Three Rules for Training Reps
Published in Technology Meetings Magazine
Imagine you are sitting in a class. But every 15 minutes someone comes in,
opens your wallet and pulls out a $20 bill. First $20 is gone, then $40, $60,
you get the idea. That training would have to be pretty darn good for you to
stay very long, even until the first break.
This is what it's like to be a sales rep in a typical technology training
event. Unlike other professions where the salaried attendees are actually paid
to sit in the room, every minute out of the field costs that account manager
in time, money, momentum and opportunity.
To Make Matters Worse
No doubt about it, selling technology is difficult. Product life cycles are
numbered weeks. Markets evolve at a blinding rate. Competitors merge, divide,
partner and takeover. Nothing, it seems, is static.
And then there are 'the humans'. Unlike technical product skills where there
are predicable steps to installing the messaging client or configuring a network,
sales requires dealing constantly with the unpredictable: people. If things
aren't working right, you can't just replace a decision maker the same way
you can swap out a board.
And finally, to compound the problem, most sales skills training is terrible.
The Toughest Customers in the World
Last year my company conducted sales training on four continents, working
with account managers from over a dozen countries. Let me tell you a secret,
there's not a sales rep out there who doesn't want to improve, to increase
their potential, to substantially beat that quota. There are ways you help
them. The trick is in knowing what they need and how to deliver it. Here are
a few ways to do it:
One Size Fits All?
Generic training courses will teach your people broad, general skills like
contact management or needs assessment. But consider this: if everyone in your
sales force is using the latest generic methodology, what advantage will they
have over your biggest competitor who probably ran their sales people through
the same exact methodology last quarter?
What to do:
Selling technology is specific. Shun the 'high promise'
canned courses, and make the investment in a training course that is designed
for your product and the kind of selling your reps do. A methodology that
encourages them to just ‘sell high' in one-one-one meetings will fail if
your product requires action from several levels in other functions at the
same time in organizations dominated by committees. Simplistic rah-rah wastes
everyone's time -- and your money. Canned bargains are no bargain.
Watch your language
To be perfectly accurate, engineering will want your sales people to have
the latest and greatest spec sheets, migration codes and part numbers. But
features don't sell. In order for your sales people to make a sale, they must
be bilingual. The must take those spec sheets and when they venture into the
customer's world, translate them so that the ordinary humans can understand.
What to do:
Sales training should be, but rarely ever is, primarily in the language of
the client. Find a training course that has a customer, not technical, perspective.
Sales people need to learn how to make that translation, how it affects the
psychology of the sale, how to navigate the decision making process. Focus
on giving phrases and vocabulary that helps the customer make a buy decision.
Approach with caution
It takes sales people about 3 minutes, tops, to size
up a training course. If the author knows less about creating customers than
they do, the entire course is suspect. The more successful your account managers
are, the less likely they will be to change their winning methodology to
the new one, regardless of how ‘hot' the course is or how strong the corporate
mandate to follow it.
What to do:
Know your trainer (or who developed that training). If they have just bought
the franchise or read the book, wonder if they have ever sold technology. Ask
around. Find one with content that shows a fundamental understanding of how
customers make decision and what reps need to know to help prospects make a
No Better Investment
Done right, sales training isn't removing $20 bills from your wallet as you
there. On the contrary, it's like fillling them with $100 bills. Next time
you plan a training event, scrutinize what your are offering and insist on
value for every minute. You'll be rewarded the first time they return from
Janette Racicot is President of Racicot & Associates
which specializes in helping companies improve their high visibility, important
training and events. Share your thoughts with her at 617 484 3201 or firstname.lastname@example.org.