Learning the Art of Selling

How long has the ‘sales training for partners’ program been going and what is its goal?

The partner training has been running since the middle of last year. Up to now, seven training courses on mySAP All-in-One have taken place – four in the USA, and one each in Japan, Singapore and the Benelux countries. The aim of the training courses is to create a unified knowledge base for sales on the SMB market. The reason for this is that buyers on the SMB market are fundamentally different to major customers. This is where the training comes in – it explains what SMBs need, what tools are available from SAP and how the partners are supported by SAP. The partners themselves need to be aware of how they should line up and what they need as a partner to successfully sell to the SMB market. The SAP SMB Solution Selling program was developed for this purpose. It’s now being rolled out and incorporates local resources and events by the national SAP companies. The training focuses purely on SAP issues and has been specially adapted to suit the SAP environment.

You mention the special requirements of SMBs. How do these affect the structure of the training?

The program is made up of three modules, but only two of these are really relevant for the partners. The first seminar is geared to SAP employees and aims to ensure a common worldwide knowledge base. The objective of module B is to explain to the partner’s key employees what criteria are necessary for SAP partners to sell successfully. This includes information on what development tools are available and how a solution can be qualified. The focus here is on conveying the importance of the sales training sessions to the company decision-makers.Module C addresses the actual sales teams within the partner organizations who are responsible for product placing on the SMB market. Both the sales and buying processes in this “synch selling” technique are explained. These two axes must be coordinated in order to determine a potential customer’s needs as efficiently as possible. The customer is not an expert when it comes to IT investment – generally an SMB only renews its IT infrastructure every 5-7 years – so the partner organization must learn how handle the customer, his language and the industry requirements.

Which topics should be covered concretely in the training?

The first question generally posed is, “What are the ten greatest challenges when selling products?” Using this as a starting point, the problem areas are tackled systematically and appropriate tools are optimized. At the same time, a method for solving and/or preventing problems is highlighted. A typical example from classic sales training involves dealing with reluctant customers. The customer must be made aware of the value of the solution from the very beginning, must know what the benefits are for him and, of course, what the solution costs. Only mentioning the benefits and not the costs is the wrong way to go about things. During the sales process, the focus should be on solutions and added-value rather than just technology alone.

So this is really sales training rather than just product training?

Yes, you’re absolutely right. In principle, partners can acquire knowledge in three areas. In addition to knowledge of the SAP business model, the second of these areas is knowing the technology and development process behind a mySAP All-in-One solution. The third area is pure sales training. We take it for granted that the partners have experience of cooperation with SAP and are able to develop a solution. But we assume that they don’t know the best way of addressing the market. What’s special about this training program is the strong focus on the buying process and explaining the buyer’s particular needs. On the SMB market, customers are quicker to question why they should buy a certain solution. The sales representative therefore has to be accomplished in the art of sales, understand the customer’s business and be able to guide him through the process. It therefore goes beyond selling and also focuses greatly on aspects of consulting. mySAP All-in-One is not a product, it’s a go-to-market strategy. SAP offers partners a technology portfolio which they customize as and how they need to. This enables them to approach their specific industry in a focussed manner. SAP therefore acts as a supplier of technology and development processes, but it is the partners who develop the links to customers. SAP believes that understanding the customer’s business is a crucial requirement.

What form do the training sessions take and what has the feedback been so far?

There are webcast events and e-learning offerings available, but experience has shown that the best training results are achieved when the topics are discussed face-to-face and the sales process takes place using concrete examples. The actual training lasts two days, though the partners do have to do some preparation in advance. Every participant should know who SAP is and what a mySAP All-in-One solution is. The sessions are generally rounded off by a follow-up discussion with the account executives on the training’s success. The best size of group is four teams – each with three to four people. Larger groups would turn the training into a seminar, which effectively prevents almost any form of interaction. I’m pleased to say that the feedback we’ve received to date has been very positive. There are sales representatives with limited sales experience who, as a result of the training, have recognized that there is a lot of room for improvement in this area. But there are also a lot of old hands who’ve been in sales for a long time and have enjoyed having a bit of a refresher and the structured approach of the course. And that’s why the mix of theory and practice as well as the structured phase concept of sharing and conveying best practices works well.