Sun sets its new goals

first_img Comments are closed. Sun sets its new goalsOn 1 Feb 2003 in Auto-enrolment, Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos. Trainingat the network computing company Sun Microsystems highlighted the importance ofunderstanding customer needs as it moved from a product- to a solutions-basedofferingSPIN¨Selling Designed and delivered by: Huthwaite International, Hoober House, Wentworth,S62 7SA Phone: 01709 710081 Fax: 01709 710065 [email protected] just 20 years ago, Sun Microsystems has grown to become one of theworld’s leading providers of network hardware, software and services. Today, Sun helps companies in virtually every sector to leverage the fullpower of the internet in improving their competitiveness. Yet in an increasingly tough marketplace, Sun recognised it could notmaintain market leadership by standing still. In mid-2001, in the North EuropeRegion – comprising Scandinavia, Benelux and parts of the former Soviet bloc –the vice-president, together with senior managers, recognised the need to takeselling skills ‘to the next level’. This was especially important in such areasas negotiation and account development, if the region’s broader businessstrategy was to be achieved. As the company’s in-house training services provider for the region, SunUniversity’s (SunU’s) EMEA office was approached to source a suitable externaltraining provider who could meet the following objectives: – in replacing a large number of existing third party trainers, to provide afully integrated programme with a common sales language and consistent messages– to ensure a common level of high-quality training across a broadgeographic region – as Sun shifted its focus from a product to an end-to-end solutions-basedoffering, to help the company move from the existing transactional salesapproach to one based on relationship building and understanding customer needs– be recognised as an established and credible provider of sales trainingsolutions Huthwaite was chosen because its SPIN¨Selling programme was identified asoffering the ideal combination of the strongly research-based and customerneeds-focused approach which was required. CoachingAt the outset, the Huthwaite team, led by training consultant Graham Short,held several meetings with senior managers to establish the region’s businessgoals and the sales skills required to deliver them. Rather than follow the more common route of developing separate trainingmodules, what emerged was a business school approach. This took the form of a linked training programme comprising five trainingsessions spread over a year and incorporating a range of selling and accountdevelopment skills. Critically, each three-day training model was followed by a period ofcoaching and project work, to ensure that the skills learned were practised andrefined to become part of each participant’s instinctive selling technique – towhat Huthwaite calls the level of ‘unconscious competence’. The next training modulewould also incorporate these newly-acquired skills acquired as part of thereinforcement and development process. The first of the new business schools, each comprising two groups of 12account managers identified as having ‘high potential’, was launched in August2001 and its success led to the establishment of a second within a short time.The third is already underway and has been extended to other client-facingstaff, including pre-sales and professional services. The importance attached to this comprehensive, and costly, training approachwas underlined in that, throughout the extended training period, eachparticipant had both a coach – typically their line manager – and a mentor,generally from the senior management team. In addition, Huthwaite ran several courses for coaches. Initially, thisfocused on the key issues covered in the business school training. However, for the third business school it has been extended – in response torequests from line management – to incorporate specialist coaching skills. The reaction to this new training approach has been overwhelmingly positivethroughout northern Europe. In particular, as the company moves towards solutions selling, the SPIN¨approach has been generally recognised as offering the ideal skillset foridentifying and agreeing customer needs. Within EMEA, as elsewhere, individual regions operate with a strong degreeof autonomy and, as a result, there have been a number of different reactionsto the visible level of success the programme has achieved. A strong part of the Sun ethos is to extend this autonomy down to anindividual level – ‘to seek permission is to ask for denial’, as the companyputs it. As a result, employees are ’empowered to… escape their own career’ and, inparticular in the UK over the past year, the response to SPIN¨Selling’savailability as an open enrolment option for any salesperson has met with avery good response. Simply by accessing the SunU website¼ under the relevant region, all coursesscheduled for the next six months are listed and may be booked with agreementfrom line management. As a result of the UK experience in particular,SPIN¨Selling is now a standard part of the sales curriculum, as part of SunU’slist of available training options in EMEA. Within a culture in which training traditionally has not been mandatory, theresponse throughout Sun’s global sales operation has been very positive. In summary, both SPIN¨ and the business schools concept have beenwell-received. Furthermore, there is general acceptance that the introduction of moreprecise evaluation tools in future will only serve to prove the strong returnsdelivered by such training investment. The Spin¨ Approach – Identifying the needWithin the business school, the firstof the five three-day course focuses on SPIN¨Selling, the principles of whichunderpin much of the remaining training.Huthwaite’s approach to the IT sector, as with any other, isbased on nearly 30 years’ experience researching what sales people dodifferently to make them successful. From an analysis of this unrivalleddatabase – now numbering more than 40,000 sales interviews in 27 countries andstudying 116 possible influencing factors – the company developed itsSPIN¨Selling model.Put simply, this encourages a more consultative approach,making full use of what is often limited time spent face-to-face by asking theright questions to explore – and get agreement on – the client’s needs. Assuch, it has equal relevance to any employee involved in the sale of goods orservices, which are seen as high-value, important decisions by the buyer.Programme contentBased on a repetitive cycle of input-practice feedback, theobjective is to teach skills and match trainees’ behaviour ever closer to thesuccess model and so improve effectiveness. The programme includes:– persuasive needs analysis – planning in advance key arguments(and therefore questions) likely to influence the buyer– structuring the call – establishing the purpose of the callat the outset, investigating needs through a strict questioning framework,demonstrating how the product/service can meet such needs and obtaining theright commitmentThe right questionsKey to this are the four types of questions which effective salespeopleask as part of a consultative approach:– situation questions ask about the customer’s operatingcontext and business solution– problem questions ask about the customer’s difficulties,dissatisfactions or problems with the existing situation– implication questions ask about the consequences, effects orimplications of the customer’s problems– need-payoff questions probe for explicit needs, eitherdirectly or by exploring the payoff or importance to the customer of solving aproblemResultsAt the end of the programme, the participants:– had analysed the strengths and weaknesses of their presentselling style– were able to describe the psychology of customer needs– were able to describe the key behaviours or skills used byeffective sales people in their interactions with customers– had a framework for planning sales calls in terms of thosebehaviours– had frequently practised using the skills to develop customerneeds in a way that greatly reduces the likelihood of objections– had a strategy for dealing with difficult customers who raiseobjections or have low reaction levels– had measured objectively their performance compared to theskill model and created an action plan for continued development of the skillsafter the programmeBusiness school Approach pays offWorking with Huthwaite, Sun developeda phased year-long training programme comprising five three-day salesdevelopment courses with intensive follow-up coaching and reinforcement in thefield. Each course, tailored to meet Sun’s specific requirements, was builtaround simple models based on extensive research and geared to achieve thecompany’s broader business development goals:– SPIN¨Selling – provided a better understanding of customerneeds as a firm foundation for consultative, partnering customer relationships– account strategy for major sales – addressed the strategiesand tactics required for success in complex, competitive, multi-tiered andmulti-influencer long-cycle sales– negotiation – enabled the achievement of ideal ‘win-win’outcomes, through a combination of preparing a negotiating position, planningtactics – including evaluation of the power balance and creative ‘trade-offs’ –and face-to-face skills– persuasive sales presentations – provided the tools necessaryto ensure maximum impact and memorability for the presentation to ‘stand outfrom the crowd’– effective sales proposals – took the form of a hands-onworkshop addressing the often-neglected area of effective proposal writingVerdictYou cannot ignore the customerFollowing each training session,assessments by the participants have been uniformly positive, writes ClaudiaKing, SunU Northern Europe education manager. In particular, they have praised:– the quality of the trainers and their willingness to sharerelevant experience– the importance of being able to share their own experiencewith other attendees – the relevance – and value – of the role-plays in mirroringtheir everyday experience– the importance of SPIN¨ ‘s research-based methodology inturning the traditional approach to selling on its headIn short, the key to its success has been in forcingparticipants to take a step back and ask the questions needed to get to whatthe customer really wants.This has resulted in a real attitude change and a willingnessto accept that ‘the old way of doing things’ just won’t work anymore. With suchan extended programme, line managers have been encouraged to work withHuthwaite in providing regular assessments on improved skills and those whichneed further work.Word has also spread well beyond the boundaries of the northernregion. In addition to the strong take-up of SPIN¨ in particular in northernEurope and elsewhere, Germany has plans for introducing its own businessschool, in conjunction with Huthwaite Germany. Sun’s operations as far afieldas the US and the Far East have also expressed interest in the business schoolconcept.Effectivness * * * *Ability to meet business needs * * * *Value for money * * * *Quality of experience * * * *Overall rating * * * *Key: * = Disappointing  * * * **  = Excellent Previous Article Next Articlelast_img read more