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Three Rules for Training Reps
By Janette Racicot

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 decision.

No Better Investment

Done right, sales training isn't removing $20 bills from your wallet as you sit

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 break.

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 jracicot@jracicot.com.

 
     
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