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Train hi-tech sales force differently to get better results

As the market for high technology changes, salespeople are being asked to sell new products aggressively – but they don’t understand how these products work or how they benefit customers.

September 25, 2021 / 01:53 PM IST
Representative Image ( Source: ShutterStock)

Representative Image ( Source: ShutterStock)

Most companies today realise that money spent on training is money well spent. The bill for sales training is always on the rise these days when revenue growth is hitting speed hurdles. Every basic training programme should aim at giving the sales reps all or several of the following: information on the company, information on the products, information on the customer and the competition, how to make effective sales presentations, and information on field procedures and responsibilities.

What is it that equips a salesperson to sell high technology products? This is of special use to companies in the industrial marketing scenario. As the market for high technology changes, salespeople are being asked to sell new products aggressively – but they don’t understand how these products work or how they benefit customers.

Your sales force may be competent at selling your existing or traditional products. The reps are comfortable with them; they know how the products work, how to handle every conceivable objection, and how to solve most implementation problems.  That is, assuming you have given proper basic training to your sales force.

But marketing new, hi-tech products is a different ballgame. Your reps are afraid that the customers won’t like the new product, or that they'll raise objections the reps can’t answer. They are uncomfortable with the new products because they are leaving their comfort zones for uncharted waters. Some salespeople are willing to enter those waters.  These top performers will be successful, but to make your sales goals, you have to get the mid-level performers up to speed on the new products. That's where product-sales training comes in. It is a hybrid of product training (what it is, how it works, etc) and sales training (qualifying prospects, understanding customer pain points, etc).

It has two goals: excite and motivate the sales force, and educate and equip the sales force to sell the product. There are seven steps to follow:

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1. Avoid quick-fix solutions. Don't have your product expert stand up in front of a class of salespeople and drone through countless PowerPoint slides. That's quick, but it does not fix anything. A leading white goods manufacturer, when they launched their version of the new air conditioners, conducted branch-level workshops to familiarise the dealers and sales officers with the unique features of the product. Unfortunately, it was a quick-fix programme and they had to redo it again for increasing sales and brand image.

muneer column smart growthRemember the story of the man who asked the watchmaker what time it was? Your sales reps want to know what time it is, not how to make the watch. They need to know how to sell the product, not how to make it.

2. Take a look at the audience you want to train. What level of technical competence and sales skills do they exhibit? What are their qualifications? To what level do they need to reach to become successful?

3. Develop overall objectives. Do you want your sales people to find leads, qualify prospects, sell, configure, close, and install the product? Or do you just want them to qualify prospects and turn them over to technical specialists?

4. Design the right mix of media to use in training. Classroom training is relatively inexpensive to create, but it can be expensive to implement with a large number of participants. Zoom is ok for short modules. A better way is to separate the knowledge portion of the training from the skills portion. The knowledge part could be done through self-paced training using workbooks, videos, audiotapes, or other types of multimedia. Highly competent participants can test out of the basic levels and move to advanced levels. At the end of the self-paced training, participants   can take a test to certify that they are ready for the skills portion, which can be included in a tightly focused in-person session.

5. Develop course structure, agenda, content and materials. This  should cover all the areas required.

6. Develop a project plan to ensure that the training project has access to the right resources, is completed on time, and meets overall course objectives. Resources management support and access to product experts and successful field sales reps are included. Other elements of the plan should include a way to tracking successful completion of training by participants and to certify them as ready to sell the product.

7. Develop a follow-up plan. Training should not be just an isolated event but a process. Send course updates to graduates. Set up internal groups in Telegram etc to help them stay connected and share learning.

Once these seven steps are done, your sales reps would be more equipped to sell hi-tech products and make your company ready for launching newer products on a regular basis.
M Muneer is the managing director of CustomerLab Solutions, a consulting firm.
first published: Sep 25, 2021 01:52 pm

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