look like for me?” And the instructor would respond with, “What’s your industry? What would this prospective client do?” You’re applying conceptual knowledge, and sometimes you can bring it back and say, “What does that mean for me”? This is where the advanced application comes in: I need to bring my learning with me always so I don’t let it go. If we don’t apply what we know on a continual basis, eventually what we retain drops down to basically nothing. The basic tenet of the Ebbinghaus curve is learning retention. Application is such a necessary part of learning that if you don’t keep applying it, then the learning investment is lost. That’s why continual enrichment is important.

A. [Lisa Schnoll]: When we’re looking at designing high-density online engagements in the learning space—in terms of content but for short periods of time—we’re looking at creating a flow, a rhythm to it that pulls the learner in naturally. It’s a user experience that allows them to move through it without feeling like they have to focus, they have to pay attention. Instead, they are paying attention and before they know it, they’re done. They got what they needed and they’re back out selling. That to me is one of those important things that sometimes get lost when we talk about all the new bells and whistles of technology—you have to step back and ask, “Well, it’s great that we can do that, but should we do that?”

The following pace seems to work well: You offer a small amount of content and put something interactive on the screen that pulls the learner back in. Then you do a content check—“OK, did you understand the concept that we just talked about?" Next, you bring in prior knowledge from something else, allowing the learner to feel good about what they understand and know. Then maybe with the next interactive, you challenge them to critically reflect back, think, and do some problem solving. So creating interactive elements within these digital courses that basically run themselves presents a really exciting opportunity.

One of my favorite things about this kind of online learning where you have challenges or activities that you’re doing is that if you get it wrong, you still get that important negative feedback—but without the consequences of getting it wrong out in the field. We know from research on learning that if you’re told you’re doing great all the time and you never get any negative feedback, you’re not ever going to improve. So it’s important to create a safe space for that kind of feedback loop when you’re learning something new, especially something as abstract as some sales methodologies. You want a safe space where you can play with an idea and ask, “OK, from this perspective, how do I do this?” It’s a little bit of role playing in a safe environment.

Q. How much of a role do sales training and Learning and Development play in whether or not sales organizations successfully make their year-end numbers?

A. [Josh Cardoz]: It’s difficult to define a goal like that and then attribute it all—or not any of it—to learning and development. That’s the challenge in the L&D space: How much of an actual impact is this to your end output?

I think when you’re able to bring it (training) as close as possible to performance, that’s when you have the highest impact. If you know that your goal is to raise your figures up by 20 percent this year, you need to scaffold those actions and then provide L&D tools that will help you do it. For example, “What sort of mobile apps can we create based on Miller Heiman best practices? I understand the methodology, and in order to be successful, I need to follow this methodology, so what’s the best way for me to follow this methodology within my workflow?” We’re always trying to embed learning and performance within your workflow so that it doesn’t seem like an outside thing you do on the side. So if I’m going into a sales meeting or if I’m going into a prospect call, what can I do to help to give me that extra edge? And I think that’s where learning can come in when it’s tied to performance.

Learning and development is a catalyst for performance but by no means is the be-all and end-all. There are so many factors that come into play. The L&D challenge is trying to mimic performance as much as possible. In terms of achieving your real goals, when you have a unique learning space, you have the ability to confront your goals in a tangible way without having to be afraid to fail. If you have a separate space where you can see and apply your learning, you’re able to build confidence, which allows you to learn and to attach yourself to specific key methodologies that you might not have the comfort and ability to do if you were out in the real world. For example, say you’re meeting with a decision maker for a large deal and this is your one-shot meeting. If you can simulate that environment through performance apps and reinforcing methodologies, then you’re preparing your salespeople for success because they were better able to prepare themselves for this meeting. They will be able to be close that opportunity better.

Stay tuned for the final blog in this series on the role sales leaders play in this process

Posted: 12/10/2014 6:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Collaboration: 12 Best Practices You Can Start Using Today

Climb to the top of any mountain, and it seems like you can see forever. (On a clear day, at least.) The same is true of the Sales Performance Summit. This year, collaboration was a key theme throughout – both in sessions as well as hallway conversations. Collaboration certainly took center stage at the end of the conference when we asked attendees to share best practices from their own organizations. Here’s just some of what they told us.
#1 Segmentation is essential. Segmentation isn’t just a marketing technique. Taking a one-size-fits-all approach to customers doesn’t work. On the other hand, the team’s efforts get spread thin when they are called on to create one-off content and messages that address the needs of specific customers. Segmenting by vertical markets, buyer roles, buying need and other criteria helps sales leaders and supporting functions focus their resources to drive productivity.
#2 Sales training isn’t just for sales. If you’re trying to encourage a team-selling environment where sales professionals collaborate with people across the organization, then everybody needs to understand the sales process. By ensuring everyone understands the customer-management strategies, you don’t waste time bringing people up to speed on process and terminology.
#3 Leverage new technologies. There’s always something new that can help your sales professionals better penetrate accounts, gather intelligence, or drive collaboration across the team and with customers. The best sales leaders are always exploring new technologies to discover ways to drive productivity and gain the competitive advantage.
#4 Collaboration requires leadership. Leverage your well-respected top performers by asking them to show others how to work in a collaborative environment. They don’t need to teach a class. Leadership by example works great. However, you should ensure that compensation plans and performance metrics also encourage this behavior.
#5 Collaboration requires planning. When you assign teams, make sure everyone understands their role. This is especially important when you bring in sales leadership. Since they aren’t normally part of the defined sales process, they need to understand exactly when you need them and what role they need to serve. Remember, they may be in charge of the company, but the sales professional is in charge of the opportunity.
#6 Make customers your focus. When your sales professionals visit prospects, do they say “Here’s what we do”? Or do they ask questions to understand what’s important to the customer? When there is a shared understanding of what’s important, customers and sales professionals start to collaborate on defining the solution.
#7 Always measure. When an opportunity lingers too long at any particular stage, it isn’t good for funnel health. It can also potentially damage the customer experience. They may want to move forward, but something is holding them back. It’s the job of the sales professional to find a way around the obstacle. If you don’t know how long an opportunity normally remains at each stage of the process, you won’t know when one is stuck.
#8 Tap into the collective wisdom. Individually, a salesperson’s knowledge is limited to his personal experiences. Collectively, you’ll find there is real wisdom within the team. You can leverage that wisdom by grouping sales professionals into teams and having them do account reviews with each other. Not only will they learn from each other, they’ll gain coaching experience. Mix up the teams every six months or so to keep the ideas fresh.
#9 Know who’s on your team. In every opportunity, the sales professional needs to know who they will call on for sales support. Briefing team members ahead of time will reduce the number of “audibles,” or strategy changes, called in the field. It will also reduce the number of embarrassing fumbles made by team members who haven’t had time to learn the plays.
#10 Blue Sheets aren’t just for sales. Each individual on the team, whether they have a “sales role” or not, should review and understand the Miller Heiman Blue and Green Sheets before they take part in an active opportunity. Blue and Green Sheets are the team playbooks.
#11 Technology adoption requires leadership. Technology adoption isn’t a salesperson issue. It’s a management/leadership issue. If your sales team isn’t leveraging the technology, sales leadership needs to do a root cause analysis. More often than not, you’ll discover one of two things: Your customer-management strategies aren’t supported by the technology, and it’s getting in the way of selling. Or worse, your sales management is setting a poor example by not using the technology themselves.
#12 Focus on the customers that count. You need to measure the ROI of a relationship to know who your best customers are. Some customers will ask for far more value than they return in terms of sales expenses, hand-holding by support resources and a hundred other little things that can add up quickly. No matter how much business a customer brings in, if they cost more than they bring in, they aren’t a customer worth keeping.
Like the view from the top of a mountain, this Summit is a truly inspiring and valuable experience. The collective energy generated during this session serves as a great reminder of the benefits of collaboration and why collaboration is a best practice of World-Class Sales Performers.

Posted by: Jennifer Vodehnal | Director of Marketing
Posted: 12/8/2014 6:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Why you should celebrate the losses

In sales, everyone knows how important it is to celebrate the wins. We hold parties. We give awards. Most importantly, we tie commission payments to winning opportunities. Some salespeople build their entire reputation around that one “big win” they won’t let anyone forget about. Yet, we know our losses can teach us as much or more about how to close business than the wins. So how come no one ever celebrates the losses?
I don’t mean you should throw a party whenever somebody loses a big opportunity. “Hey, Joe just lost the Acme deal. You coming to the party?” Of course not. That would be ridiculous and quite probably counterproductive. However, equally counterproductive is quickly putting the big losses behind us, never to be mentioned again.
Dissecting the sale
The idea of the sales post-mortem—a term I always thought to be unnecessarily grim—has been around for a long time. Even so, how many of us actually do them?
The problem with sales post-mortems in most organizations is that they have no structure. Dissecting a loss becomes little more than diagnosing what killed the opportunity. More often than not, our patient didn’t die from natural causes. He was murdered, or at least killed by negligent homicide committed by the salesperson. Meanwhile, the salesperson, desperate to defend himself, tries to point the blame at the prospect, the market, stiff competition or whatever other red herring will throw the prosecution off the trail.
Now that I think about it, the post-sales analysis in some organizations is like post-mortem, trial and execution all rolled into one. It’s no wonder we bury our losses as soon as possible.
A coachable moment
Why use death as the metaphor for learning from your losses, anyway? The rest of the time, we talk about sales in terms of sports. Post-sales analysis should be more akin to reviewing the game film.
Coaches who lead winning teams don’t just review the winning game films. I would bet most of them actually spend more time analyzing and reviewing the losses with the rest of the team. Sure it can be painful, but everyone knows it is an essential part of winning.
For Miller Heiman customers, the Blue Sheets that are used for call planning are the game film. Every opportunity should have one of these, and your frontline sales managers (FSMs) should already be using them when they do active account reviews with the team. But they also need to be used after the sale to evaluate why the sale was won or lost. If you have these Blue Sheets automated with a tool like Sales Access ManagerSM, so much the better. That will make it easier for you to link behaviors and activities to outcomes. But even those of you who are still relying on paper and pen will get value from the process.
Best of all, a formal tool like the Miller Heiman Blue Sheets allows you to remove much of the emotion and politics from a loss review. By focusing on facts such as, “At what stage did this opportunity get stuck and why,” you can create an environment that fosters trust between the FSM and the sales professional. In an environment like this, your players become open to learning and performance improves.

Posted by: Roger Snow | Sales Vice President
Posted: 12/3/2014 6:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Do you leverage the behaviors that lead to World-Class Sales Performance?

In 2014, the MHI Research Institute engaged with hundreds of clients to discuss their sales performance and productivity. We found that sales leaders in every region, industry, and market are addressing the same sales and sales management initiatives – social selling, the role of frontline sales managers and sales and marketing alignment, among others.  And these near-universal issues are filtered through each organization’s unique perspective and context to plan strategies and identify and deploy best practices. 

Whether you are a sales professional focused on how you can grow your client base within your territory, or a sales leader engaged in setting global sales strategies, you ultimately have the same end in mind – improved revenue performance.  This is what makes the MHI Sales Best Practices Study so unique.  Every year we analyze data collected from sales professionals on the practices they leverage.  Through this great body of data – over 1200 have contributed to date to this year’s study date – we are able to determine those practices that have the most impact in driving performance.  The data tells the story of the current sales environment, our analysis and discussions with you provide the context of how you can apply those practices to improve performance in your organization.

Many study participants find the questions thought provoking.  Sales leaders may be inspired to have their senior leadership team take the study, and then cross-check responses.  One service the Research Institute provides is helping to determine where a team is aligned to World-Class Sales Performance and where there are the greatest opportunities to close the gaps.  A formal “gap analysis” is a powerful tool to identify and leverage the sales behaviors most likely to get results for your team. As an incentive to participate in the MHI Sales Best Practices Study, we will select one respondent from each global region to receive a complimentary gap analysis for their team or organization.  This study is valued at $10,000 and will provide insights and data to help determine the best path forward for your sales team in 2015.

Join the study before December 5th for this opportunity.  Upon completion, you will also be able to download some of our insights that we typically reserve for members, including our latest research - Strategic Themes Digest 2015 – which is a compilation of insights from the 2014 Sales Performance and Productivity Study we conducted this fall.

Thank you for your input, and we wish you a successful close to your year!

Posted by: Anne Petrik | Director of Member Experience
Posted: 12/1/2014 6:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

The Journey From Customer to Key Account

According to the business dictionary, a customer is defined as “a party that receives or consumes products (goods or services) and has the ability to choose between different products and suppliers.” Having choices suggests a competitive environment for the supplier where it is a minimum requirement to deliver goods or services according to a set of specifications. On a basic level, this is how to get a customer.

The “from buyer2customer” stage – the transactional paradigm
This implies that once the exchange of goods is satisfied and payment has been made, there is room to extend the business relationship. The supplier should not just focus on the pure sale, which is a one-off sales initiative, but on winning repeat orders and referrals or cross-selling potential as well. The relationship between customer and supplier changes with time: from delivering a commodity based purely on price, specification and within a competitive environment; to delivering good products or the provision of good products, thus adding some form of value from the customer perspective. But what distinguishes a customer from a key account?

Beyond customer – the strategic imperative
If you analyze your revenue streams, this situation might sound familiar: You make 80 percent of your revenue with 20 percent of your customers (also known as the Pareto principle). Wouldn’t it make sense from a strategic point of view to extend the relationship with those customers to secure the business or even extend it through cross- or up-selling? There is also a potential risk of losing business if this customer is not managed appropriately. Missing such an important customer would mean a huge loss for the company. Analyzing your customer base could also identify those customers that have the potential of becoming the key focus; thus, introducing a process for successfully dealing with these accounts would be necessary. Do you know where you stand in your business relationship with your customers? Are you, your team members and your products/services able to address the business issues of your customers or even to impact organizational issues? Putting yourself in the shoes of the customer and not focusing solely on your products makes the difference.

Key account management
Establishing a key account management process requires the willingness to do so from both parties. It is based on a mutual intention and adding substantial value to the business relationship. It involves all levels, from top to front management. The process is formulated by cross-functional teams and is put in an agreed statement that outlines a clear set of goals and objects that are visible and clearly communicated. It requires resource investments, sales and support programs as well as regular reviews by internal management, together with the customer.

In an ideal world, wouldn’t it be great to be able to jointly plan with your customers a process of exchange of goods per revenue, avoiding bad surprises and sales planning or delivery hiccups for both parties? Having agreed on foreseeable plans and actions brings positive effects to both profit and loss accounts for the medium-to-long term, thus enabling you to grow your business.

You want to share your key account thoughts with me? You can reach me at

Posted by: Alexandra Siebert-Herzig | Sales Consultant
Posted: 11/24/2014 6:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Identifying Believers in Disguise

As channel leaders and channel managers start planning for next year, we encourage channel organizations to assess partner performance and potential to determine where you should apply your always-limited resources. It may be helpful to segment channels into three categories: Achievers, Believers, and Deceivers. Many of the channel organizations around the world find these designations useful for highlighting future potential instead of judging channel partners based solely on past performance. You want to focus resources on those partners who want to succeed and are willing to do what it takes but still need you to show them how. They are your Believers.
At least that’s how we’ve described Believers in the past. However, as my colleague and I were discussing the concept, we decided the description may be too limiting.

In previous posts, we’ve suggested that channel managers should let Achievers, those partners that seem to have reached the pinnacle of performance, run on autopilot so the channel manager has time to develop the Believers. While that’s still generally a good rule, there is a special group of Achievers that might actually be better classified as Believers.

These are the top performers with even bigger plans. Just because they are in the top 10 percent or even in the top 1 percent of your revenue producers doesn’t mean they’ve reached the pinnacle of their definition of success. They might want to add a new office in another country, double their sales volume, drop your major competitor and focus exclusively on your solution, or add a new vertical. Whatever their goals, don’t let your satisfaction with their past performance hold them back.

Unlike many of your Achievers, these Believers are not on autopilot. Do business planning with them, find out what their goals are and, assuming they are aligned with your corporate strategy, do what you can to support them. Achievers who are really Believers are the best partners you can have. They already know what success tastes like, and they want even more of it.

Posted by: Jan de Leon | Director of Channel Sales, Asia Pacific at Channel Enablers
Posted: 11/19/2014 6:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

The Missing Piece That Makes Channel Managers Become Trusted Advisors

Whenever I get a chance to talk to channel leaders I try to ask them, How can we help our channel managers become a trusted advisor to our channel partners?

And just to make sure we’re on the same page, I follow up by asking them what it means to be a trusted advisor. Pretty common answers include:

  • The channel manager understands the channel partner’s situation, how they make money, what their goals are. Things like that.
  • They empathize with their partners, knowing when to push them and when to back off a bit.
  • The partners come to the channel manager with their challenges and their goals. The channel manager doesn’t really even need to ask.
  • They do what the channel manager asks them to do because they know it will help them achieve their goals.
  • The partner is open with their information, telling their channel manager things probably only their banker and board of directors knows.
  • The door is always open to these channel managers. If the channel manager wants a meeting, they get it.
Responses like these tell me we’re definitely on the same page. These channel leaders understand the importance of being a trusted advisor. They’re expressing the benefits both in terms of what the channel partner gets as well as the benefits to the organization. Having a channel manager who is a trusted advisor is a Win-Win scenario.

Next, I ask them, What are some of the things you do right now to help your channel manager become a trusted advisor?

The answers I get here span a range from the mundane to the highly creative, but some more common responses are:
  • We encourage our channel managers to spend as much time with partners as possible.
  • We equip our channel managers with tools that we know will help our partners generate opportunities and close more business.
  • We make sure our channel managers have the knowledge they need to educate partners on the market.
  • Our channel managers engage partners in joint business planning.
All good ideas, but the devil is definitely in the execution. Most of these channel leaders don’t believe their channel managers are viewed as trusted advisors. So what’s the missing ingredient in the secret sauce?

Study Reveals Core Behavior Gap

Our 2014 Channel Enablers Channel Competency Study suggests that many channel organizations already know the answer—and it’s a universal one. Mastering this behavior will help your channel managers regardless of whether their territory is in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Asia or the Pacific. It’s not often you get this kind of leverage from one behavior. Better still, it’s a behavior most of us already know how to do fairly well, even if we don’t put it into practice often enough.

Across all three regions we studied—the Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific—channel leaders agreed that listening was key to influencing desired results through a channel organization and that they all needed to get better at consistently applying effective questioning and listening in order to build trusted relationships.

Of course, listening doesn’t mean we sit there like a bump on a log while our channel partners pour out their stories. Not only would it be unproductive, getting most channel partners to open up is going to take a little more effort than that. Channel managers need to ask the right questions. They need to paraphrase what they heard to make sure they understood – and to demonstrate that they want to understand. Then they need to ask more questions.

What makes this so hard is that most sales professionals – and channel managers are no exception – want to lead the conversation to a predetermined outcome. They know what information they need or what actions they want the partner to take, and their questions are designed to achieve the g
oal via the shortest route possible. If a channel manager is responsible for 60 or 70 partners, this behavior is at least understandable.
However, as in life, if you don’t pay attention to the journey, you’re going to miss the most important bits. Often, it’s what the partners say that is “off-script” that gives the greatest clues to what’s important to them. Understanding these unexpected perspectives will help the channel manager work with the partner in crafting a common vision for success.

If you’d like a copy of the 2014 Channel Enablers Channel Competency Study Executive Summary, you can request it here. If you haven’t already registered for our Partner Manager Resource Center, you will need to do that first. However, it’s fast, free and easy – and gives you access to some great channel management resources.

Posted by: Rich Blakeman | Managing Director, Channel Enablers
Posted: 11/17/2014 6:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Let’s Talk About Success (But First Let’s Define It)

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of blogs from a conversation with Josh Cardoz of SwissVBS and Lisa Schnoll, Miller Heiman Product Manager, Advanced ConceptsSM, and Lindsay Cavarra, Miller Heiman Marketing Manager for Products. Swiss VBS, a strategic partner of MHI Global, is a creative learning and development company that takes a solution approach to how they help organizations transform their learning.

Q. What makes a training initiative successful?

A. [Josh]: This is something quite common that you find brought up in the learning and development space–what do we define as “success”? It’s so contextual, and it’s also based on what you’re looking for. L&D in an organization is ultimately about how you can find a way to impact performance. That could be as simple as high engagement; it can be as low-hanging fruit as high participation. We do still have customers that just say, “Listen, no one’s taking our training--we just want someone to take our training!” That’s all they want, so that metric really is just about participation. I think these days the conversation is now moving toward, “How are we bringing learning closer to doing?” At SwissVBS, that’s our mission. We’re always talking about how to bridge that gap where learning is performance by performance. It’s not necessarily about learning and performance in two separate spaces. When I’m thinking about the best practices that make an initiative a success, though, it really starts with the organization’s definition of success. If they feel like we can implement success factors in there that help track and define goals for success, then that allows us on both sides to mutually agree on what success is going to be.

Q: Can you elaborate on defining success?

A. [Josh] Sure. One of the big challenges we have in the L&D space is how do we at the very end say, “This was a successful project”? Organizations come to us and say, “I need to improve this, and I know one of the channels to improving this is through L&D.” Everyone comes to us with that because they realize that training is essential—which it is, but the gray area is in figuring out how do you know that you were able to improve performance because of training and not just training as one possible consequence of your overall performance? I’ll give you one example of a diversity training we created. How are you supposed to define success in regards to diversity? I mean, the overall message is that diverse organizations perform better, and studies indicate that, but how do you translate that to overall performance—does that mean now that we’re going to immediately succeed? Soft skills is always going to have that sort of issue in terms of defining success.

So you have to think about success in a different way: Maybe you debrief with certain surveys, maybe you take polls, maybe you do interviews afterwards with select employees, and you see how their attitudes have changed. In that particular type of training, you’re trying to enable behavioral change almost through an epiphany—something suddenly snaps in their head and they realize, “Wow, I’ve been thinking the wrong way this entire time.” [Successfully implementing what’s learned at a diversity training] is a more difficult “success-oriented” goal, but you also get goals such as, “I need to make sure that 90 percent of my project management staff utilizes their software, and I need to make sure they completely understand the software tool in order to do it.” So you create a software tool and participation rates indicate that now they get it. And if that’s tied to your usage rates, then you realize that the L&D initiative has helped you.

If you’re talking about an onboarding training, you want to reduce attrition, obviously. So if you’ve created a highly engaging onboarding program, you start tracking their attrition rates. It’s dependent on two things: a) the internal metrics for the organization, which they sometimes are and sometimes are not willing to share, and b) what your technical components can provide you. When it comes to what you can track in terms of success that’s defined from the outset, your LMS [Learning Management System] essentially puts you in a box. There are holistic goals and there are specific goals, and I think the holistic goals are easier to define than the specific goals, but at the end of the day, specific goals are what give your ROI.

[Lisa]: Absolutely. Going through a large build (designing a visual learning engagement) as we currently are, we know that setting and defining those goals before you go to market in order to have a way to track the success is really critical. And it’s also helpful when you’re in the design phase because then you can say, “OK, we have this decision to make—this technical feature is really neat and I want it, but it might take longer to develop. How critical is it toward those goals?” And so you can really track yourself against what you want your outcome to be if you create that framework at the beginning.

Now that we’ve defined success, stay tuned for the second in this blog series on steps you can take that will get you headed in the right direction toward success

Posted: 11/12/2014 6:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

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