It’s easy to get your sales people beyond product bullet points.  Here’s a simple method I used when Director of Marketing and Sales at a networking division of a major aerospace company.

When creating a telemarketing center with out call people very skilled in selling by phone we quickly learned, the sales prompt sheets did not cover information the customer wanted.  Many businesses fall prey to this trap.  That is telling the customer what we think is important rather than share what the customer wants to know.

We solved the problem and elevated in house sales morale by having staff record questions they could not answer.  Our engineering department loaned us an amiable person for lunch once a week.  We put up lunch for the sales people and the engineer whose purpose was to answer questions in a casual environment, not a workshop or lecture.  The information flow was incredible with very productive sessions lasting long beyond the allotted time.

Sales persons got information they turned into knowledge transmitted to customer prospects.  The engineers actually enjoyed talking about products they created and began bringing items to help them explain their answers.  An immediate request we got from the group was for a large white board for use diagramming the networking products we were selling.

I learned later that sales staff duplicated the diagrams for use faxing to prospects.  This led us to take white boards to trade shows for sales prospect discussion.  I was amazed how show attendees crowded our booth to learn more about networking and how our show sales increased. We bought a white board that printed the diagrams for immediate handout to prospects.

Our lunch session success created interest outside sales with other department staff asking if they could attend.  We opened the doors to a larger meeting area and “Brown Bag University” became our primary training program drawing 50+ to every session including hourly wage manufacturing personnel who clocked out to get the training. We allowed no department heads to attend any Brown Bag sessions.  This removed ‘the man’ from the equation.  Attendance was voluntary.  We did not register attendee names, ever.

The program generated a certificate program with quarterly voluntary tests on product knowledge.  This incentive was important for personnel evaluation and promotion.  Another benefit was a common ground where staff from different departments got to know one another, breaking down barriers between engineering and manufacturing, manufacturing and sales, and, eventually, management and staff. Our program value-added was creating a common understanding of the company and its products.

Oh, as attendance grew everyone paid for their own lunches, much to the benefit of local pizza and deli delivery people.  The best programs are those that are user driven.  Be sure to give your staff information they need, not just what you think they should know.

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