Welcome to our founder lessons series. This week, Sales Excellence founder Bill Stinnett reveals how he started and runs his sales training company. Sales Excellence International is a global provider of sales training and consulting that services a variety of large and small companies from a broad range of industries. The company focuses primarily on big-ticket selling in the areas of technology, telecommunications, and capitol investment. Sales Excellence specializes in using the latest technology to bring sales training to clients on demand, when and where training is needed.
Why and how was Sales Excellence started?
Sales Excellence started in a very curious way. As a career salesperson, I had the opportunity to attend a variety of different sales training workshops over the years. When I sat in those workshops, some of which featured good content, I always thought to myself as I watched the person presenting, “Wow, I could do better than that!” It started me thinking that maybe a career in training and consulting would be a decent future for me.
After a number of years in enterprise software sales, managing multi-million dollar transactions with Fortune 1000 companies, I decided that I could help other salespeople learn how to do the same kinds of things I was doing. Without a whole lot of preparation and planning, I left my job at a major technology company and started Sales Excellence in the fall of 2001.
What have been the biggest success factors?
From day one, my thought was to create tailored, collaborative learning experiences so that every engagement is unique based on what our customers need, as opposed to the one-size-fits-all approach of many sales training companies. We want to understand the field sales teams and the challenges they’re faced with in the market. From that place of understanding, we deliver content and learning experiences using a variety of media. That custom-tailored, collaborative approach has certainly been instrumental to our success.
Another factor in our success at Sales Excellence is that we’ve never been afraid to branch out into new areas and learn new things based on customer needs. An example of this would be our movement away from a strictly classroom-based setting to virtual, on-demand learning in the form of live video workshops and online learning modules.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced launching and running Sales Excellence?
The biggest challenge of launching and running Sales Excellence has been balancing the sales, development, and delivery of content and materials. Because we always use a custom-tailored approach and we don’t have that one-size-fits-all product, there’s significant development involved in every major project.
It’s also been a challenge to replicate our high-level customer experience as we’ve expanded, especially to international markets. A big part of that challenge has been acquiring the right kind of talent in various regions, individuals who will represent our company the way we want them to. We need people in these roles who have the charisma and presence to command the attention of a scrutinizing and critical audience of sales professionals.
Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?
All three of these factors are absolutely crucial to long-term success; however, the most important of these to the success of Sales Excellence has been the right product because of our commitment to developing exactly what our clients need at the time of service. This commitment has allowed us to get ahead of trends and develop courses, content, and material that are relevant to our clients.
For example, as the world of technology sales has become more complicated and more companies are incorporating an RFP (Request for Proposal) in their buying process, we developed a course specifically focused on helping our clients respond to RFPs. We also found that many of our clients who sell through channel partners and distribution really needed help with how to manage their relationships with distributors. Consequently, we developed a product that specifically addresses that need.
Final words for those chasing the startup dream
It seems to me that no entrepreneur can succeed without being deeply passionate about doing the work. In other words, “You have to fall in love with the work.” You might have a great idea for a business and even see a strong need in the market for it, but if you’re not willing to get up day after day excited about pursuing that startup dream, it will be nearly impossible to overcome the challenges of running a startup business.
I also think it’s important to find other people who have already done what you want to do. It’s surprising how many of those people will be willing to help you and offer you advice. I launched my business after having lunch with a very successful sales trainer who said, “What are you waiting for? Just start your business.” Sales Excellence stepped into the world of eLearning and online learning when a gentleman who was a very well known author and trainer basically showed me what he was doing and said, “Why don’t you do it, too?”
There’s nothing quite as powerful as being around people who have already done what you want to do. Never isolate yourself and try to figure this out on your own. Make friends with other people who are doing the same things and have been successful. I think you’ll find that they want to help you succeed, too.