IT salespeople should be trained in the complexities of financing and leasing, writes Howard Dudley.
When I was a young salesman earning my spurs, one of my peers would always beat my own rather good sales figures. I tried every trick in the book and put in all the hours possible to catch up with him, but I just couldn’t. After about a year of this, I decided to swallow my pride and ask him what his secret was. His response was “training”.
It transpired that he was a training nut – and I’m not talking about swimming lakes and running marathons. He would get on any course going, and use any scrap of advantage, insight or learning that he could glean from any source to enable him to sell more and sell quicker.
What interested me most was that the courses were not just within our sector or generic sales training. Some were highly specific. For example, he would go on a course to understand specific industries and professions he was going to sell to. This concept of ‘cross-pollination’ learning has always stuck with me.
What reminded me of this was an article about a recent sales training study (Huthwaite, 2004). This compared a group of sales people trained in a specific approach with an untrained control group. The results of the training were impressive: sales revenue rose by 6.6 per cent and gross profit by 9.6 per cent during training, and by 9.3 per cent and 13.2 per cent afterwards.
What is more, the performance of the trained group continued to improve during the post-training period when coaching and field support was withdrawn.
We are always told we must nurture and retain talent, and when we have all spent the past decade insisting that our people are our strongest asset, you can often lose sight of the fact that it is and will remain true for all time. We all know that countries with higher levels of skills deliver better economic growth rates. The same goes for companies.
There is a huge opportunity for the IT channel to use some cross-pollination training to drive growth and profitability. It is widely accepted that finance is used at the point of sale in only about 20 per cent of deals in the IT sector, compared with about 90 per cent in document management. There are no technical reasons for this, as both involve selling often complex IT-based solutions to a wide range of companies.
At a time when finance has never been more widely available and end-users’ knowledge about different finance options as high as it has ever been, the reason lies squarely with the facilitator of the transaction: the salesperson. Far be it from me to apportion blame on my colleagues; I firmly believe that the problem is not a case of ‘won’t sell with finance’, but of ‘don’t know how to sell with finance’.
Our research has shown that vendor salespeople who have received training in how to use finance and leasing as a sales differentiator have managed to increase their sales volumes by almost 10 per cent within three months.
Ad-hoc feedback also states that they are able to shorten their sales lead times significantly. At a time when the channel is looking for new drivers for growth and profit, it cannot afford to ignore such opportunities.
Finance is not something that just anyone can master. It is difficult and complex, but as budgets become tighter and buyers become more sophisticated, whoever can master finance will be able to sell more.
And if my friend the learned salesman is reading this, then I’m sure he will be booking himself on a course.
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