Systems integrator, Dimension Data, has placed several hundred of its sales reps and other staff through financial training courses to give them a better insight into customer needs.
The project, driven by financial controller, Steve Shein, has seen the integrator’s sales representatives, pre-sales staff, solutions architects and business development managers take part in a role-playing course called “The Business Acumen Game”.
Running over a month, the course puts groups of five and six staff in control of an imaginary company, presents them with data, and asks them to have board meetings and make decisions on the future of the company.
“We give them the feel of what it’s like to run a business,” national sales manager for Dimension Data, Tony Whigham, said.
At the end of the course, those teams that have made sound business decisions are rewarded with prizes but, more importantly, the trainees gain a better understanding of balance sheets or the pros and cons of leasing rather than buying capital equipment.
“The days are gone where you could get away with just being focused on getting reps technically au fait with solutions,” Whigham said. “It's becoming just as important to give a rep at the front-end a more self-sufficient understanding of what is going on at a contractual level.”
Whigham said the integrator was trying to evolve out of the standard sales cycle which saw reps sell a product, deliver and implement it, then return to the customer in three years for a refresh.
“We like salespeople that form a relationship with the customer, people that add business value to the customer’s direction,” he said. “We are interested in guys that have business backgrounds, rather than just strong technical capability. Of course, they have to be technically sound, but it is more important that they are business savvy.”
The integrator is measuring the success of the training via the feedback customers provide when they are surveyed. To date, Whigham is pleased with the results.
“It’s a game of inches,” he said. “But I would say we certainly have a better and more rounded sales force today than we did 12 months ago.”