Ideas for a Technology Course

Feb 11, 2012

Good evening!

Since you are all INCREDIBLY helpful, I thought I'd post and ask if anyone has any ideas for a technology course I'm creating. 

Business Problem: Sales are down

Technology company - it has been identified that sales are down due to the lack of foundational technology knowledge by the Sales department. Example: If you're a client and Sally has no idea what you mean when you say "router", it's hard for Sally to help you if she sells technical devices.

Business Goal: Increase sales by x% in 2012

Here's what I've got so far:

  1. Introduce the information by using a character and walking through a day in their life and showing how they already use technology (when the character sends an email, switch to an informational slide about how routers, switches, etc. are being used and what's going on in the background)
  2. "Try it" area where salespeople can practice in a safe environment. They'll take mock sales calls and answer what they would say in certain situations.
  3. Have an "Ask the IT Dude" and/or "View Quick Reference Guide" button for help if they get "stuck" on a call.

If this were you and you were just trying to give people basic information about how technology works so they can at least sound competent to clients, is there anything else you might add?

Thanks for any suggestions you may have!

Keepin' the joy,


14 Replies
Holly MacDonald

Sounds more like a product knowledge need than a pure sales problem, and if they don't have the tech knowledge to begin with, it's likely a poor hiring choice (and maybe an opportunity to create a version of the course for a hiring simulation to weed out those that don't have baseline knowledge????) . But I digress.

It does make sense to put the training in the context of the sales process. Sounds like this is inbound sales? (they call the company) or outbound sales (the company calls the prospect).

One thing that I'm working on is with outbound sales which has the opposite problem, they are too technical and tend to feature-dazzle, so this may not be an option, but it's basically a template that shows:

  • Features (what it does - this widget has 43 input channels)
  • Benefits (how it helps customers - that gives you way more stuff)
  • Value (what does it mean to THAT customer - in your job, it could save you hours for every transaction) 
  • Conversation starters (kind of a "script writing clinic" = where they write out how they'd link the features to benefits and value so that they can figure out how to conduct a sales call - other customers that I've talked to have told me that it's been a great help).

Also adding "cues" that might help them recognize what to look for for inbound calls. I really liked this sample:

Does that help Patti or were you looking for more specific interactions within the course itself?

Patti Bryant

Thanks so much, Holly! I SO appreciate your comments!

I think my biggest obstacle is the fact that I'm so used to software training and this is more about theories. If this was about the difference between Router Type 1 and Router Type 2, I could totally use the features, benefits, and value approach. However, we're trying to get across "foundational technology information."

I want to highlight how salespeople already use technology everyday and don't even know it (Sending an email to a client? You're using routers and switches and this is how!). One of the goals is to give confidence to salespeople. This way when they're on the phone with a client and the client uses terminology like "router", they'll have at least a foundation of what routers do. 

David Becker

Maybe focus on motivation and metacognitive strategies and help your sales force uncover and reflect on how they think and learn. If you can get them to think about why they may want to know this stuff, how they might relate it to what they already know and what they want to achieve, then you will create pull.

With the right fulcrum, you can get them to seek out the learning from basic resources, the internet and each other. Totally agree with Holly too, this is just as much a hiring and performance management problem as it is a training one.

Natalia Mueller

Hey Patti-

Since the people are already hired, I'm guessing that part is out of your hands. I may be TOTALLY missing the point here, but are you "just" trying to bring non-techie people up to speed on some standard terminology? If so, that jogged my memory for something I saw Cathy Moore do. It has NOTHING to do with technology, but it's a great example of how taking a learner on a journey can help them learn new terms thru context. 

I think Cathy was testing out a new development tool so this example is very simplified and text only. Here is the source article it came from. Maybe you could take a similar approach where you throw them straight into a technical conversation where they have to choose the correct term to use. The feedback screens or an end summary could provide additional explanations/examples for the terms. 

Holly MacDonald

I think this could also be a good situation to use video:

  • common craft style
  • interactive choices (along the same lines as Natalia is outlining) or check out Vignettes:
  • spoof on retro training videos with a corny narrator and old looking film stock would be fun, or some kind of animated avatar/tour guide, and some characters.  A really exaggerated version of the situation...

PS - about the hiring comment, if the opportunity was available it would be a good time to do some performance consulting. Since the sales are down, you may find that there are expectations that this training makes a big difference on sales, and it gives you an option to look at the problem from a systems-perspective (what else might be causing this problem), so you can identify additional things. If you aren't in a position to performance consult, it might also be a way to re-purpose the course should the issue arise again. I hope it didn't come across in a snarky way, it wasn't intended as such.

Holly MacDonald

Ah yes, check out Trina Rimmer's collection for inspiration:

And of course, great ones like this: from Coronet Instructional Films: I also like the Spongebob Squarepants training video if you are going way out there!

Kristin Savko

I love your "day in the life" idea. It's such good practice to make connections to things they already know!

I could see using the technique for putting an Engage hotspot interaction over top of the .ppt master slide like Jeanette talks about here

I use that technique all the time. You could have an image of a room with some of the technology scattered throughout and marked with hot spots. 

Good luck!

Joshua Norgaard

Jeanette, I think you are on the right track. The type of training your are putting forth would be good for both the existing and the new hire sales force. The company I work for has a similar issue. If the sales force doesnt understand at least on a basic level how the equipment works, then how are they to sell it to a customer who uses it daily. I really like the "Day in a Life" approach.

I am seeing it as a day in the life of a succesful sales person. This would be a very good opertunity to work with scenario based learning to place the "character" into situation where the right answer rewards them and teaches as well. A good detailed answer that showcases an understanding of the product could add to the money to a "commissions fund". This puts things into a more real world context then a percentage based exam of knowledge. The nice part of your setup is that the ask the "IT Dude" allows them to gain more information about the question they have to answer if they need it. I think this is a very neat idea you are working with.

Natalia Mueller

I don't know who started the "ask the IT Dude" piece, but it has my mind running and I'm totally geeked up for the possibilities.

In software training, that could be a GREAT way to include more information on a topic that the learner can choose to hear about. Another use could be for SME's to get to add in those "nice to know" elements that often fall under tips and tricks. Right now I'm thinking of a small picture in the corner they can click to "ask the IT Dude" and make it look like the window is expanding over the rest of the slide thru hyperlinking/branching.

This collaboration reminds me of this short vid on Where Good Ideas Come From

I would love to credit whoever posted that link originally, but I read so much stuff that I just don't recall.

I sit in an office by myself all day so I absolutely LOVE this venue for idea sharing. 

Geoff Campbell

We've often found it helpful to augment online training content with some kind of printed material at the desk. 

Sometimes a quick reference tool can really help with information recall.

I also think it is important to test the outcome of our training at a later time to see what has really stuck and address anything that's lacking. Hope that helps.

Rich Johnstun

I build a lot of this type of training for our sales force. I work for a tech company and our sales people are selling hardware and software based solutions. We divide things up into conceptual foundational knowledge ( things like networks, software stacks, etc) and the other side is production knowledge. 

For the conceptual knowledge I rely heavily on analogies. If you can take something like network routing and equate it to say, road traffic (addresses, streetlights, freeways vs. surface streets, etc) it helps attaching the unknown to the known. You're never going to turn your salesperson  into an IT architect, but for us it about getting them enough knowledge so that they can have a clear understanding of the customers problems and needs. We preach selling solutions, not boxes. 

Job aids and elearning go hand in hand, in my opinion. If it's a critical job function that they will have to recall on the spot, we build a job aid to compliment the learning. Memorizing specs and figures comes gradually over time and to bridge that gap, provide job aids. We leverage a lot of our marketing material. 

We also try to give them good stories to tell. Tell them about the customer who was having XYZ issues and how we crafted slick solution for them and why we chose to do it they way we did. It also gives them stories/experiences to share with their customers.

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