Today's post is from guest author Ron Bohnlein, VP of Sales for SBC Learning Labs. He has extensive experience not only in sales, but in the sales of learning solutions. In this post he shares some insight into how a Sales Training Department can become more successfully integrated into the Sales and Marketing departments, and making everyone more effective at growing the business.
What Learning Professionals Need to Know
Everyone within a business is working hard to meet stakeholder expectations, and keep the company on a strong path of growth. This sounds fundamental and it is. But understanding the need for growth and how that growth happens is something learning professionals may not understand, or simply take for granted.
Company leaders typically grow revenue and margin via means such as:
- New products/solutions
- Competing for more market share with current products
- Growing the sales force and marketing efforts
Most companies believe their solutions are better than stale offerings from major competitors. Since the solutions are new, they carry higher Value and Margins. They are non-commodity products at this time so they also provide an element of customer loyalty post-implementation. And often, sales quotas increase due to both stakeholder expectation and the company growth strategies.
It's not hard to see how part of growing a business through sales and marketing efforts will ALSO require an element of LEARNING.
The Challenge Trainers Need to Understand
A big obstacle is getting the direct and indirect sales channels to give attention to, and spend time on, the revenue generation activities necessary. The sales forces have several products and solutions from which to choose. Indirect channels often have similar products from several companies from which to choose.
Great and good sales people operate off a time allotment formula. They are successful by allotting their time to the current products. In order to succeed with the new product, sales people know that they will have to spend time with the following time-consuming activities:
- learning and understanding the new solutions
- crafting a plan to generate interest (leads)
- decide how to pitch the new products
- master a technique on positioning the new product for the close
In considering their time allotment formula, sales people logically ask: if I am successful (making a good living) with a current mix of products, why should I spend my time on this new solution?
Yet, in planning for the success of new solutions, companies expect their good and best sales people and the sales people in their third-party channels to spend their time on the new solutions.
Companies who do not consider the salesman’s formula run the risk of lower-than-expected success of the new solutions.
And this is where tradition training solutions collide with the needs of the sales force. Traditional "courses" and training methods, while well intentioned, often do not take a sales person's time allotment formula into consideration.
The Old Mix: Marketing, Sales Meetings, and Training Events
The key to getting sales people to take action is to reduce the amount of time they need to spend learning on positioning the product.
Historically companies approached the time-reduction goal by:
- Creating Marketing slicks and Web-site marketing write-ups to generate leads
- Showing products at trade shows and exhibits to generate leads
- Mail campaigns to generate leads
- PowerPoint decks for salespeople to use in conducting sales calls
- 30-minute education at sales meetings
- WebEx sales education meetings
- Product demonstrations for sales calls
The methods are not always very effective because they are out of sync with how the audience (prospects, sales people) is used to getting information in these technology driven times.
They miss the mark by missing the fact that people are used to getting information via short, engaging, memorable, and even participatory, messages. They are used to being able to quickly access those messages any time they want and use them in various situations.
A Modern Approach: High Quality Digital Media
By using digital media and the production values associated with Madison Avenue, companies can not only get in sync with their audience but also:
- Generate more leads
- Reduce the time sales people need to spend with prospects
- Conduct more effective sales calls
- Reinforce and sustain mastery
With some planning, the digital tools can leverage components from one another and reduce costs. E.g., a lead-generation video can also be used on the web-site. Also, components can be used in a digital product pitch. Also components of the digital sales education piece can be used in both the product pitch and interactive simulations of sales situations.
We have seen companies who have had us create these digital components call them Playbooks, Tool Kits, Digital Knowledge Boxes. They typically contain the following:
- 1 to 3 minute Marketing Trailer
- Segmented, 30 minute product sales education course
- Realistic simulation of typical sales situations
- Short coaching session
- Perfect Pitch of the product
Despite what different companies call them, they are the modern key to:
- getting high-quality leads
- getting sales people up to speed quickly
- shortening their time to becoming effective with new products
- meeting company expectations for revenue
Are you a Training Professional working in a Sales and Marketing Group? I'd love to hear from you and get your feedback.