The Plague of Sameness for Sales Effectiveness Firms

The genesis of this paper was the Chairman of the Board for a large training firm asking me “What’s the difference between my firm and <2nd firm we both know>?  I was just reviewing their website and they say the same things we do!?”

These two firms have never competed for business, and in fact, have referred business to each other.  One is considered a Management Consulting firm, while the other is known more as a Sales Training firm.

As the answer to his question was starting to formulate in my mind I realized this question gets to the unspoken truth in the Sales Effectiveness industry – everyone sounds the same!

While this paper was written directly to my friends who own or lead sales consulting and training rims, it will hopefully be valuable to buyers of sales effectiveness services as well.

What follows are thoughts on why firms sound so similar, where there are (or should be) differences and a few starter ideas on what actions they should be taking.  I’ll also take a brief foray to the Bermuda’s Triangle for differentiators.

Here is the full white paper (no email required): White Paper: The Plague of Sameness.

42 Trends and Predictions for 2017

As is wont to happen every new year, our RSS feeds and email newsletter in-boxes are filled with “top trends” from “experts” in numerous fields.  While some of these “trends” are thinly veiled plugs from consultants or trainers who want you to believe that you need exactly what they happen to be selling, that doesn’t mean we have to throw the trendy baby out with the predictive bath waters.

For my friends in the sales effectiveness space, here are some of the trends reported that might be worth a deeper inspection.  For convenience (mine and yours, I hope) I bundled Trends together with some Predictions and expected Top Risks.

Continue reading

Favorite Reads for Sales Teams: Avoid the “Book of the Month Club” Approach

It’s that time of the year again — Holiday Starbucks cups, panic over Q4 deals to close on 12/31, and finally, lists of books your sales team should read over the holidays (“Top 10  Must Read Books on Sales!”)  This won’t be one of those blog posts.  In fact, I encourage you NOT to push new sales books on your reps over the holidays.

What are the types of reads your sales team would be willing to peruse in their down time that have actual relevance to your business?

Too often, sales leaders fall into the BOMC trap.  Leadership by BOMC (Book of the Month Club) is often counter-productive, because the cool new business book may not align with the overall vision of the sales roadmap.

So what should you ask your sales team to read?  Following the KISS principle (Keep it Simple for the Sellers), here are three ideas to consider:

  • News about their top prospects, clients or partners who are publicly traded firms
    • They can focus on one account, or set up a feed for all of their key accounts
    • Here is an example of what they would see if they were just checking out Inc. (CRM)
  • News about the industries they focus on:
    • It’s easier for sellers to provide insights for their clients if they understand the world they are living in
    • Here is an example of a good news source for those focused on the Pharma space
    • For a broader but narrower look at multiple industries, you can look at the perspectives shared by someone like Strategy&
  • And if you feel you must share some books, I’d encourage you to “go small” and share book reviews or abstracts:
    • Great sources include GetAbstractSoundview Executive Book Summaries, and my new personal favorite to read on my PC, phone and tablet, Blinkist
    • For each book summary shared with the team, be sure to provide clarity on the link between the book and your strategies, goals, or Big Rocks … and clearly describe the actions you want them to take based on the book

Speaking of “going small,” below is a piece that Symmetrics Group published on Top Performers which showcases top sales professionals and the best-in-class qualities that set them apart:

Download Articles on Top Performers in Sales

Respect the time constraints and attention span of your team and select the smaller, high-impact resources that encourage them to step back and learn something new to apply to their jobs.

First published Nov 22, 2016 in the Symmetrics Group Blog


Tom Martin

Tom is a member of Symmetrics Group’s Advisory Board, and brings 25 years of experience as a specialized generalist in the sales effectiveness industry, where he is sometimes referred to as “The Consultant to Consultants.” Tom is passionate about KISS (Keep it Simple for the Sellers) and focusing on the reinforcement and sustainment activities that drive sales transformations.


Change Management: Leveraging Rational Thinking

Originally posted July 5, 2015 as a LinkedIn post.

I read a recent article that struck me as a great guide for consideration when thinking about implementing any business change initiative, and especially sales training/effectiveness initiatives.

The article “A User’s Guide to Rational Thinking” by Christie Aschwanden (@cragcrest) was in the July/August 2015 issue of Discover Magazine.   Yes, a science magazine had great ideas applicable to business!

Continue reading

Three Laws of (Robotic) Board Members

Originally posted April 3, 2014 as a LinkedIn post.

Just started reading a great new book this morning – Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors, by Brad Feld and Mahendra Ramsinghani.

Their discussion on board member obligations around duty of care and duty of loyalty reminded me so much of Isaac Asimov’s classic Three Laws of Robotics that I thought I would posit … the Three Laws of (Robotic) Board Members:

  1. A Board Member may not injure their CEO or, through inaction, allow their CEO to come to harm.
  2. A Board Member must obey the orders given to it by the Chair, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A Board Member must not neglect their own vested interests and must defend fellow Board Members vested interests unless it is interfering with the first or second rule.

And of course there also needs to be the prequel, the Zeroth Law:

  • A Board Member may not harm Company Stakeholders, or, by inaction, allow Company Stakeholders to come to harm.

Dōmo arigatō, Mr. Roboto [1]


[1] Future posts will cover my belief that most of what you need to know in business can be learned from 70’s classic rock and 80’s hair metal, like this great song from Styx. When ROCK and WORK collide you get WROK.

I wanna wrok!

Worth the Read: Three Links to Improve Your Sales Organization

Originally Posted on June 4, 2013 on the Force Management blog.

economic growth newspaper

Today I’m sharing three posts that got my attention in the blogosphere. When it comes to improving your sales organization, who doesn’t love a good list to get you thinking? And, Oracle’s problem in sales execution (outlined below) is something I’ve seen with hundreds of clients. A sales execution problem centers on management’s operating rhythm.

I’ve added my own thoughts to these posts. Let me know yours in the comment section below.

9 Shortcuts to More Effective Sales and Marketing Collaboration

Business to Community blogger Matt Heinz has a great list here. I’d suggest a 10th shortcut (which is related to Matt’s 4 & 5). Have members of sales and marketing (and product marketing, engineering and channels) work together in a multi-day session to create the actual sales messages the sellers will be using. Force Management clients refer to this session as “white collar prison” when we do this in Command of the Message®, but they mean that in a good way. At least by the time they see the results!

Top 20 Reasons Why Sales Managers Suck at Coaching

Wow. Jonathan Farrington writes, “17% of all sales managers are effective at coaching.” I’ll say it again, Wow. Here are two I would add to his list:

1. Their company has not defined competencies for the different sales roles, so when themanagers coach they’re coaching to the wrong areas.

2. Sales Managers don’t have a list of defined competencies for being a sales manager. Oh, by the way, being an effective coach is one of them.

Oracle Blames Third-Quarter Miss on Sales Execution

After their missed earnings expectations Oracle’s CFO recently said, “the problem was largely sales execution, especially with the new reps.” With a name like Oracle isn’t that something they should have seen coming? If you’re having sales execution problems and your sellers aren’t ramping up quickly, you likely have an ineffective management operating rhythm, specifically around your sales planning and talent management responsibilities. Hopefully, Oracle will realize this. Time will tell.


Tom Martin, Executive Director of Operations

Tom Martin is a 20+ year veteran of the sales methodology and training industry. He has a diverse set of global experience with sales (direct, indirect and inside), channel management, marketing, SFA/CRM, consulting, finance, legal, training, systems and operations. He serves as Force Management’s Executive Director of Operations.

Worth the Read: Sales Solutions from Venture Capitalists

Originally Posted on May 2, 2013 on the Force Management blog.

Money Windfall

There are many organizations backed by venture capitalists that are clamoring to be leaders in their respective industry. We’ve worked with many in the high-tech space. Whether it’s articulating value and differentiation, hiring top sales talent or implementing an effective sales process, start-ups have unique challenges.

As the driving force behind these new businesses, venture capitalist firms are looking to create consistency, build on best-practices and drive results for their investments.

I like the way they think.

That’s why I often find myself reading some of their great insight in the blogosphere. Here are some of the most interesting posts I’ve come across recently. They’re too good not to share.

Use their tips. Read my thoughts. Share your own.

They’re worth the read.
1.  7 Tips to Ditch Bad Business Processes

As Mike Myatt points out, “One of the ways successful companies gain a competitive advantage is through creating process advantage.” I completely agree with his focus on mindset as a tip. Mindset is important and can be fully leveraged with a parallel focus on tools, process and content.

I partially disagree with is his “no Band-Aids” tip. While I agree that bubble gum and bailing wire are best used elsewhere, the reality of most fast-paced environments is that occasionally a Band-Aid on a minor boo-boo (comp plans) is a smart plan. The Band-Aid can allow you to focus your efforts on the double-bypass heart surgery (value-based sales methodology).
2.  The VC World Returns to Its Operating Roots

Ben Horowitz comments on the background of VCs today resonated both because we work with so many VC-backed technology firms, and because our clients also feel like they can get great advice from Force Management because we have been down the same paths they have.

My only ‘tweak’ to the comment is that uniformity can be a crutch. If everyone on the team has the exact same background, you can easily miss out on the great insights that come from seeing a problem/solution in one environment and utilizing that same solution for a problem in a whole new area. Our 100-pound brain, Dave Davies, talks about “pattern recognition” as one of the critical skills for great consultants. It can be just as effective for those who are dealing with the growing pains of a new venture.

3.  Through the Looking Glass: Hiring Sales People

Here’s another one from Ben Horowitz. The story about Mark Cranney is priceless … even more so since I have met him in person and can believe it is all true. To take Ben’s conclusion one step further, focus on a whole sales talent management system, like RSA did with us. You might also take a look at Force Management’s Cost of a Bad Hire Calculator to see how big your problem might be.
4.  Is Customer Segmentation the Key to Your B2B Website’s Success?

This post reminded me of how a few Force Management customers have literally recreated their website based on the sales messaging created during their Command of the Message® implementation. MarketSource is one of the more recent.


Tom Martin, Executive Director of Operations

Tom Martin is a 20+ year veteran of the sales methodology and training industry. He has a diverse set of global experience with sales (direct, indirect and inside), channel management, marketing, SFA/CRM, consulting, finance, legal, training, systems and operations. He serves as Force Management’s Executive Director of Operations