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Friday, 16 July 2010

The 21st century snake oil peddler and other shameless hucksters

Do they now SELL Sales Training? It appears so.

Current Sales Training is made up almost entirely from products of unproven utility. Sales Training sold by unfounded claims supported by anecdotal evidence, and glowing references written by 'naive' buyers. The analysis of the purchase of sales training shows an uncanny similarity to the purchase of Copper bracelets for Rheumatic pain-relief. Alternatively, perhaps, the more sophisticated cousin the "magnet field generator" that improves sporting performance.

Many "trainees" or "delegates" become Disciples of the Sales Training 'methods' with an unshakable belief in the 'Goodness' and 'Effectiveness' of the training course they attended. This 'Halo Effect' can last for decades, through their career as Sales Executive into Sales Manager and even still as CEO, CSO or CMO.

Some will attribute that their life success has been derived from the training event and their faithful application of the techniques learned.
When BMAC Consultants tests their hypothesis, under scientific method, the results are startling:

  1. Their knowledge of the process taught is usually less than 40%; often lower than 20%, even if the original 'pass mark' was 80%.
  2. When tested for their ability to use the skills the level drops to 10%. This is unconscious/incompetent levels.
    (e.g. The H.R.G. - SPIN®FAB definitions and examples, or to apply the PSS - 8 Stage Objection Handling Model to a Price Objection,
    or give Clear Descriptions of, and the Decision Making Roles of, different 'Buyers' from Miller-Heiman)
  3. When observed for the actual use of the skill during a live Sales Visit, the real use of the skill drops to 3%.

This is 'Null Hypothesis' territory where it shares space with carrying a lucky rabbit's foot, putting on your right shoe first and not walking on top of the joint lines on the sidewalk!

The conclusion would be, as the fact is, that it is best when the skill is not used at all.

'Naive' buyers, 'Training' Managers in HR, or the CEO, the CSO and the CMO, usually buy Sales Training.

Wait a minute; are the CEO, CSO, CMO naive buyers? You can use the following naïveté test.

Ask them "What does A.B.C stands for." If they reply Always Be Closing, then ask them if that is their belief about sales people. If they reply that Sales Executives should always be closing then you have a naive buyer in front of you, time to get out the snake oil. If they also believe that their Client's Objections are 'buying signals', you can probably sell them the magnetic bracelets as well. Finally, if they ask you to integrate the "Skills" that you offer with their Sales Force Automation Software then you can also sell them I-Pads, I-Phone upgrades as well as a 4-year implementation, a maintenance contract and monthly newsletters with upgrades.

There is one thing that the Naive Buyer will not ask. "What is the evidence that the training changes behaviour and that the behaviour changes will increase sales or at least will speed the Buying Process". Further, the Naive Buyer will see no need to be committed to an internal skills coaching program. That is when snake oil sales can sell them their Coaching, Assessment, Certification and Accreditation Modules for YOUR sales training program.

To complete the up-sell, the ultimate offer is to Train-the-Trainers in your Company and collects licence fees every time you run the program yourself. This truly is revenue for actually doing nothing, and a completely new set of evangelist disciples! The cherry on the cake is when you finally persuade the naive Client to allow you, for an additional fat fee, to validate and evaluate the effectiveness of the program you sold them in the first place that takes true snake oil peddlers or shameless hucksters.


The snake oil peddler became a stock character in Western movies: a travelling "doctor" with dubious credentials, selling some medicine (such as snake oil) with boisterous marketing hype, often supported by pseudo-scientific evidence, typically bogus. To increase sales, an accomplice in the crowd (a shill) would often "attest" the value of the product in an effort to provoke buying enthusiasm. The "doctor" would prudently leave town before his customers realized that they had been cheated.
This practice is also called "grifting" and its practitioners are called "grifters".

BMAC Consultants have become expert, after 20 years of experience, in Training Needs Analysis, Independent Training Evaluation, and Training Design & Delivery. They have evaluated more than 40 different Sales Training Programs, which Large Corporate and SME organizations use currently.

Shamefully in the past BMAC Consultants have sold train-the-trainer and 'licensed' trainers, they now repent this by spotting Snake oil at 100 metres and then informing Clients FREE OF CHARGE. Contact Brian MacIver for a free 'Snake-oil' Detector Pack

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