Train to win: Four steps to game-changing education

Mary Ann Yule, president of HP Canada

Mary Ann Yule, president of HP Canada

In our fast-changing industry – where organizations are moving from transactional buying to contractual partnerships and workforces are becoming more generationally diverse – can you confidently say your sales team is well equipped to succeed?

Chances are, probably not. According to the Brevet Group, 55 per cent of the people making their living in sales don’t have the right skills to be successful. And it’s not just skills. In the increasingly complex IT domain, the right content really makes the difference between superstars and all the rest. As well, Millennials are likely a growing portion of your sales organization and they are becoming key decision makers in the customer base you are trying to reach.

Always connected and increasingly well-informed, today’s IT decision makers require a highly trained and enabled consultative sales approach. Yet many vendor-provided training programs only focus on technical certifications and not on building competence in areas of solution selling and understanding customer environments. Unsurprisingly, this has led to lower close rates, and more importantly, to increased dissatisfaction and distrust among the customer base. In their eyes, the cause of unmet promises are a result of less-than-honest practices rather than simple ignorance.

To reinvent how your team sells, you need sales skills and content education and that creates both solution and customer experts. This will enable a move away from a tactical focus to a strategic, long-term approach that delivers competitive advantages, future-proofs your business and still delivers recurring quarterly revenue that you can count on.

Here’s what to look for:

  1. Follow the customer. Corporate customers require a strategic partner who understands their business, objectives, and challenges, in addition to their IT environment. According to an CSO Insights study, effective customer journey training is vital to achieve better than average quota attainment. So, if your sales people are pitching product with low, or an untrained, consultative approach, they won’t be selling for long or will be outsold by the better trained sales people at your competitor.

To move to a consultative selling model where sales teams engage customers in context of their business needs, training needs to educate your sales force on industry trends and how to uncover the customer’s specific pain point—it may not be what the customer says, or perhaps even thinks, it is. Ask your technology vendor to deliver product content in context of realistic business problems and map their solutions to those problems. Does your IT vendor offer competitive rebuttals so you can address challenges and overturn selling obstacles in the moment? Do you learn how to identify opportunities to up and cross-sell? Look for an IT vendor that provides courses around how to develop a win strategy, storytelling, effective client communications, meeting and call planning, and effective negotiation.

  1. Identify and pursue (the right) targets. Being equipped to have the right conversation is critical, but if your people are talking to the wrong contacts, it won’t matter. Sales people need to understand how to identify the key decision makers. This is especially critical in an era where customer organizations have changed and these decision makers now extend beyond the traditional procurement and IT teams. While your sales representatives might have a great idea of the important decision makers in the past, if they aren’t able to identify the new key players, deals will be very difficult to close.

You need coursework designed not only for a solution-oriented sale, but to build deeper relationships, minimize wasted selling effort, and drive bigger deals. This will enable you to achieve both bottom line and employee satisfaction success. Look for instruction around executive-level selling, hunting and new business development, business case development, and relationship mapping.

  1. Chase knowledge acquisition. Look for technology vendors who are investing in gaining and creating new knowledge to stay ahead of the curve, especially in critical areas like security and IoT. Does the IT vendor have channels in place to regularly solicit and incorporate customer insights? Are they partnering with key industry experts to gain fresh perspectives and create relevant, compelling new content? Is the IT vendor achieving wins, such as driving market growth and creating innovative ways for you to monetize opportunities, reduce service costs, and realize greater margins?

And perhaps, most importantly, look for a strategic IT vendor partner that is challenging itself and you to understand what’s working, what’s not and creative ideas for the future to ensure your teams are well equipped to win.

  1. Don’t underestimate the importance of format. Especially with a millennial workforce that expects a flexible, go-with-me approach, the one-size-fits all training programs of yesterday won’t cut it. Leverage a technology vendor that offers self-paced education with a mobile-first design so your team can get what they need, when they need it, based on their existing skills, specific goals, and available time. Ask if the program has been developed with input from and tested by the channel.

In any endeavor, training directly impacts outcome. To generate the best possible outcomes for your organization, your sales team requires the right content, in the right format, to sell more effectively, more competitively and more profitably. Align with strategic IT vendor partners who invest in delivering education that breeds real competitive advantage by transforming sales reps into consultative advisors. Learn to win.

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