Friday, February 15, 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

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

Interesting bit for our studios at ELS. Calls for strategizing both at the presales stage and when defining the overall instructional approach and design.

For Technology companies, I can relate to this figure based on my experience working in the Tech studio at ELS. 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!

-Taruna Goel


Sandipan on February 18, 2008 at 12:58 PM said...

Thanks for the timely and informative article, TG! However, this brings another question to my mind. Typically, while creating courses, we start thinking as the conventional instructor, and try to create a full-fledged training module, that would educate the learner fully about the specific product or service. But, in the process, the training piece becomes volunnous.

However, the "sales team" is seldom time-starved, and many a times, may want just-in-time information, rather than a full-fledged course. They are most likely to be interested in learning ONLY about information that would help them sell their products/services better than their competitors.
Does this call for a little redefining of our conventional ID strategies and standards?

Taruna Goel on February 19, 2008 at 8:59 PM said...

Thanks for your comment Sandipan. Yes, we need to design our training to address the learning needs of our audience – that is the critical success factor. I am not sure of what you mean by "conventional ID strategies and standards" in this particular context; however, in general, I target my content only around the training/learning objectives and layer information appropriately so that the most critical content is available to the learners as and when required. I think that's where the Critical Mistakes Methodology also comes into play. This methodology allows us to focus on what's important for the learner and not what is 'comfortable' for the instructor.

Suresh Rajan on February 26, 2008 at 10:59 PM said...

Hey TG, thanks for so lucidly articulating the design walkthrough process. This perhaps can go as a worthy coda to the BMS dlc definition:-)
There are some interesting points raised in Patrick Dunn's re-learning learning design (the preceding post) that should impel us to consider this process in the light of bringing "design value" to the table, though. The dlc, its very linearity now looks challenged, and rightly so. The design walkthrough is a fit platform to break this monotonous "drone" as Cathy Moore calls it. the participants can bring great value by brainstorming a design rather than simply "finding defects" in the design in question. As Patrick Dunn says, I think we rarely can be overly sure about the solutiont at such early a stage. The objectives, we can vouch for it, evolve, crystallize over the dlc; the storyboarding stage is indeed when many an epiphanies strike me unawares, and I joyfully go about undoing and redoing to finally arrive within striking distance of, to put it a little dramatically, the "truth". Of course, we cannot have this level of "openendedness" but should consider design/prototype as a collaborative (internally as well as with the customer) and iterative process and give up the pretense of knowing the solution before we actually know it.

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