Teach Your Techies To Connect
Non-sales employees play a major role in the technology sales process,
yet their training in customer communication skills is woefully neglected.
The mood, pace, and attitude of the business world have changed. After
carefree carousing, the technology sector is living with a hangover.
People who have lived through these business cycles know that things
will get better. Good managers understand that this is the perfect time
to reposition for greater opportunity. And for a technology company,
training is one of the best ways to invest.
But how and where to invest? Money is tight, and risk seems high. Should
you choose by organization, such as sales or engineering? Will certification
make the difference? Is any one skill recession-, restructure-, and redeployment-proof?
I think so.
Regardless of the state of the stock market, your customers and employees
rank highest among your assets and investments. Think about when and
how often those assets interact. In other industries, company employees
rarely meet customers. Not so in the technology field, where salespeople
sometimes bring in dozens of resources to meet with each account. For
every system designed, channel developed, and program launched, untold
meetings must take place.
Imagine what would happen if you could leverage every customer interaction.
Sales cycles would tighten up, product development times would shorten,
customer satisfaction would increase, and resources could be used more
Now think about the training you offer to nonsales employees who interact
with customers. Is it predominantly for technical skills? Yup, I thought
Survey Says …
In a recent project, we amassed data on this very topic. Two findings
we expected; a third was a surprise.
Training on non-technical skills is usually reserved for sales and marketing.
Technical people secretly desire but rarely request such training, in
The majority of managers (sales and technical) said that they would
get a big payback if their technical people developed better “customer
Here's how a VP from a highly respected “solutions” company put it: “Technical
people outnumber the sales and marketing people in our company 20:1.
In the quarters since our technical people have been trained on really
communicating with customers — how to get things across and enthuse them
[about our ideas, concepts, and innovations], we have doubled our sales
without adding resources, replacing processes, or making organizational
Soft Skills School
I have talked to CFOs, developers, instructors, channel partners, directors,
sales and marketing vice presidents, and dozens of engineers. Our research
in North America shows that training in customer communication skills
is greatly desired but woefully neglected. Think of the last time you
offered any so-called “soft skills” training to your employees outside
sales and marketing.
What should you do? First, as you make plans for the “rebound,” think
communication, not coding. Look at the people who interact with your
customers and ask yourself: How can I help them to be more successful
in customer situations? I bet you find the answer is not hard but soft.
Second, find or create a training course that focuses on the heart of
communications, i.e., the content. Look for a course that teaches techies
how to position their message in the customer's mind, how to see their
topic (and acronyms) from the customer's point of view. And how to create
meetings that end with the customer's eyes alert and excited instead
of glazed over.
Janette Racicot is president of Racicot & Associates, which
creates and manages in-person and online training programs. Share your
thoughts with her at (617) 484-3201, or send an e-mail to email@example.com