Train the benefits

By Stuart Box

Training

John W. Box - SalesmanMy father was a salesman. His working life was spent in what was then called "Gent's Outfitting", but we'd probably call it "Retail" today. He could sell anything to anyone, he was a natural salesman who was interested in his customers, but who also took time to study the sales profession. As a consequence we discussed sales techniques around the family dining table, and when I started working in Computers, Dad gave me some welcome sales advice. When I started demonstrating Computer software Dad soon critiqued my sales pitch. "It's all very well you talking about the number of account codes, and the links to Nominal Ledger, but they are features see, and what your Customer want to know about are the benefits." He explained that benefits were what a customer wanted and cared about, like not having to enter data again into the Nominal Ledger, which was made possible by the feature I was talking about. "Sell Benefits, not Features" was good advice that served me well. I like to think we've applied that same advice to our Training Courses. Training users on the bare features of an application like Excel can be boring. The training quickly becomes a litany of features, "and if you click here it'll do this", "Click here and it'll do that", just a run of features which the user will soon forget. However if you train on the benefits, the training becomes more relevant and meaningful. Explaining to users how the new Excel 2010 "Format as Table" feature can save them time by automatically creating a Total line that works whether you have a filter applied or not, shows them the benefits and helps them  learn. Another of Dad's favourite sayings was "Preach Damnation, Sell Salvation", in other words, explain the problem the Customer has, then show how the product you're selling solves that very difficulty. Again, we've tried to apply that to our training, and take time with our Trainees to discuss their day to day jobs, and understand the problems they face using Microsoft Applications. Once we understand how they want to analyse data we can better train them in using tools like Pivot Table and the new PowerPivot. Understanding the problem first, then showing the user how they can solve it in Excel keeps the training course relevant and useful, not just a list of Excel Features to remember. Dear old Dad is long gone now, but I like to think he'd approve of our courses, training on Benefits, not Features.

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