Whoa! Building sales momentum at a young company is all consuming. But man is it fun! Sorry for the hiatus.
I was lucky enough to start my sales career at a time when many companies had proper sales training programs. They hired young people right out of college and put them through a rigorous program made up of self study, on the job training and classroom instruction. Companies with good programs included IBM, HP, ADP, NCR, Kodak and Burroughs but the program upon which they were all based was the Xerox Sales Training Methodology. The curriculum included technology, product and sales training and it provided a great foundation. It’s harder to find these programs today (and we sales managers are the worse for it as we try to verify that a recruit has learned the fundamentals). But today I am writing about the first thing you were required to do upon arriving at corporate for your two week training class: The Verbatim.
Usually a recruit had spent between 3 and 6 weeks at their local branch office learning the basics, beginning to make calls and preparing for the trip to corporate. Upon arriving, they took a product knowledge test and delivered their verbatim presentation to the instructors. If they failed either they went home and most never returned, so there was a lot of angst on that first day. Most were pretty comfortable taking the multiple choice product test but presenting a word for word, keystroke for keystroke demonstration to a stern set of instructors while your classmates watched was frightening. And what good was it anyway? No one ever delivers the verbatim in a real customer situation, do they? Everyone customizes the presentation to their own style and to the customer’s needs. Isn’t this just busy work to push you out of your comfort zone and give the instructors the upper hand at the beginning of class? What a waste, right? Wrong!
I don’t think I ever gave the verbatim word for word to a customer, but when I ran into a heckler who took me off my game or an objection that took us down a rat hole, I always had the verbatim to bring me back to the message. I thought of it as my “Rock of Gibraltar” (seriously, I used that term in my mind). From then on, I always work to simplify the flow of the message for anything I’m selling into a clear path that I know cold. If I was making cold phone calls, I wrote out a script and had it in front of me during the session, even after I had done it hundreds of times. I never read it verbatim (think of Arthur Fonzarelli selling encyclopedias “Hello Sir, Madam or small child…”), but it was always there. Not an elevator pitch, rather a structured conversation broken into a number of clear sections. If you find yourself lost, you can jump to the beginning of the section most pertinent to the current topic and you are back on solid ground, arms firmly wrapped around your Rock of Gibraltar.
If you read my bio, you can see that I spent ten or so years at a company named Parametric Technology Corporation (today PTC). We had a run of growth across that ten years that was remarkable. Early on, we settled on five key points about our solution that were compelling to customers and that differentiated us from the competition. Every new sales person at PTC learned those five key points and how to present them and, luckily for us, they didn’t change for ten years! I was recently at an event with a number of other alumni from back then and although many of us had left the company fifteen years ago or more, we could all still quote the five key points:
- Feature Based
What is your Rock? Do you have a script? You should.
Image by Vince Vassallo via http://vincevassallo.blogspot.ca/
Please comment. It would be great to have a conversation about selling and to hear a funny story or two. I will moderate but the good news (for all of us) is I have a day job in the real world. So if I don’t reply instantly, feel free to talk amongst yourselves until I get back .