Cheif Learning Officer Solutions for Enterprise Productivity

Best Methods for Product-Based Training

 -  3/28/08

Steelcase: Using Downtime to Your Advantage

It’s important for companies to use any respite as an opportunity to advance and improve a sales staff’s skills, as Steelcase did just a year ago.

When it comes to launching a new product, the learning function should do more than develop training. It should be involved in strategic planning from the very beginning.

As soon as the salesperson initiates conversation with a potential customer, the clock starts ticking. The representative has seconds to capture the customer’s attention and interest. In a competitive environment such as this, salespeople try to distinguish their products in a world of choices, while working within the constraints of time.

To make a successful sale, the rep not only needs to have excellent selling skills, but also needs to know the product inside and out. One of the most effective ways to obtain that depth of knowledge is through training. But how do you train a sales force that is field based, geographically dispersed and time starved? The best way is through a blended learning initiative that reaches a sales force in the field, but also takes the time to bring the employees in for interactive, face-to-face training.

Sophisticated Training for Sophisticated Products
With complicated products, the training becomes more complex — not only because sales representatives have to understand the intricate nature of the product, but also because they need to understand how that product fits into the marketplace.

At Steelcase, an international office furniture manufacturer, a sale can take as long as 12 to 18 months. The company’s 2,300 North American sales reps and distributors have to understand where the customer is in the buying process, how that aligns with the com-pany’s sales methodology and, eventually, the best product fit for that customer.

“Part of our process is understanding how the client is working,” said Ken Dutkiewicz, director of global learning and development for Steelcase University. “For instance, in a legal firm, you might have a situation where you have a lot of partners who are working in their own private offices. On the other hand, you go into a marketing firm, and you’re probably looking at people who are working together. Putting them into private spaces would actually be counterproductive to the way they work. So we have to understand what’s going on in the company, and our line has to be broad enough to be able to meet those various needs.”


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