The Get Dangerous Quickly Approach to Product/Service Training
In 2000 a computer distributor hired me to help them build a
software specialist sales team. The distributor had more than 100
"generalist" salespeople, but these salespeople were doing a poor
job of selling software. The distributor's management felt a team
of specialists could help jump-start growth in software sales.
This was a very interesting project for several reasons. First,
the distributor had SIXTEEN software products in its portfolio.
Second, they couldn't afford to hire experienced software
salespeople. Instead, we needed to hire good consultative
salespeople and train them to sell all sixteen software products.
We also needed to write a business plan, get a budget approved,
hire six salespeople, train them to sell sixteen software
products, and have them working in the field...within 90 days.
Sound impossible? It sure seemed that way at first glance; but,
when I talked to the various software manufacturers, I came to an
important realization. All of the software manufacturers were
almost desperately eager for incremental opportunities. If the
new software salespeople could identify qualified opportunities,
the software manufacturers would be delighted to provide product
experts to help turn the opportunities into sales. So, all the
new software salespeople really needed to learn was how to find
and qualify opportunities.
I knew there was no way we could make our new salespeople experts
in sixteen software products in any reasonable time frame. But,
we could make them experts in the BUSINESS PROBLEMS that the
software products addressed. And, we could provide them with
tools they could use as "cheat sheets" in the field to determine
whether prospects had those specific business problems, and if
they did, to QUANTIFY THE IMPACT of the business problems.
There was just one challenge. The software manufacturers'
marketing departments were all accustomed to delivering very
detailed, technical training. No matter how hard I tried, I
couldn't get them to understand the kind of abbreviated, targeted
training that I wanted my salespeople to receive. I even roughed
out a sample training tool (the very first "get dangerous
quickly" document) and sent it to each software manufacturer.
Despite repeated conversations and lots of good-faith efforts,
they just never "got it". So, I developed my team's training
tools and conducted most of the training myself.
What were the results? The six software salespeople helped the
distributor's existing 100 salespeople DOUBLE software sales
during their first SIX MONTHS on the job! Unfortunately, the "dot
com bust" hit shortly thereafter, and the software specialist
team fell victim to deep headcount cuts.
This project taught me a very important lesson: salespeople don't
need to be experts in specific products or services to sell them
successfully. They do need to be experts in the business problems
that the products or services can solve, as well as how to find
and qualify opportunities, and how to leverage expert resources.
If you want to produce rapid sales results, redesign your
product/service training curriculums to help your salespeople
"get dangerous quickly". You'll be glad you did!