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Best Practices

The unbearable lightness of training

Sharpen your axe

When we first introduced SalesForce in our company many years ago, we failed miserably. Within a month, everyone was back to using ACT! When I spoke to the team members, I was given various reasons: “it′s too complicated”, “web is slower than desktop”, “I can′t waste my time looking for the reports”, etc.

It became clear that something was wrong with our process. Something was missing. We called a team meeting and after few hours of debates we ended up with a consensus.

We need product training.

Kind of a no-brainer now, but hindsight is 20/20.

We had our training and we never looked back. SalesForce is the heart and soul of our sales team. Being trained on day-to-day usage as well as best practices brought a lot of “Aha!” and “Wow, look at that!” moments for our team. Now they cannot imagine how they sold without Salesforce.

Over the years, I have encountered three recurring arguments against training.

“We are very busy with our tasks; we do not have time for training.“

This argument reminds me of a spin-off of the famous Stephen Covey story.

Two lumberjacks, John and Peter, (Canadians, of course) entered into a competition who can cut down more trees within four hours.
At a whistle, both started swinging their axes ferociously and immediately the forest was filled with dull thumps of axes cutting into the trees.
In about an hour, John stopped hearing Peter. “He must be resting”, thought John and doubled his efforts.
In about ten minutes, Peter resumed his work and again both men were working almost synchronously. Then in an hour Peter stopped again, and once more John used this opportunity to gain some advantage.
The same routine continued until the end of the competition. Peter was taking 10-minute breaks every hour and John was axing away looking forward to the sweet taste of victory.
However when judges counted the trees, Peter was way ahead.
John was gobsmacked. “How the heck (substitute for the usual lumberjack jargon) did you manage to do this? Every hour you stopped axing, while I was working non-stop”.
– “Very simple”, answered Peter, “I used that time to sharpen my axe.”

Unless you take the time to stop and sharpen your “axe”, it will be very hard to break out of “We do don′t have time” catch-22.

“We do not have money to waste on the training.”

Again it might be a good idea to stop and calculate how much time (hence money) is lost due to process inefficiencies. For us, using SalesForce and its features saved our sales reps at least 30 minutes per day, which meant, they had 2.5 hours each week to talk to prospects and customers. Our investment in training paid off in a couple of months.

“This product looks simple. We are all professionals. We will figure it out.”

That is my pet peeve. Excel is simple. Everyone knows how to use it. But how many people can take advantage of the other 90% of the power that Excel has under its hood: we are talking about nested formulas, pivot tables, macros, structural references, data analysis, etc?

You need to take time to learn the advanced stuff, to take training and those who do, are usually referred to as Excel magicians by their peers.

Companies, who truly care about the success of their clients, take the topic of product training very seriously. Hubspot, one of the leading marketing automation software made it mandatory for new clients to take the training program when they sign-up. April of this year, TrustRadius, declared HubSpot #1 in customer satisfaction in the marketing automation software space. Hubspot went public last month (October 2014) and just announced 51% revenue growth for the third quarter of 2014. They must be doing something right.

If your organization is investing money into a new product or process, investing time and efforts into training people will definitely speed up your return on investment. You don′t need to be an Excel Magician to calculate that.


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