Many software companies treat training as an afterthought, only selling enough of it to get customers up and running. They're missing out on the competitive advantage that training gives them. Instead of using it as an add-on, why not use it to stand out from the crowd?
With the fierce competition out there, training and customer education (CE) may be your best chance to get the competitive edge you need. If your sales team starts attaching more customer education programs to deals, it would most likely close deals more often and at higher values than without it.
Get your sales team into the habit of selling more customer education
In his book, The Sales Manager's Survival Guide, David A. Brock talks about the strategies needed to help sales be more effective and efficient: tools, systems, processes, training, coaching, and development. Here are some insights on how sales teams can increase the sales of CE programs with each deal.
1. Use content to sell customer education
Your company probably already produces a lot of content to sell your products, like the lead generation content marketing publishes or the customer onboarding and training content created by CE. Chances are, your sales team isn't even aware of the content, so get the word out about it! Help sales leverage it as a value proposition during their sales discussions or give them versions they can share with leads and prospects as part of their sales outreach campaigns.
Strategy: Proactively share all CE-related content with sales to help them incorporate CE into their sales discussions and become more aware of how training could help new customers.
2. Train sales teams about customer education
Training can also help sales teams become more comfortable talking about the CE programs during sales discussions. If they are not aware of the programs, they may be hesitant to talk about them when prospects ask, and they end up deferring that part of the discussion to another call. But if they're able to knowledgeably talk about it the first time they're asked about it, they may increase their chances of closing the sale more efficiently.
Strategy: Incorporate CE program training in sales training, so sales teams know what kind of programs are available and know how they can help customers beyond the basic "get you set up and running" notion.
3. Encourage communication about customer education
While sharing CE content with sales is a good first step, providing context to sales about the content is also important. Encourage a partnership between CE and sales to ensure the flow of information between the groups at all times (not just during certain times of the year or only during big sales campaigns).
This communication helps sales stay updated on the available CE programs and how they're being used by customers, allowing them to paint a clearer picture of CE during sales discussions. It also helps CE produce more targeted content and programs based on the sales discussions, as they may be unaware of obstacles or challenges prospects and customers are having in their work lives. They can create CE programs that speak specifically to those challenges, which sales can then use right away in future discussions.
Strategy: Set up regular meetings between CE and sales to share their latest news and information. Create transparency between these two teams so members are unafraid to ask questions and seek out information from the other team.
4. Provide incentives to sales teams to sell customer education
Most sales organizations provide incentives to team members based on hitting various sales targets, but in order to increase the number of deals with CE attached, sales managers may need to get more creative.
When starting out selling customer education
When first including CE programs in sales deals, sales managers may need to develop CE-sales specific incentives, such as:
- Incentivize the behavior and not the result: Tying consistent behavior with rewards will encourage sales teams to add CE to all of their deals, all the time, but they'll need to be rewarded to start this behavior. For example, rewarding the number of times CE programs were discussed in initial sales calls; the number of times they sent out CE content to leads; or the number of times they participated in CE training themselves.
- Pay the sales rep what the customer pays for CE: If sales teams are giving discounts for CE to ensure they're included in the sales deal, managers may want to consider giving the same kind of reward to the sales rep. This ensures sales teams never oversell CE because doing so is tied directly to the reward/bonus they receive. So if they include CE for free in the deal, the sales rep does not receive a reward/bonus. If the customer cancels the CE program after three months, the rep only receives the reward/bonus for three months.
- Give rewards that are are not monetary, but are memorable: With the size of enterprise B2B sales deals, a straight monetary reward may not be incentive enough for sales teams. So why not create memorable and unique rewards for them? Such as offering lunch with a senior executive or C-level exec; offering a manager to work for them for an afternoon and sell for them, be their assistant, etc.; provide dedicated support at their next field sales event; or offer a household reward like a month's worth of cleaning services or meal preparation.
Once sales is used to selling customer education
After sales teams are more comfortable selling CE programs, managers may need to get more creative when it comes to incentives, such as:
- Reward entire teams that sell more CE programs, instead of just ones that sell more overall. This will motivate the average and below average sales teams because they will discover they can compete on something besides just straight sales numbers.
- Continue to reward individuals that sell more CE programs and socialize these rewards to the entire sales department. This will encourage more collaboration between teams, as they discover how the top CE sellers are doing it. It increases overall sales for all teams, turning them all into higher performers.
- Reward the entire organization when more CE programs are sold. Incentivizing the entire organization to root and support the sales team can make it more appealing to sales to include CE in their sales discussions. E.g. Set aside a percentage of the new revenue each quarter for a reward the entire organization can vote on, like new swag or a corporate outing.
- Offer more sales-specific, unique rewards: Just like the unique rewards to help sales teams start selling more CE, it can be useful to include unique rewards once they're used to it to create a more transparent sales team. Consider offering sales-specific rewards such as taking the sales team member and one of their customers to lunch; commit to a 24-hour turnaround on their next expense reimbursement; or ask them to lead the next pipeline review meeting.
Attaching CE programs to sales deals takes more than just letting teams know that the CE programs are out there. Sales managers need to develop strategies to incorporate CE program knowledge with their sales teams; learn ways to partner better with their CE colleagues to find out more about CE; and finally establish good reward structures that will support their sales teams in selling CE programs (both at the start and into the future).
Have you been using any of these strategies at your software company? What others would you add? Let us know in the comments.