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How to Get the Biggest Return on Sales Training, with Steven Rosen [Episode 337]

Joining me for the second time is Steven Rosen. Steven is the founder of Star Results, an author, speaker, trainer and expert on training sales managers. Among the many topics that Steven and I discuss are Steven’s rise from sales on the street, to a view from the C-suite; the conundrum of companies under-investing in the development of front line sales managers; various components of leader development and coaching; and what leaders can do, if they are not being developed by their company.

Key Takeaways

  • Steven began in door-to-door, and worked up to the executive suites of two Fortune 500 companies. He started Star Results in 2003 to help sales leaders crush their numbers.
  • Ways that Steven pushes to transform managers.
  • What is one of the biggest challenges facing most sales organizations?
  • Steve publishes an annual report on sales management. He discusses the key components he measures.
  • What percentage of sales organizations world-wide support ongoing training and development for their sales managers?
  • Among companies that do invest in development for their sales managers, do they get the return they expect?
  • What did Steven find, about the level of understanding of leadership development in sales organizations?
  • Andy’s message to VP’s: Be concerned about leadership training and development. Sales numbers are met, or not, based on your ongoing investment in sales leaders.
  • An easy answer is for sales leaders to tap into free online resources. Manager your own development.
  • Why so few companies provide formal training for sales manager and the percentage of sales managers that fail in the first 18 months?
  • The cost of coaching a new sales manager, vs. the cost of failure of a new sales manager, makes the decision easy.
  • The bad reason that sales managers refuse to ask for help.

More About Steven Rosen

Is it easier to teach a technical non-salesperson how to sell, or teach a salesperson how to sell a product or service?

It’s hard to learn how to sell, but you can learn the product knowledge, or the technical knowledge. There’s a strong art to selling, and you want the right personality.

If you could change one thing about your business self, what would it be?

To be better at sales.

What’s one non-business book every salesperson should read?

I only read business books!

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul: It’s time to accelerate. I’m your host, Andy Paul. Join me as I host conversations with the leading experts in sales, marketing, sales automation, sales process, leadership management, training, coaching, and any other resource that I believe will help you accelerate the growth of your sales, your business, and most importantly, you. Hello and welcome to Accelerate. Joining me on the show again today for the second time is Steven Rosen, the founder of Star Results. He is an author, speaker, trainer and expert on training sales managers. You can find them online at starresults.com. Steven, welcome to accelerate.


Steven Rosen: Andy, thanks so much for having me back.


Andy Paul: Well, my pleasure, my pleasure. You’re one of my first guests actually, so this is a reunion of sorts.


Steven Rosen: Well, I mean, the nice thing is Accelerate is done incredibly well. As I was surfing the net and looked at all the sales podcasts out there, you’ve come in as top 10 in a couple articles and top line articles that list the top 10 best sales podcasts to listen to. So it’s a pleasure to be here.


Andy Paul: Well, it’s a mutual pleasure. So for the people maybe who missed you the first time around, why don’t you give a little bit of introduction to yourself.


Steven Rosen: Okay, well, I’m gonna go back to my days in sales. I started out on the street, carrying a bag and sales. I worked my way up through the sales organization doing the frontline sales manager job, National Sales Manager, VP of sales, VP of Sales and Marketing for two fortune 500 companies in Canada in the pharmaceutical biotech industry. Over the last 13 years I’ve run my own business called Star Results. We help sales leaders crush their sales numbers, and really, it’s about driving performance through people and through great leadership. Leadership development is really our focus.


Andy Paul: Let’s start by asking What’s the difference between management and leadership?


Steven Rosen: Management is about telling people what to do. It’s not a collaborative process. Leadership is providing a vision and really getting people follow that vision because they want to go there. Leadership offers a much broader view. It’s really about engaging people and helping them move in a direction that aligns their goals and the company’s goals.


Andy Paul: So should we get rid of this term “sales management?”


Steven Rosen: There is a management component to the job. We realize that many jobs keep expanding, though. Your podcast is called Accelerate, and we look at what skills are going to accelerate sales because that’s what sales organizations are tasked with. Management doesn’t necessarily contribute a positive aspect to accelerating sales, but sometimes there’s components that are necessary evils when it comes to accelerating sales. Leadership and coaching are key skill sets that managers can use to really drive sales, accelerate performance, engage people, and really create a high-performance sales organization. It’s really a combination of both. I’m not sure if we should get rid of the term completely.


Andy Paul: You said it’s an individual’s responsibility for managing, leading and coaching. It’s weird that we brand them with the one that’s the least likely to change the performance.


Steven Rosen: I’m with you. In fact, one of the things I talk about is actually transforming sales managers because I believe that it’s easy to manage but it’s very hard to lead. When you’re on the frontline, it’s even more challenging because you’re tasked with execution and a lot of other tasks. A lot of sales managers get bogged down by tasks, as opposed to leading. We push much harder to evolve managers from just managing people to actually leading. The more leading they do, the better their performance. When I speak to sales leaders, I talk about leadership development. One of the biggest challenges most organizations face across all levels is leadership development, developing leaders for the future and for today.


Andy Paul: You’ve published an annual report for a number of years now. You do some research surveys of people within the field, about the state of sales management and compile all of it in the report, correct?


Steven Rosen: Correct. This is actually the second annual – I did one back in 2011 and then we stopped for a while. As we look, we gauge different things. We look at the workforce and survey sales leaders around the world and we mainly look at five key components: coaching, leadership, performance management, hiring, and business planning as core skills. We’ve also looked at them as core processes for sales managers. We ask people to evaluate the importance of them and how well the organization is doing supporting skill development in those areas, because they are core areas. Once we’ve done that we finalize it. I call the results shocking, although I’m not shocked because we saw some of this last year. I think we’re both in agreement that one of the foundations for a second successful sales organization is the frontline sales manager.


Andy Paul: Right. So let’s go back to the research in your report. Were the people you surveyed around the world primarily in large enterprises or was it a mix of company sizes?


Steven Rosen: It varied by region by size. We’re looking at some of the fine details in terms of cross tabulation. When we talk about the results of the study, we found that of the core skill sets that we mentioned, only 50% of sales organizations are supporting ongoing training and development of their sales managers, whether it be coaching, leadership, performance management, hiring, or business planning.


Andy Paul: Now, let’s break that down. When you say only 50% of organizations are supporting that, that means half the companies out there that have sales managers who have no development training given to them. They aren’t helped when transitioning from land management role to a management role? If they are hired from the inside, they don’t find any onboarding, formal onboarding processes, performance monitoring, or anything like that?


Steven Rosen: That’s exactly what we found. We actually broke down new sales managers as a separate entity, just to get a gauge. When you’re looking at sales management development, you can either look at it as a glass half full or glass half empty; because 50% of those sales managers are getting nothing. They’re not getting any development or ongoing support in those core areas. Then we wonder why companies are struggling to make their sales numbers. Billions of dollars are invested in sales training, but the sales manager – who’s the foundation of performance in the sales organization – 50% of them are really not getting any development opportunities. Of course they’re struggling.


Andy Paul: So how do we change that conversation? As you said, this is shocking but not exactly new information. I know Jason Jordan’s Cracking the Sales Management Code had research showing that investment in sales managers has a higher return on investment and sales people. So what has to be done to get the culture change and say, “Okay, sales leaders and frontline sales leaders are one of our most precious resources, so we need to think outside the box and think more broadly about how we invest in sales function.”


Steven Rosen:: Some of it comes from discussing the subject. I’ve chatted with you and many others when the study came out, and we see a lot more of the sales experts are focusing more on the management level or the leadership level. I think there’s several challenges. Sometimes these 50% of companies that have invested in supporting their sales managers aren’t necessarily getting the return that they expect. There’s some inherent issues with training, in that if you’re doing the one to two day training course and you’re not following up, then even the 50% who are getting that are not necessarily getting any better. The approach we take is much more in depth. We not only train managers, but we mentor them, coach them, and help them master the core skills we’ve been discussing. If you’re a senior leader who gives someone a two day coaching course and then pat yourself on the back and says, “Hey, we’ve done coaching this year” then you’re going about it all wrong. You haven’t done coaching this year, because we all know in a short period of time without reinforcement, whatever money spent on training goes by the wayside. I prefer to look at it like this: Are we developing sales leaders? Development is an ongoing commitment, and few organizations see it as such. So I think it’s broadening two things: the understanding that these are the key people in your organization who are going to make a difference, and looking at better ways to practice what I call creating skill mastery. This way, they don’t just learn a skill, they’re able to do what they’ve learned. You have to make it a habit and ongoing behavior, and that takes time. We work with sales leaders to help them implement those skills. We have to look at a development spectrum rather than looking at how we’re doing training.

The other component is recognizing that we want to invest in these people, because – as you said – you’re going to get a much bigger bang for your buck investing in your sales leaders. I may be taking it off topic, but there’s a lot of investment involving technology and there’s a lot of great apps out there. I don’t believe that is the silver bullet though. I think without the foundation of great sales leadership, any of those initiatives are going to be sub-optimal.


Andy Paul: Yeah, I mean, if you have a sub-optimal process or if you’ve got somebody who is not performing up to their potential, then layering technology on top is not going to fix that problem.


Steven Rosen: I think that’s what a lot of organizations think. I was a VP of sales for 10 years, and every year I was asking myself, “What can I do differently to drive greater performance?” We’re always trying to push the bar higher, and I think we forget about our sales managers or sales leaders. We expect that they know what they’re doing, but then they totally don’t know what they’re doing, and then we probably fire them. To me, the investment in technology without a foundation in place is like putting the cart before the horse.

Andy Paul: Yeah, I think there’s certainly an assumption that the technology drives the generation of a lot of data and the collection and analysis of the data is perceived by some to be a substitute for coaching, performance management and the level of behavior setting and behavior establishment that really is required to move a team forward.


Steven Rosen:: 100%. Let’s come back to your question of what is Accelerate about and how do we accelerate sales. I think it’s a combination of technology. The first part of that is the people and processes. If you look at the people component, a lot of money is invested in your sales representative, which I think is great. I think there’s a miss, though, and I think we need to spread the word that there are better ways to develop sales managers, and executives should be focused on that. The other component we looked at in the study this year was how well understood and how effective the five core skills are within those organizations. For instance, we asked our participants, “Do you have a highly effective, well understood coaching methodology within your organization?” In terms of people agreeing or being agreeable, only 44% said yes. The flip side then is that 56% are saying, “It’s not highly effective” or “It’s not well understood.” So in nearly anything, if you follow a sales methodology, you’re going to increase sales because sales is a process. Same as coaching. Managers tend to complain that the coaching is really difficult to do. Well, unless you sort of have a process or a methodology, it’s even harder to do and everyone’s doing it differently, so there’s a real gap there. We had 55% systematic hiring process, and again, only 44% of respondents said they agreed that their company had a systematic hiring process. We looked at leadership as a process of aligning goals, and we got a 60% positive response. Seemingly, the most important skill the companies focused most on was performance management.


Andy Paul: You talk about how there seems to be more emphasis in the placed on managing performance versus giving managers or sales leaders the tools to help develop consistent performance among their team. For entrepreneurs and sea level people who are listening to the show, I think this is where the rubber really meets the road. There’s a tendency, as you go higher up in the organizations, to just ask, “Are we making it or not?”


Steven Rosen: It becomes very black and white.


Andy Paul: Right. I don’t know how the sausage is being made necessarily, but as you move down closer to where the action happens in terms of the levels of management, somebody needs to care. And what you’re saying is that too often, it seems to be that the only person who really cares is just one level above a salesperson.


Steven Rosen: Well, I’m not even sure that they realize that they’re not getting what they need. As a VP of Sales, I started every year with a very simple process: What are the three critical factors for success? For me, there was always a component that included the frontline sales manager, whether it be spending more coaching time or developing their skill sets. That was an ongoing process. So, you’re right, the CEO probably doesn’t have exposure to how well the frontline managers are doing, or how all the reps are doing. At the VP of sales level, though, they pull those levers. They certainly have some money, whether they’re investing in technology, process improvement, or development. The reality is most will agree if you speak to them and say, “Hey, who are your most important people to drive sales?” They’ll say, “Steven, the frontline sales manager.” You can ask them, “What are you doing to help them get better?” Then you get this blank look saying, “I really don’t know what I can do for them.” That’s where the challenge lies. I really do look at VPs of sales and say, “We’re giving you the holy grail here. The foundation for success is your frontline sales manager. Yes, you want to have great technology. Yes, you want to make sure your processes are well understood, but where do you start? To me, most sales organizations will start with product knowledge training, sales skills training, making sure they have a CRM in place. The last thing that kind of surfaces is what to do with frontline sales managers, since they’re expected to know what to do.


Andy Paul: If you look at the topics of books about sales that have been published in 2015 and 2016, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of titles about sales management. Clearly something is afoot. Sales experts, authors and so on are out there in the field, doing research and seeing this as sort of a real choke point for companies these days.


Steven Rosen: Well, Mike Weinberg’s book New Sales Management or Sales Management Simplified is a great example. Mike shares some amazing stories of what he’s seen being out in the field. He and I are usually brought in by companies asking, “Can you fix our sales force? We have a problem we’re not selling well, can you fix it?” In most cases, when you peel back the onion, you begin to understand the organization. That’s usually not the main problem. It’s usually a leadership issue. Until organizations really focus on leadership, they could be spending millions of dollars on their sales force yet getting suboptimal returns.


Andy Paul: So what do you do if you’re a frontline sales leader and you’re just not getting what you think you need in terms of support, either from a development standpoint, process standpoint, or just an investment in training across the board? I ask that because I know that a lot of frontline managers listen to this program. What steps can you take individually?


Steven Rosen: I’ll share one thing that we’re doing later, but the easy answer to that is to research. In this day and age, if I want to learn about Facebook or LinkedIn, there are so many free resources online you just have to take the time to tap into. I’m sure you weren’t an expert on hosting podcasts two years ago, Andy, but now you are. The ability to learn and ingest and find information to help you get better at whatever you’re doing exists out there. You’ve just got to search and find it. For myself, one of the most important things I look at is how can we develop great sales leaders. One thing we’re doing providing ongoing webinars. We’re just starting with our second one. We’re doing the Ultimate Sales Leadership Strategy for High Performance. We’re going to have one every month. If you want to find out more, you can go to www. starresults.com/webinar and see when our next one is.

For managers who want to learn more, we have a revolutionary approach to developing sales managers. It’s a combination of training, one-on-one coaching, assessments, and tools to really create skill mastery over a six-month period. We’re really looking to help those 50% of managers who are not getting the support and those people who want to take control of their own career. We have created a resource specifically for that segment of managers because there really isn’t a ton of things out there for them. If they go to a large training organization, they’re going to send them on a public training course. Those are great to go to, but I don’t find them impactful in terms of changing behaviors. We’re focused on creating the behavior and skill, and mastery of coaching is arguably the most important skill. We’ll train managers on how to be effective coaches. We’ll share a methodology with them and really try to build them up so they do it with ease, not just understand. The revolutionary part of that is, that there’s no companies that do one-on-one coaching as a follow up. Our training is on demand. This means that the manager can see it as they need it over a six month period, We do two revolutionary things: We gauge the manager’s coaching effectiveness prior, and not only do we provide the content in easy to understand chunks every month, we’ll connect with the manager to help them work through the nuances of skill mastery. By the end of that six months, they’re out there and they’re actually impacting sales, as opposed to a one or two day course, which feels great but doesn’t really make a difference. The managers never actually even have to leave the field to do what we’re doing. I don’t think there’s anyone else – and I’ve searched and I’ve asked various folks who are in the training industry- who offers this. I think we’re the only ones who are offering this approach to skill mastery.


Andy Paul: At the tail end of your report, you offer five strategies for developing a strong sales management team. You just described the fifth strategy, which was outsource development. Let’s talk about some of the other strategies, the first one being providing intensive support and feedback for your new sales managers.


Steven Rosen: Alright. I’m not a stats guy, but stats are good to at least form some perspective. It’s a very sad state for new sales managers, because only a third of them have any formal training before they’re thrown in to sink or swim.


Andy Paul: So only a third of companies provide formal training for sales managers.


Steven Rosen: Yes. There’s one quote that says 40% of new sales leaders fail in the first 18 months. The impact is detrimental on a sales organization. So, in terms of providing support and feedback for new sales managers, that really lies with the next level of management to take greater ownership to the development of their new sales manager. They can’t think that just because they were a great rep, they’re going to be a great coach. I think one of the greatest examples is Wayne Gretzky. Wayne Gretzky was not the greatest coach in the world. He failed miserably as a coach. I think he’s an amazing individual, but not everyone who plays can coach. It’s a different skill set. If you promote your best sales rep into a sales leadership role and don’t do anything for them, unless they’re super individuals they will fail or have a complete negative impact on their team in terms of engagement, performance, morale, and turnover. There’s no going back for them, because once they’ve been promoted to manager, they’re not going back to being your best rep. So you’ve really lost in two cases. So intensive support is something you can look at in two ways: you – the VP, the management a level above – need to be there for them and have ongoing sessions. If that fails, you go to number five, which is outsourcing. I really think small to medium-sized companies don’t have the resources to support a new sales manager. I suggest is that maybe one or two times a year, they should have an organization that they know take that manager and help them transition the first 90 to 180 days. I think the cost of doing that, versus the cost of a failure, is almost a no brainer.


Andy Paul: I would agree that the cost of having failure at the sales management level is substantial. You’d said that only 32% of companies have more formal onboarding for sales managers. It would be really interesting to find out whether the same applies for onboarding of salespeople. If only 32% of companies have a formal process for onboarding salespeople and bringing them up to a point of sales readiness, you’re just multiplying the problem.


Steven Rosen: 100%. I don’t have an answer to the question, but I do have some anecdotal experience. Coming from the pharmaceutical, diagnostic equipment business, we had great training for new sales reps that was offered several times a year. We take a rep through three weeks of intensive product training, including how to work within the organization and selling skills. That was a program of pride. And I can tell you, in most organizations, there’s a lot of effort spent now to get reps up to speed to make their first sale, even though the company might not be the best at onboarding. I know I did. When I was a VP of sales, organizations I worked with spend a lot of time on that. Once you move outside the realm of the of the sales rep, I think the stat was close to 50% of organizations had dedicated trainers for their sales leadership team.


Andy Paul: Well, I think one of the real issues is that managers oftentimes refuse to ask for help. By the same token, some companies refuse to consider giving their managers help because the perception is they should know what they’re doing. We just promoted them to be manager. Don’t they know everything, right? I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve met, or worked with VPS of sales and others that took a long time to get approval for them to be able to hire a resource to help them improve what they’re doing.


Steven Rosen: That speaks to the challenge we talked about earlier. I’ve been talking about how these are the long-lost soldiers. Now, I’m not a military guy, but I think the military does a very good job training. When you send the commander with the unit, you’d better hope that commander’s well trained. I don’t think the military sends them out unqualified – at least I hope not. I think they do a pretty good job. I look at the frontline manager as that same type of individual. We’re all trying to squeeze out more performance. It’s competitive marketplace. People talk about people being their main advantage. Well, the person who helps the people who drive revenue is your frontline sales leader. That being said, in terms of investment I think you’re looking at a 10:1 ratio or a 1:10 ratio in terms of sales leaders. If you have $1 to invest, that’s probably the best place to invest it in terms of getting return.


Andy Paul: In the last segment of the show, where I’ve got some questions that I ask all my guests. You’ve been on the show before, so you’ve actually answered some of those. I came up with new questions for you.


Steven Rosen: Oh no, this is a curveball. I want to be like Donald Trump and have all my questions pre-arranged.


Andy Paul: I’m sorry.


Steven Rosen: I’m just joking. I love the spontaneity of the show.


Andy Paul: So here’s a new hypothetical scenario. You’re a sales leader, selling a b2b product to enterprise. At the start of a new fiscal year, your CEO gives you your goals for the new fiscal year. It’s a pretty large increase in revenues that you’re responsible for, let’s say 12% increase, but the CEO is not giving me any additional headcount or other resources in order to achieve it. What do you do?


Steven Rosen: Okay, that’s a great question. I think I have a pretty good answer on that, because I spent a lot of time thinking about it. That’s actually part of another program we’re launching at the end of the year which I call strategic sales execution. There’s a couple steps to really looking at how are we going to crush our sales numbers this year?


Andy Paul: There’s no increase in headcount, no increase in resources. You’ve just got to basically do 12% more at the same talk.


Steven Rosen: You’ve got to do better, right? You have to do more with less or more with the same. To me, assuming I’ve got some sales managers, the key first step is getting everyone focused on the critical factors for success, which I talked about earlier. If you can really get buy in from your team, and involve them in the process of defining what’s going to make you successful, that’s the first step. We have processes to do that. Really, it’s a brainstorming and then, prioritizing and picking the three things that the team feels is going to drive success, and then executing those extremely well. Okay, so maybe it’s a split, we’re going to focus on a specific customer type to grow the business. We have the managers decide what the key focuses are or what our critical success factors are, then we have them build a plan and build their own metrics in terms of how are we going to measure this to know that we’re on track?


Andy Paul: You let them decide their own metrics on it.


Steven Rosen: Well, we can facilitate that process but one of the things is that you want everyone to buy in, because we all know that a great plan without buy in does not yield you great success, but an average plan with great buy in will give you better success. We bring everyone in, including the sales management team and sales leadership team, and we get them aligned and focused. They build their plan around what they’re going to do to be successful, focusing on doing a few things really well. We have them build their own metrics. The sales leader then has a tracking mechanism and can focus on what they’ve agreed to execute. They can build a tracking mechanism to keep that on track and to work with them on an ongoing basis to coach them, mentor them, and to keep execution at the top of their mind in terms of focus. It’s about aligning your sales organization, getting them focused, and then being able to execute with excellence.


Andy Paul: Alright, so now some rapid fire questions. For these, you can give me one word answers or short answers and elaborate, if you wish. Here’s the first one: In your opinion, is it easier to teach a technical non salesperson how to sell or teach a salesperson how to sell a product or service.


Steven Rosen: It’s hard to learn how to sell, but you can learn the product knowledge or the technical knowledge. There’s a strong art to selling and you want the right personality.


Andy Paul: If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?


Steven Rosen: Honestly to be better at sales.


Andy Paul: What’s the one non-business book every salesperson should read?


Steven Rosen: That’s a good one. I might be stumped here. I’m looking at my books. I only read sales books. Well, here’s a good one: Enlightened Leadership. Is that a cop out?


Andy Paul: Yeah, that sounds like a business book. That’s a business book.


Steven Rosen: I’m lost outside again.


Andy Paul: We’re going to have to broaden your horizons.


Steven Rosen: I’m very focused in one or two specific areas.


Andy Paul: We’re going to give you an assignment. Well, Steve, thanks so much for joining me. Tell folks how they can find out more about to you and to connect with you.


Steven Rosen: Okay. Andy, it was great chatting with you. As always, I’m happy to come back again and maybe have something new to talk about. I can be reached at www.starresults.com. If you’re looking for The Salesman, The Star’s sales manager report that Andy and I were talking about, you can get a free copy by typing in www.starresults.com\salesmanagerreport. You can also find me on LinkedIn or on the web. I look forward to anyone who’s interested in joining one of my webinars, we do some really good training on it to help you and if you want more, we offer more as well.


Andy Paul: We’ll have that information on the show notes page for this episode. Thanks for joining me. Friends, thanks for joining us today and make it a part of your day every day to deliberately learn something new to help you accelerate your success. One easy way to do that is to take a minute and subscribe to this podcast, that way you won’t miss any of my conversations with top business experts. My guest today was Steven Rosen:, who shared his expertise about how to accelerate the growth of your business. Until next time, this is Andy Paul. Good selling everyone. Thanks for listening to the show. If you like what you heard, and want to make sure you don’t miss any upcoming episodes, please subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or stitcher.com. For more information about today’s guests, visit my website at www.andypaul.com