Reseller makeover: Sales training scores a bullseye

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This article appeared in the June, 2009 issue of CRN magazine.

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Reseller makeover: Sales training scores a bullseye
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Digital services agency Bullseye, a specialist in digital strategy, web design and development through to digital marketing, was travelling well enough but high in CEO Jim McKerlie's mind was an awareness that the sales effort needed to be more coherent.

The company had grown from mergers and an acquisition in 2008 but its absorbed entities were still operating as separate businesses, making the overall sales effort by the company fractured and lacking harmony.

As a Microsoft partner, McKerlie met Bruce Rasmussen, managing director, Carpe Diem Consulting, through his links with the software vendor. For the past five years, Microsoft has employed Carpe Diem to meet its partners to develop soft skills training for its channel. Resellers across Australia attend the sessions to learn sales skills and receive advice on how to sell new products.

McKerlie enlisted Carpe Diem to put together a customised sales training program for all of its sales and technical/project personnel.

"We find out where the gaps are between sales and best practices and develop a road map to bridge that gap," says Rasmussen. "Depending on the recommendation, the client might need to develop its consulting, work on redesign, or redevelop its sales pitch."

Rasmussen says McKerlie came to one of the courses he ran in Sydney then contacted him to organise a ''heavy duty sales campaign/program'' for his team.

The course was developed to include Bullseye's core sales processes but to extend on this to reinforce a solutions approach to dealing with customers.

Research with a number of stakeholders to understand strengths and weaknesses in Bullseye's practices was followed by the whole group convening in Sydney in late January 2009 to undertake the sale program, which included practical examples sourced from existing customers and opportunities.

McKerlie says that apart from ''tightening'' the sales funnel (ie, removing opportunities unlikely to be won, and improving the chances of winning the others) there have also been sales process changes and greater clarity around how technical and project resources can better assist the sales process - both by spotting new opportunities and assisting with existing opportunities.

 "Sales funnel 'velocity' has been improved, as has customer focus by not wasting time bidding on deals that are too hard to win, for example, or where Bullseye is just being used to provide the third quote," says McKerlie.

The great thing about the course is that ''it is anchored in the philosophy that sales is all about identifying and solving customer problems'' so both Bullseye and its customers benefit from the sales training, which he says, is a quite rare accomplishment.

As well, the team was urged to stop talking about the product, and focus more on promoting the outcomes of the various solutions they can provide.

Rasmussen says, as a Microsoft partner, Bullseye benefited from having access to a sales training course that was developed and honed across a large number of Microsoft partners, but which was then customised to the unique needs of Bullseye.

The program, over two days, and included all sales, technical and program management to agree on a definition of selling focused on identifying and solving the customer's problems.

Attendees were given tips on how to improve their sales process by identifying and solving customer problems.

This included planning (figuring out what customer problems you want to solve); attracting (how to get customers and prospects to realise the types of problems Bullseye can solve); engaging (how to get customers to reveal their problems); elevating (how to engage and obtain commitment from senior decision makers); leveraging (appreciating that no sale is truly complete until the customer agrees to be a reference site).

The course included practical exercises and was customised to include Bullseye products, processes and customers.

Rasmussen says the foundation of his sales training is that technical people think of sales as a dirty  word. He had to come up with a definition of selling.

"Sales is identifying problems that customers have got and then working with them to solve the problem," he says.

Bullseye is the result of a merger between Bullseye Digital, RAN ONE and iFocus in 2008. That same year, Bullseye acquired SydneyWeb, a specialist SME online services provider.

McKerlie says when the various businesses merged, it also had to merge three different approaches to sales. He said they looked at each of them and came to the conclusion that none of them were outstanding.

He enlisted Carpe Diem to help in creating a sales philosophy for Bullseye that embodied exactly how it deals with its clients.

"We wanted to create a unique 'Bullseye Way', a sales process that would leave our clients completely satisfied and eager to work with us again," says McKerlie.

"We also hoped to create a more solutions-oriented culture.

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