Updated December 1 at 12:28am

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Hard side of training, soft side of learning


When a new sales representative is hired, a company provides what is known as orientation and ramp up. Once those elements are complete, the company believes the salesperson can go out and begin earning money.

First, it’s a heavy dose of product training. The company and their trainers will spend days, sometimes weeks, on “what it is,” “how it works,” “how it’s used” and a myriad of other semi-useful facts.

Overlooked of course is how the customer profits from it, and what the customer’s motive to buy it is. Hello!

I’m about to give you a major AHA! for all product training. Forever. Trainers and training departments will scoff at this because it will mean a huge reduction in what they do and how they do it.

All product training should be given at a customer’s place of business. This is where your product is actually used. This is where a salesperson can gain real-world information about practical application, about flaws and service needs, and about merits and features that are most valuable to the actual user.

If enough time is spent at the customer’s place, salespeople will also uncover why the product was purchased, how the product was purchased, and the value the product has. It’s also likely, salespeople will dispel the single most erroneous aspect of sales: “the customer only buys price.”

“The customer only buys price” is an excuse propagated by weak and lazy salespeople.

If companies like Halliburton are able to sell hammers to the government for $6,000, somehow you should be able to get your price if you are within a few points or dollars of your competition.

The reason salespeople deal with price is because they have no idea about the buying motives and actual product use. Reason? Product training took place in the corporate classroom, where I maintain it is just south of useless.

So much for hard (product) skills.

Now it’s time for the harder part – the soft skills – the selling skills.

Soft skills can be taught one of three ways:

1. In-house training. Company trainers that may also include best salespeople, and outside courseware trained in-house.

2. Outside training. Should be presented by someone who can sell an off-the-shelf solution with the intention that the salesperson will learn general sales, or a system of selling, or a customized sales process where specific aspects of the product and customer are taught.

3. Voice of customer training. Voice of the customer training is when an existing customer tells their story of use of product (what their history is), why they bought it, what their experience has been, how they felt about it after purchase, and why they would recommend it.

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