You are the sales manager of Really Kool Hardware Products, and you hire at least fifty to sixty salespersons each year who need training in the basics of “how to sell.” This is not just training in “how to sell your company’s products” but training in basic sales techniques. These new employees are generally college graduates in computer science with sales potential but no sales experience and no demonstrable sales skills.
What Are the Stakes?
Your company’s revenues depend on getting these new salespeople fully up to speed and out selling. A new-hire salesperson can’t drive revenue for your company until he knows the minimum about selling. It’s also important to find as early as possible those who aren’t cut out for a career in sales.
The new salespersons are very motivated to do this training because they know their job depends on it. If they don’t learn how to be a salesperson, they won’t have a job.
Note: Stop a moment and think of your own e-learning solution before reading on.
You could construct a four-part sales e-learning class like this:
Part 1: Knowledge of Sales Basics. This is self-directed, on- demand training delivered via the Web, with tracking and a quiz for each course module. This is useful for information transfer, but it doesn’t do much for sales skills. And you’re going to need a skilled salesperson who knows how to do it, not just a person who is knowledgeable about sales theory.
Part 2: Sales Case Studies. An interim step for gaining sales skills is a series of collaborative sessions with other new persons at different locations all over the company. In virtual teams, and with an experienced instructor to guide them, the new sales- persons will take up sales case studies, figure out answers as a team, and present the responses online to the instructor. All of this will happen over the Internet.
Part 3: Face-to-Face Sessions. The next step is for the sales students to participate in face-to-face sessions with an instructor in order to learn the one-on-one sales techniques. (If such face-to-face sessions are impossible to organize, this can be conducted over the Internet as well, but it needs to be either one- on-one sessions or very small teams of students.)
Part 4: Ongoing Mentoring. The final step is for an experienced salesperson to be assigned to each salesperson to act as a mentor for a couple of months. This mentoring can occur via e-mail, via instant messaging, or by phone.
“Skills” are different from “knowledge.” It’s one thing to know all about the physics of swinging a baseball bat, but it’s another thing altogether to hit home runs off major league pitching.
Instead of having the student display his new sales skills face to face, you could have the student videotape himself and send several of those for instructor critique. With a low-cost PC camera, it might even be done over the Web.
Key to making this work is keeping the focus on the skills taught in Parts 2 and 3, instead of on the knowledge covered in Part 1. Selling is a skill, and it is not enough to “know about” sales theory and product facts. It’s one thing to know all about the physics of swinging a baseball bat, but it’s another thing altogether to hit home runs off major league pitching.