The trainer

Patrick Bubna-Litic


First, what is a sparring partner?

Wikipedia defines sparring as:

Sparring (spar with someone “dealing with someone”) is a form of training that exists in many martial arts. It is a fighting similar to competition, but with amended rules and agreements that are intended to prevent injuries as much as possible. The intent of the sparring is to improve the skills of the participants, while in competition a winner is to be determined.

You cannot explain sparring better. SPARRING PARTNERS in the business context. Partners in companies that contribute their experience, expertise, knowledge and know-how to the benefit and well-being of the company – and thus support the management.

Why me?

Because I have been selling since 1978.

At first, I spent a few years in retail (footwear and sporting goods) in purchasing and sales. In doing so, I learned to deal with customers in daily “close contact”. Later, as a branch manager, I had to deal with a sales team and learned leadership. These experiences still help me today as a board member of an NGO.

I also got to know the world of professional purchasing. Especially in the short-lived fashion industry, a spoiled collection can be a threat to a company’s existence. It’s certainly not just about price – an insight that guides me to this day!

Because I work since 1989 as an independent sales trainer.

Since 1989 I am an independent sales trainer. Some years before, I had participated in my first sales training. At that time, I thought, “I’d rather sit on the other side of the table.” That’s the way it happened. This change from employee to self-employed was an important success.

Before that time, I already had some other training and coaching responsibilities: For three years, I was a player – coach of the University of Western Australia football team and was able to save my team from relegation to the second division for three years.

During my student days, I was a a tutor for political science at the University of Western Australia for one year. During my time in retail, I was responsible for the sales training of about 60 apprentices per year.

The learning years
Through a customer, the contact with “Learning International”, a global training company from the United States. Kurt Kopta, the distributor for Austria, was looking for a partner. The rest is history.

“Learning International” was one of a few global training companies. Originating from the famous Rank Xerox group (Neill Rackham, the inventor of SPIN Selling, was one of them!) and Stanford University, this company was one of the first to develop science-based training programs for B2B customers. Owner was the “Times Mirror” publishing house. At the best of times, this publishing house employed 80 people who worked in (market) research and development.

The didactic philosophy was “Behavioral Training”, which was based on impulse and reaction. Each program was tested by at least 100 customers before it was approved for the market. Each year, new cultural adaptions and translations were added.
An important aspect was the simplicity of all programs that allowed to train in-house trainers. Two flies were caught at once: on the one hand a strong company-related basic training and on the other the best prerequisite for a sustainable implementation of the learned, namely for internal sales coaching.

This progressive approach has been successfully implemented by some major clients: CA Creditanstalt, Brau Union, Deutsche Bahn, Lufthansa, Böhler Uddeholm, Generali, HILTI and others. Smaller companies with fewer staff preferred to work with external trainers and trainers. Some also hired external coaches from our former team.

This concentrated load of know – how, optimism and energy was the background of a unique education. Legendary programs such as IMS Interpersonal Management System, QSS Quality Service Skills, and ADS Account Development System were their foundations. The heart was the unique PSS Professional Selling Skills which consisted of three elements: PSS Base, SPA Specific Applications, PSC Professional Sales Coaching. The PSS program is still known today as “the mother of all sales trainings”.

The training consisted of formal training and much accompanied practice. After some years as a trainer, I also completed the training as a “Master Trainer” with the license to train other trainers.

In 1995, “Learning International”, “Zenger Miller” and “Achieve” merged under the name “Times Mirror Training”. These companies all worked with similar methods. The didactics changed in the direction of “Model Learning”, in which the desired behaviors are modeled. The train – the – trainer principle for internal trainers remained.

Three years later TMTE turned into “Achieveglobal”. The learning philosophy was “Guided Discovery”, which is a very effective blend of flexibility and commitment. The only downside: the high complexity of today’s requirements, the high degree of specialization and the high degree of individuality were no longer fit for internal coachtraining. Only professional trainers are used.

In 2002, “Achieveglobal” changed its sales strategy: Self-employed distributors were replaced by salaried sales representatives, who were only allowed to work as trainers to a very limited extent. That was a clear signal for me to say goodbye in all friendliness and found my own company.

In 2004 I founded the “GfiVE Gmbh” (= company for your sales success) with a trainer colleague from the Achieve group, with a location in Graz. With other former Achievers I still have a Europe – wide network, which is very helpful especially for international projects. This allows us to carry out international projects with one and the same strategic orientation in the respective native language. Highly effective

Because I studied “Strategic Studies” (Australian National University)

Thinking strategically means looking into the future, recognizing opportunities and threats in good time, and defining a flexible action plan based on these findings. Very much “If … – then …” The greatest danger: not to recognize wishful thinking as such.

Because I am a professional

Again, I try Wikipedia

In general, a professional is expected to have a formal qualification and a higher performance than an amateur. A professional is expected to have professional qualities. The notions of professionalism in general go more or less well beyond established professional requirements: an increased level of knowledge, skills and abilities, a special problem-solving competence and a pronounced “professional distance” is expected from a person who calls him/herself a “professional”. The term also implies a role expectation. The term refers to those skills, knowledge or behaviors that one might expect in relation to the pursuit or performance of an activity by a person (a “professional”) for whom this activity is the focus of professional work:

  • The expertise of a specialist (as opposed to the layman or dilettante) and, consequently, the knowledge of the consequences of one’s own professional activity (“a professional knows what he is doing”) and the ability to reject tasks that cannot be treated with sufficient quality due to his/her own abilities (knowledge of their own abilities and limitations)
  • the skills (for example, the professional play of a musician)
  • the execution of an activity by persons who can demonstrate a certified education for them and whose professional practice has certain quality characteristics and / or is regulated by a professional code (such as the professional code of the free professions). This may also include requirements for further training and, where appropriate, the use of supervision in the psychosocial field.

Except for supervision all these requirements apply to me (instead I pay a colleague from the USA as a coach: Linda Cohen)

Because I am (also) an amateur

“Amateur” comes from the Latin “amare”, which means something like “love”. I love the topic “sales”. It is the starting point of all civilization. Imagine there was no sales: People could only get things that others own, and that they want, through fraud, robbery, or murder. What kind of world would that be?
Of course, I receive money for my services. That sets me apart from real amateurs who see their activity as a pure hobby.

Because I can prove success – on several levels

The most important success indicator for a trainer is the duration of the cooperation with his clients. If the results are not right, you get kicked out – just like in football.

Here I can report an average of 7.5 years of collaboration (industry average <3.5). Some of my clients have been working with me for well over 10 years! Details are available on request.

Another success factor is the breadth and depth of education. They show what a coach is about and how far he is up – to – date. Take a look at my CV!

Another success factor is my experience as co – developer (since 1994) of a customer relationship concept long before any CRM software was available – then we called it CRP Customer Relationship Process. In doing so, I realized that even the most sophisticated CRM system alone can only be partially successful, if it is not lived, and what it takes for it to come alive.
The design of customer relationships (sales and service) has since become a core element in my repertoire.

An absolute success factor has been my bilingualism. My (Australian) English has been used by Kuala Lumpur, Moscow, Dubai and Israel and many European countries. Wherever the company language is English!

Many of the participants in my projects appreciate my critical – appreciative approach, which is especially important in sales. Proof of this are countless evaluated questionnaires as well as an ongoing demand for support of master theses from the Danube University in Krems.

Another proof of success are three projects I have managed, each of which has won an international training award. These were created in cooperation with Kaiblinger & Partners, another ex – Achiever. My only book (in collaboration with Ingeborg Berta Hofbauer and Stefan Strasser), the first and only sales comic in German language “Sales (Hi)stories” has won a nomination for the “Innoward” 2010

My interest in the future of selling is not only in new sales models (SCRUM), but also in the redistribution of roles in sales: The office staff will grow at the expense of the field service and take on new tasks; marketing and sales will Have to become become a team to guide the journey of the customer (“Customer Journey”) and take on new roles, the role of new communication technologies will gain strategic importance (and how to deal with them)

My income: It fits because it allows me and my family a lifestyle that we feel is good!

Because I have had failures

Of course, there were also failures during this time! Failures = learning opportunities

There was a training that went totally wrong. The aim was to enable the sales staff in a market with commodities (office machines) through intensive training (with Train – the – Trainer) to get into the C – Suite. There, where the carpets are thicker and the air thinner. It soon turned out that the few who made it to board meetings there were listened to only very briefly, because they very soon were complimented out the door with the request “..for that, we have our specialists…”.

What had gone wrong?
First of all, the misjudgment that an improved advisory sales conversation alone is a “sesame – open – yourself”. Especially if advice is offered where there is no need for advice. A classic case of “singing under the wrong balcony”.

Secondly, many sellers lacked the necessary self-confidence to deliver performance in such an unfamiliar environment. The C – Suite has just its own code of conduct with matching stable smell. Many things simply did not fit – clothing, hairstyles, language, staging, claim, self confidence in appearance and much more. Their own understanding of their role was challenged.

What did I learn from this?
To put it in a theatrical way, it makes a huge difference whether you play a comedy or a tragedy. Both need their own props, stage, scenery and actors – because they have their own audience with their own expectations. Both demand their own strategy.
It also makes a huge difference in sales whether you are dealing with a customer who knows the product % the service offered or not. Whether the customer wants to have a relationship or not. Whether a purchase triggers change or not. Whether the customer has a need for consulting or not. According to these criteria, however, complex marketing and sales strategies should be aligned.

This means for training: Performance needs the appropriate environment. Structures, internal and external cooperation, leadership, support, compensation, tools. Without them … little to nothing will work.

I owe this knowledge to the book “The Betrayed Sale” by Peter Grimm. The main argument of this (unfortunately out of print) book is the absence of clarity in sales work. Sales often is internally badly positioned or not at all. Collaboration with marketing is often a competition for internal resources. The message (s) to the world outside are unclear – why should who buy something from me? And why now? And what does sales management mean? This missing role clarity affects many sellers. No wonder that many potential customers are so unclear with so much uncertainty. And they do not buy, but continue doing business a susual.

The answer to these topics is called MarktSpiel®. There you learn to get clarity in your own market appearance. With this clarity in the back, it is easy to be much more effective in sales. The right training will help you a lot!

With the system MarktSpiel® I worked for many years with Peter Grimm and his son Martin. My role became more and more clear to me:

I urge implementation!

One question I keep asking myself is the question of implementing in – house training. How can it be that not even 20% of top training is done?
There are mutliple reasons for this:

  • Success – Measurement is not an issue
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Wrong training concept
  • Sales management not involved
  • Lack of coaching culture

Success – measurement is not an issue
It is no longer enough to take participant satisfaction after a training as the only criterion for success. Others, such as learning factor or application of the learned, can be measured without much effort. Measurement of results is much more complicated and costly, but pays off in large projects.

Unrealistic expectations

It is unrealistic to expect a cultural change after two or three days of training. Professional athletes also train more than just a few days ski / tennis / golf course!
It’s easy to say, “A little something always sticks …”.
Instead, concrete goals (such as “I want x% of my offers to become assignments within x months!”) are much more helpful to all -managers, participants, coaches!

Wrong training concept
It makes little sense to train advisory sales when customers do not need advice, e.g. for standard products. Instead, one might wonder which sales channel is the most promising one: inside sales or webshops or a combination or something completely different?
It makes little sense to design a sales training when the decision-making processes of the customers are unknown. Instead, it may be worth investigating.

Sales management not involved
It is not just the point of view of the sales manager, which is important in the conception phase, but above all their role after a training: who else should ensure that what they have learned is implemented ?! Who else should help with difficulties? Who else should be interested in the success of every sales person? Who else should demand and promote these people?

Lack of coaching culture
It’s not enough to simply say “coaching is on our mind!” After a few weeks, coaching has disappeared from the agenda! I have seen this happening too often. Believe me: the gray everyday life always wins!

What is missing?
As long as coaching has only a nice – to – have status, it will not happen. Out. Point. Basta! Only when it appears in the job description of executives, only when coaching is paid, itbecomes alive. Then coaching is a must have! It’s so! Then it has the space and the time it deserves.

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