Imagine you are sitting in a training class, and every 15 minutes someone comes in, opens your wallet, and pulls out a $20 bill. That class would have to be pretty darn good for you to stay very long. But this is what it's like to be a sales rep at a typical technology training event. Unlike other professions where 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, selling technology can be just plain difficult. Product life cycles are numbered in months. Competitors merge, divide, partner. Nothing, it seems, is static.
Despite the challenges, there's not a rep out there who doesn't want to beat that sales quota. There are ways you help them. Here are three rules good sales training must follow:
1. Be Specific. Generic training courses will teach your people 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-on-one meetings will fail if your product involves selling to multiple constituencies within a company--which is the case for nearly all high-tech products and services.
2. Speak the Customer's Language. Engineering will want your sales people to have the latest and greatest spec sheets, migration codes, and part numbers. They can't help that, they're engineers. But features don't sell. To make a sale, reps must be bilingual. They must take those spec sheets and when they venture into the customer's world, translate them so that ordinary humans can understand--and also make sure the features that are an engineer's pride are presented in terms of the benefits they provide..
What to do: Sales training should be, but rarely ever is, primarily in the language of the customer. 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, and how to navigate the decision-making process. Focus on giving phrases and vocabulary that helps the customer make a buying decision.
3. Be Credible. It takes sales people about three minutes, tops, to size up a training course. If the presenter knows less about creating customers than they do, the entire course is suspect. The more successful your sales reps are, the less likely they will be to change their winning methodology to the new one, regardless of how loud the buzz about the course or how strong the corporate mandate to follow its teachings.
What to do: Know your trainers (and who developed the training). Have they have just bought the franchise or read the book? Have they have ever sold technology? Seek training courses that show a fundamental understanding of how customers make decisions and what sales reps need to know to help prospects make a decision. Ask around; they do exist.
No Better Investment Done right, sales training isn't removing $20 bills from your reps' wallets every minute. On the contrary, it's filling them with $100 bills. Next time you plan a training event, scrutinize what you are offering and insist on value for every minute.