Sunday, January 13, 2008

Training Budgets and Technology Companies

As per the Bersin & Associates' just-published 2008 Corporate Learning Facebook- Training directed towards top-level employees is a high priority. 21% of training budget - the maximum chunk - is spent on Management/Supervisory and Leadership Development training. (Some thoughts on leadership http://tarunagoel.blogspot.com/). Also, specific industries invest more in specific employee audiences.

  • Telecommunications >> 23% of training budget is spent on customer service training
  • Technology Companies >> 29% of training budget is spent on sales training
  • Pharmaceuticals >> 25% of training budget is spent on compliance/mandatory training

For Technology companies, I can relate to this figure based on my experience. While the training is product/service-centered and involves complex technologies, the audience comprises of sales and support staff specifically Sales Engineers and Sales Technicians.
In Technology companies that are innovating fast and releasing new products into the market, it becomes critical to sell the product/service by explaining what it can do/do better for the end user. And technical sales is an important aspect of making or breaking the product. Some characteristics:

  • They way I look at it, the sales process here is quite complex and competitive. Because technology is integrated well into the business, the decisions are made by senior management that is struggling with information overload.
  • While the sales staff needs to be aware of the strengths and limitations of their own product/service; they may also be trying to sell against an established competitor and therefore need to understand the technical aspects of competing products. They are expected to respond to technical queries around product/service benefits.
  • There may also be situations where there are no direct competitors and the sales staff needs to create the 'need' for the product/service in the customer's current business.
    Unlike the typical feature/benefit focus of sales, these folks typically maintain a 'consulting' focus - trying to understand the customer's problem.
  • Besides, technical sales team members are required to liaison across the customer organization with members of various departments. This requires an ability to understand the need for the product/service from various perspectives and a combination of many other skills.
  • The job is to solve the customer's problem and that may not be possible by plug-and-play. At times, there may be complex tweaking required in the product/service before it is accepted and effective. All these tasks are led and supported by technical sales team.
  • Finally, the sales process is not closed after selling the product. Infact, continuous education and support are important aspects of the post sales service expected by technology customers. Customer loyalty towards a technology is critical to build long-term relationships.

Therefore, to train a team to sell, engage with, and be responsive to customer needs becomes a critical aspect of sales training in technology companies. Any dollar spent here is dollar earned in the long-term!

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