6 Business Lessons from The Packers Collapse in Seattle Yesterday


Packers Dejected

For 55 minutes the Packers were by far the better team.  So what happened in the last five minutes to make them lose the game, and how can you avoid those same mistakes in your business?

1)      Never take your foot off the accelerator.
In the 4th quarter, the Packers changed their game plan to protect their lead.  They stopped rushing the quarterback on defense and started calling conservative runs up the middle to run time off the clock.  In sports as in business, this strategy is frustrating for both players and fans and it rarely works.  Some business examples:  GM cars in the early ‘80s, any Microsoft Windows version in the last decade.  If you play not to lose, often that’s exactly what will happen.

2)      Follow your game plan, even when things seem like they’re falling apart.

To say the Seahawks thrive on chaos is an understatement.  Most of their big plays happen when their quarterback is flushed out of the pocket. Their fans and their stadium are built to foster confusion and mistakes.  But for 55 minutes, the Packers didn’t flinch.  Their coaches developed a winning game plan and their players believed in it and executed it almost flawlessly. But late in the game, the Packers let it get away from them.  They stopped following their game plan and got sucked into Seattle’s vortex of death.  Suddenly their defense started giving up big improvised plays while their explosive offense played it safe.  The business cliche is plan your work and work your plan and more often than not you will prevail.  In this case the cliche is right.  Don’t get suckered into reacting to your competitors’ latest moves.  That’s when very bad things usually happen.

 3)      Trust your best players to win the game.

Why wasn’t Clay Matthews on the field during Seattle’s last drive?  Why didn’t the coaches trust MVP Rogers to complete some passes on the last three drives?  Why didn’t one of their receivers or DBs field that onside kick?  The business lesson is to recruit, develop and retain top talent and then put the ball in their hands when it counts.  Trust their instincts, give them the right resources and put them in a position to win.  Green Bay did that for 55 minutes, but then stopped during the last 5 minutes.  Why?

4)      Play with a chip on your shoulder

Seattle is a city that feels disrespected, underestimated and ignored.  Geographically they are tucked away in the upper left corner of the nation.  Politically they are left of center and proud of it.  They have incubated and launched some of the most successful businesses in the world – Nordstrom, Boeing, Amazon, Microsoft and more.  And yet they feel (in general) they don’t get the respect they deserve.  The Seahawks, despite their reign of terror and super bowl wins feel exactly the same way.  Collectively they are still shaking off the image of Brian Bosworth being run over by Bo Jackson, Dave Kreig’s NFL fumble record and playing second fiddle to the Steelers in the Detroit Super Bowl.  Don’t underestimate the motivational power of playing with a chip on your shoulder – When you have something to prove it gives you that extra burst of adrenaline and energy that you need to put the game away.

5)      Momentum is real – use it to your advantage

How can a little thing like a successful two point conversion change the course of an entire game?  The answer is ‘belief’.  In the aftermath of Sunday’s game, Seahawks fans will claim they always believed they could win, but in reality they didn’t.  How could they after four interceptions and dozens of ‘three-and-outs’?  Some fans were quietly heading for the exits.  That is until Green Bay lost focus for an instant and allowed an unlikely 2 point conversion at exactly the wrong time.  After that you could FEEL hope return to Seattle.  In that instant, the Seahawks and the fans once again believed they could win.  Worse yet, Green Bay believed it too and that’s exactly what happened.  In business sometimes winning the littlest battle takes gargantuan effort.  Picking up the phone to make a sale after 30 rejections can feel like climbing a mountain.  But sometimes one single, small win can turn the the whole thing around.  It gives everyone a shot of hope, which can be nurtured into belief, which more often than not will result in a win.

6)  Its not over until its over

Very few NFL games play out the way the pundits and experts expect.  Like Mike Tyson famously said: “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”.  A little extra vigilance, a little extra paranoia, a little extra discipline could have enabled Green Bay to make it the finish line.  In business, the more desperate your competition is, the more crazy stuff they will try to pull.  Be ready, don’t assume and whatever you do, don’t become complacent because in an instant you can lose.  Don’t believe it?  Go ask Nokia, or Blackberry, or the recording industry or Yahoo.



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Increasing Sales Through E-Learning

Training Industry Exclusive

By: Chad Hoke , July 20, 2011

As published on TrainingIndustry.com on 20 July 2011

 When most people think of online training, the first thing that often comes to mind is a static slideshow presentation with monotonous voiceover. Many also associate online training with human resources as a means to ensure safety in the workplace or keep up-to-date with essential job skills or processes.

Recently, however, companies are increasing their efforts to integrate online training into their sales and marketing efforts. How? Some companies simply bring product training online, thus boosting reps’ product knowledge, which greatly impacts sales.

And the nature of how sales and marketing staff can participate in online training has dramatically changed in the past few years. Instead of simply watching a sales presentation or series of slides on a computer screen, users are now encouraged to interact with their company’s Learning Management System (LMS). Sometimes this interaction takes the form of quizzes or games, and sometimes it’s in the form of earning rewards for online course participation.

Webcasts are also becoming more interactive—many live webcasts now allow for instant feedback as well as question-and-answer sessions that reach all participants and can be saved for future reference.

But what’s the bottom line? Sales personnel are beginning to participate in e-learning and their increased knowledge is improving their ability to sell.

So, how does e-learning impact sales?

No two companies will have the same approach to e-learning or the same LMS capabilities. But for those seeking to rev up their existing sales training, the goal is the same. And according to a BlueVolt study of cross-industry distributors, 81 percent of respondents agreed that online training does increase sales.

For many product manufacturers, for example, an e-learning program can help get the word out about new products and those products’ unique features, benefits and applications. When building an online training course, the manufacturer has complete control over the messaging that goes out to its distributors. This allows for consistent training and ensures the message that is delivered throughout the sales channel– from buyers, sellers and ultimately the end-user – is as accurate and compelling as possible.

From a financial perspective, this message consistency and delivery (via e-learning) can greatly impact sales by extending a message throughout the entire channel and reaching more sales people. While there will always be a place for live, instructor-led training, online training can help lower expenses such as travel– and still reach a broader audience.

After creating an online university to deploy new product sales training, North America’s largest producer of residential ventilation products, Broan-NuTone, was able to reach more partners. They also dramatically reduced travel and saved more than 90 percent on training expenses.

For the distributors of these specialized products, online training provides expert product knowledge. Not only does this strengthen the link between an informed distributor salesperson and the customer, it creates opportunities for increased sales. The same BlueVolt survey respondents agreed that more than 80 percent of sales present add-on opportunities and strong product knowledge at the point-of-sale can increase the number of add-ons they sell.

After national independent tool and fastener distributor co-op Sphere 1 began using its online university to deploy sales training, one of its members – distributor Big D Bolt & Tool – switched from carrying a competitor’s brand to American tool manufacturer Wright Tool’s product. This was directly a result of effective training. According to Big D Bolt and Tool owner Bob Coursey, “The training really illustrated how Wright Tool is better and [the sales team] understood why the product made sense for our customers.”

Sphere 1 also incorporated incentives for taking courses into its online university, which motivated participation and increased enrollment. BlueVolt’s $BlueBucks incentive program is proven to increase course enrollment up to ten times.

Manufacturers’ distributors also reap financial rewards from switching to an online platform. The historically standardized approach to training requires everyone to be in the same place at the same time so a sales rep can present training face-to-face, disrupting both the workday and the workflow. With online training, distributor employees can instead take online training whenever and where they need or want to.

Online training maximizes return-on-training time because learners:

  • Train when it is convenient with their schedule—whether from home, the warehouse, or while out on the road.
  • Learn at their own pace. Learning online isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Sales team members can skip what they already know and spend as much time as they need on what they don’t know.
  • Review previous courses. Even after completion, courses are available for future reference, which continues engagement and extends the learning cycle.
  • Receive training that is focused on the product, with an emphasis on product features and benefits. This maximizes the effectiveness of the training, because what is most important is clearly laid out and retained by the learner.

Additional benefits of e-learning

The benefits to online learning go beyond just the product manufacturer or the manufacturer’s distributors. Even the end-user, such as the product installer, can benefit from e-learning and having the same in-depth product knowledge. For example, a strong understanding of the product can significantly improve on-the-job safety for electricians who must stay up-to-date on hundreds of rules and regulations according to the National Electric Code.

Research shows that online learning is just as effective as, if not more than, taking an in-person course. In fact, a study by the U.S. Department of Education found that students who learn online generally perform better than those who learn in face-to-face courses. Additionally, the American Council of Education recently found that U.S. employees cite continuing education programs as the second most important reason they stay in their jobs.

Chad Hoke is Vice President of Sales and Marketing at BlueVolt, the leading provider of online Learning Management Systems (LMS) for the manufacturing


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How to make your Learning Mangement System work harder for you

As published by trainingmagazine.com on 4 October 2012

By Chad Hoke, October 4th, 2011

The first thing you want to ask yourself when considering, implementing, or switching to a new learning management system (LMS) is: Will it be easy to use?

Think about the majority of your LMS provider’s users. How tech-savvy are they? Don’t over-estimate your users’ tolerance for complexity. One of the most common complaints we get from companies is that their usage is far less than they expected.

The best LMSs are built from the ground up for those who don’t typically use a computer every day. That means virtually anyone can easily navigate and complete training. Instead of visiting the site once and leaving frustrated, they achieve some early success and are willing to come back for more.

What to Look for in an LMS

Let’s look at the little things that can make e-learning easier on the learner and you, the administrator. These are features such as single sign-on, which allows the platform to integrate into other third-party applications such as other Websites, company intranets, portals, or existing training sites. The idea is to seamlessly integrate the LMS so a learner only needs one username and password for all company-related Web logins.

Next, you want an LMS whose look and feel is customizable, so the LMS becomes an extension of your brand. This is especially useful to manufacturers, for example, who frequently drive other vendors, value-added resellers, distributors, and other third parties to their online universities for e-learning. Employees also find that a seamless transition from their company’s intranet to their LMS creates less of a barrier to participating in training.

Another feature that makes e-learning easier on the administrator is having control over security permissions. Learners at a company or organization need different levels of access to information. You want to make sure your LMS allows your company to maintain those security preferences. The OT, ICS, and IIOT Cybersecurity is a necessity for all these days.

Auto-enrollment links allow the LMS administrator to customize a URL that can automatically enroll learners in a course or course category. This feature removes the need for the learner to find courses or join a group on his or her own, making it easy for learners to begin training.

Other Features to Consider

You want an LMS optimized for your industry. The BlueVolt LMS, for example, is optimized for the extended enterprise. We serve the entire ecosystem of an industry—for example, in the construction industry, this means we provide training from the original equipment manufacturer to the product distributor to the contractor to the installer and the association/buying group. This ensures consistency of training (and ultimately, product knowledge) throughout the channel.

Does your LMS enable course sharing? Many extended enterprise businesses have training needs that reach beyond their employees. They also would like to train their sales channel, their supply chain, and their contactors or installers, but getting online courses to all those distributed people is a challenge. BlueVolt’s course-sharing feature allows customers to share their courses with other BlueVolt customers. And inversely, customers can see and request courses from others on the LMS. This is an easy way to add fresh content to a university or training center, which is a critical factor in motivating users to return again and again.

Next, take a look at your LMS provider’s development process. Do they have a quarterly or yearly development and release cycle? At BlueVolt, we update our software every two weeks; sometimes they’re major updates with new features requested by our customers and sometimes they’re minor enhancements. And because we’re a Web-based LMS, our customers don’t have to reinstall the software or download anything. The updates are automatic.

What about incentives for learning? Something we’ve found unique to the e-learning industry is providing rewards for learner engagement. Our program, called $BlueBucks, provides dollar-for-dollar rewards for successfully completing a course. These rewards are easy to implement and redeemed in the form of online or offline gift cards to hundreds of national retailers.

$BlueBucks have been proven by BlueVolt customers to increase online course enrollment up to 10 times. Some of our learners, especially those who work for distributor companies in the construction trade industries, earn hundreds of dollars per year by combining their $BlueBucks from successfully completing courses from manufacturers in their industry. These manufacturers pay for the rewards so their distributors’ employees are well-versed on their products and more likely to facilitate successfulsales to the end-user.

Creating Compelling Content

Now that we’ve reviewed some key things to consider when choosing an LMS, let’s look at some tips on content (what goes inside the LMS to facilitate learning). After all, a great LMS is no good if the learners don’t use it because the content isn’t compelling.

Here are five tips for creating compelling content:

  1. Find your company’s Subject Matter Experts (SMEs): These are the people who always have the answers to your questions. Put that knowledge to work! They can help write FAQ’s, fill in information (see #2), and create training materials and resources.
  2. Create templates: Instead of continually creating new courses, create a generic template to simplify future course development. By providing a template with a few questions to fill in, it will be a snap for others throughout the company, like SMEs, to help you create a course.
  3. Draw on newbies: After developing training materials, during the testing and Q&A process, use new employees or customers to help review the training. They will offer a fresh set of eyes on the material and be able to call out topics that are confusing for someone going through the training for the first time.
  4. Assign administrators: Allow department heads, managers, or product people, anyone who can help administer your LMS, administrative access to the appropriate parts of the system. They can run reports for themselves, enroll students in classes, and much more. This gives administrators more ownership of the training program, while reducing your administrative overhead.
  5. Reward feedback: No matter how hard you try, you will always miss something. Encourage your learners to find mistakes and provide feedback on your training. When they do, make sure to thank them—either through a simple e-mail or a $5 coffee gift card. You want extra eyes watching for mistakes, and your students will feel pride in improving the quality of your training program.

Online learning is constantly changing and improving. The best LMS platforms stay up to date with current technologies, make adding your e-learning courses easy, and, most importantly, give your users a reason to keep learning

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Improving On-the-Job Safety with Online Training

Training Industry Exclusive, October 10, 2011

By: Chad Hoke, October 10, 2011

It is easy to forget how dangerous the workplace can be – especially in the high-stakes world of construction and building maintenance. Tragically, this week alone 88 workers are likely to die in construction-related accidents and a staggering 63,461 are likely to get injured!  With better training, a surprisingly high percentage of these casualties of work are preventable – and when businesses and employees work together to improve safety, the payoff is huge.

For workers, the fallout from an injury can range from inconvenience to catastrophe. Even a common back injury can trigger a spiral of unpaid bills, job loss and family stress.  More serious injuries can devastate a lifetime of savings.  Not only are injuries unfortunate for workers, they are also expensive for businesses. One large powerline commercial contractor based in the Pacific Northwest found that his company’s average cost for one on-the-job injury, such as a burn, fall, pinched finger or hand, to be $26,000. That number adds up quickly and can result in high costs for businesses, negatively impacting their bottom line.

Injuries also take a bite out of company productivity, taking employees away from the jobsite or workplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls are the second-most leading cause of time away from work — 13 days on average. This time away adversely affects both the employee and employer.

Training is a key to preventing these annoying-at-best and devastating-at-worst injuries. Some states (such as New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Missouri and Nevada) require Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training for all construction contracts and public work projects.

No matter your state’s requirements, safety training is an important part of any job, especially in the construction, electrical and manufacturing industries.

Unfortunately, safety training is all-too-often overlooked because it can be inconvenient. Workers have to rearrange their schedules to sit in classrooms for hours, or even over multiple days, to fulfill training requirements. This can cause training to fall by the wayside because there aren’t always enough hours in the day, or the class is only offered at a time that doesn’t work with an employee’s (or employer’s) schedule.

But thanks to modern technology, hundreds of safety courses are now available online, including many OSHA-approved courses. Gone are the days of simply clicking through a boring slideshow online and calling it “e-learning.” Online training courses have changed dramatically in the last few years and many now feature sophisticated learning technologies such as interactive games, quizzes and product simulations. With the right Learning Management System (LMS), e-learning courses can include these and other features (such as videos or tools to enable real-time collaboration among multiple learners), to keep employees engaged and promote learning.

The more engaged a learner is, the more likely he/she is to retain that knowledge. And knowledge is power when it comes to safety training.

An online course is a much more convenient option for learners as well. As opposed to traditional training courses offered in-person, their online counterparts are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week from anywhere with an Internet connection. The learner is also able to take the course at his or her own pace, spending as much time as necessary on new or complicated theories instead of being subject to the needs of 30 other people. Which would you prefer?

With some LMS platforms, the course doesn’t even need to be completed in one sitting. Learners can take as many, or as few, breaks as needed to finish. Participants can also revisit courses and learned materials to ensure crucial safety skills are up-to-date (such as fall prevention techniques). Certain LMS platforms will also report completion results directly to the state board or OSHA (where applicable) for the learner, ensuring seamless license renewal.

There are certainly e-learning skeptics who claim that e-learning isn’t as effective as an in-person course. However, the U.S. Department of Education has found that people who learn online generally perform better than attendees of in-person courses.

Proper training is essential to the workplace and on-the-job safety and online learning is a smart way to complete it. It’s more convenient for the learner, enables stronger knowledge retention and, most importantly, keeps everyone safer on the job.

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If you can’t sell it, neither can your channel partners

I’ve met with some very smart leaders that believe (at least initially) the channel will be their magic bullet for overcoming the frustrations of an expensive, inefficient, unpredictable sales force.  The conversation usually goes something like this:

CEO:  “Our product is so far ahead of everything else in the industry that we should be selling it for twice our current price.” 

Me:  “So with that kind of value proposition you must be killing it -right?”

CEO:  “Well, not exactly..  As soon as we get past <XYZ> hurdle with our sales and marketing, then our growth will really start to kick in.”

So at this point in the conversation, I understand that I’m only seeing the tip of the iceberg.  If the CEO is a product guy, it is not surprising that he believes the main roadblocks to his growth are sales and marketing issues.  And by the way, the opposite is also usally true – leaders that evolved from sales and marketing DNA believe most of their problems are product-related.   It would be great if reality would align with their beliefs, but real solutions are almost always a messy combination of both.

So, as the product-centric CEO thrashes around trying to solve his “sales problem” the mirage of a friendly channel starts to look pretty good.  Just think!  No more frustrating conversations with salespeople that don’t REALLY understand the product.  Lower fixed costs for a team that isn’t performing up to expectations.  No more expense reports for questionable dinners or demands for new laptops.  No more complaints about the support team or the comp plan.  And as an extra benefit, customer distractions and headaches would be kept to a minimum because partners would be responsible for support.

After carefully adding up the “gives and gets” of a channel program, the CEO reluctantly agrees to share 30%, 40% or even 50% of the revenue with partners.  In return it’s only fair to expect rapid revenue growth and relief from the headaches associated with pre-sales and post-sales support.   His team will finally be freed up to focus on it’s real mission, which is building great products.  If the company is well-funded, the next move will be to build a business case based on “conservative estimates” of market penetration and kick off a search for a well-connected channel guru who can put together an effective program.

However, if you put yourself in the shoes the channel partner the perspective is quite different.  Of course when you explain the benefits of your product to them, they nod their heads and seem to agree.  But in their mind the very first thing they want to know is how much demand is out there for your product.  Are their customers asking for it?  (probably not).   Is the company providing “qualified” leads?  (again probably not – keeping in mind that their definition of a qualified lead is an order that needs to be fulfilled or a sold deal waiting for implementation.)

If you take a step back for a second, this attitude is understandable.  Most companies have a hard time supporting a direct sales team even when they receive 100% of the deal revenue.  And their team is focused on only a single product line.  The channel partner’s calculation is less forgiving.  He is being asked to support the sales effort for your product on, say, 40% of the deal revenue and his team must split their attention between two, three or twenty other product lines.  While there are economies of scale that can be leveraged, in general they are less able to afford hand-holding customers through a long and risky sales cycle.

No matter how great your pitch is, potential channel partners will put your opportunity into one of two categories:

The first is a product line that will bring them a significant number of profitable new customers with a minimum of effort  This is the holy grail and the reason why Cisco, HP, Microsoft, Marketo and Salesforce have no problem recruiting new partners.

The second, less compelling category is a product that will help them sell more and earn more profit from their existing customers.   This could be a product that enhances their current solution or a product that helps them serve customers more efficiently.  In all likelyhood this is the category you will fall into.  When you practice your pitch it is very compelling.. “So Mr. Partner, even if you attach our product to only 10% of your current customers in the first year your profit will increase by 38%!”

But if you’re in the partner’s shoes, your existing customers are your biggest asset and no matter how compelling the pitch, you are wary about “leveraging” them for the benefit of another company, no matter how compelling your spreadsheet is.  So unless your current sales and marketing efforts are producing an excess of real qualified leads and has a stack of bottlenecked projects waiting for implementation resources, the chances of finding a channel partner in shining armor is very slim.

Despite these hurdles, hundreds or thousands of small and medium companies somehow manage to develop productive channels every year.  Rarely do they find the channel is a magic bullet that saves them from the frustrations of their own sales team, but with the right approach they can develop a ‘win-win’ channel program that results in a better, faster path to new markets.

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