Increase Your Sales With Online Learning Software
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Increase Your Sales With Online Learning Software

Does Online Learning Increase Your Sales?

Industry Insiders opinions on the value of an online learning and marketing platform.

94% of survey respondents say teir customers rely on them to recommend

Using an online platform to market a product and teach people how it works seems like a great idea. Many companies have adopted online solutions to tackle their training needs, but there isn't a lot of data about how much success they are having.

BlueVolt currently works with a large base of cross-industry customers who are taking advantage of online platforms to market products and train people in their products' use. We approached those partners with a set of surveys designed to find out if an online training and marketing approach is helping sell their products. Additionally, a number of questions were designed to gauge the experience level of the survey respondents and to better understand how often they recommend products to customers.

Is it worth your time to look at online training as an option? In the surveys, 94% of respondents say their customers rely on them to recommend products or manufacturers. And 92% of those same respondents say they learned valuable information from their online training and that they would recommend their online university.

PARTNERING TO GET A PRODUCT TO MARKET

Making a product and getting it in the hands of those who can use it is usually a collaborative effort, requiring cooperation amongst a series of partners. Not many companies own and manage the entire process of design, testing, manufacturing, and distributing through to the end users. The few industry leaders, such as Dell, who do manage every stage in the complex process of getting their product in the hands of their customers, are exceptions. Most companies rely on some combination of distributors, resellers, representative firms and agents to bridge the gaps. In many cases, success depends heavily on winning the battle of mindshare and finding a way to stand out from the ever-increasing clutter of alternatives. Conversely, from the channel's point of view, winning the battle means finding a way to sell more while keeping a cap on time and effort. As such, distributors concerns are focused on ensuring their staffs are supported in the effort to sell more products.

THE MANUFACTERER'S VIEW

From the manufacturer's perspective, getting the word out about a new product is the key to product adoption and, ultimately, the success of the product. Just as important is the ongoing support of existing product lines; increasing sales for existing products is an easy way to raise capital while keeping expenses down.

A product that 'sells itself' often does so because of the story that buyers of that product tell each other about the value of the product. The exchange between the sellers and buyers of a product is the touch point that manufacturers are most focused on, as this is often the make-or-break event in a product sale. With this in mind, manufacturers are concerned with ensuring the message being delivered at this point is as accurate and as strong as possible.

The manufacturer works to strengthen the message about their product, directly linking features of the latest tool, part, or process to concrete benefits that resonate with the buyer's desire to save effort, or money.

EXPERT PRODUCT KNOWLEDGE AT THE POINT-OF-SALE

Distributors have a similar concern as manufacturers, with regard to the exchange between their point-of-sale representative and their customers. However, distributors goals are less centered on individual products, or product lines. The key to the success of the distributors' process is building relationships with their customers.

Providing expert product knowledge at the point-of-sale is one of the most important ways a distributor can a) strengthen the link to the customer and b) create opportunities for increased sales, including not only correct product recommendations, but also add-on sales. Products are easily and often recommended at the point-of- sale; it's critical that product knowledge be strongest at this point.

TRADITIONAL INDUSTRY APPROACHES VS. THE ONLINE SOLUTION

In the building and trades industries, manufacturers and distributors supply tools and parts that are designed to meet specific needs. With changing applications and evolving solutions, purchasers are likely to hear many opinions and recommendations regarding what works best.

The discussions that take place at the point-of-sale are where decisions are most likely to be made. What is the source of the content of the recommendations that are made at the point-of-sale? Who is talking about a product, what are they saying, and where did they get their information?

After a product has been developed to either meet a need, or maybe take advantage of a new technology, a sales representative is hired to go knock on doors and tell the product story. This is the way things have been done for decades and most suppliers take new products to market through product representatives.

THE PRODUCT REPRESENTATIVE VS. THE PRODUCT

Probably the key difference to note between the two approaches to marketing a product, the traditional sales guy, going out and spreading the word versus an online approach, is the delivery of the message and subse- quent access to the content of the message. The standard 'lunch and learn' approach has the frontline sales folks sit down for a sandwich and a sales pitch, in which the product representative describes the product from a competitive angle, focusing on features/benefits. This approach requires that everyone be in the same place, at the same time, to receive the training and benefit from the discussion.

MAXIMUM RETURN ON TRAINING TIME

The approach of an online course, designed to market the same product, will still highlight the features and link them to benefits, integrated with the practical application of where and how the product is used. The key difference in the online approach is that the learners choose when and where to participate in the learning process.

Rather than having to drop what they are doing and attend a scheduled event, at the convenience of co-workers, management, and the person leading the session, online learners login and get the information they need at the time they choose.

They train when they are ready and they set their own pace, clicking through the materials to learn the things they need to know, skipping through what they already know. Learners build expertise that is more closely linked to practical product knowledge and less about the personality of the brand or sales person. The training session is focused on the product, rather than the needs of the group. As a bonus, learners are left with easy, fingertipaccess to the course for future reference. A refresher on the features and benefits of new or existing products is available online when needed.

INDUSTRY INSIDERS WITH LONG EXPERIENCE VOICE THEIR OPINIONS

In the series of surveys BlueVolt commissioned to better understand the effectiveness of online platforms, each survey targeted a different group of users, performing similar functions. Each survey was also structured differ- ently, so as to capture as broad a picture as possible.

According to a BlueVolt representative, "Prior to launching these surveys, we knew that we were working with a market that is long on industry experience, but low on exposure to technological solutions. The average According to a BlueVolt representative, "Prior to launching these surveys, we knew that we were working with a market that is long on industry experience, but low on exposure to technological solutions. The average industry experience of over a third of respondents was 25 years and nearly 75% of respondents have over ten years experience. Our assumption was that these industry-savvy respondents would be the hardest to convince that an online solution is a worthwhile approach, and they would also be less likely to see a benefit from a new approach to marketing products and training staff.”

DOES ONLINE TRAINING INCREASE SALES?

The heavily-experienced group who participated in the surveys responded overwhelmingly in favor of an online training solution for marketing products and increasing sales. Across all surveys, better than 81% of respondents affirmed that they ‘sell more with online training.’Additionally, eight out of ten respondents affirmed that at least 80% of sales presented add-on opportunities. Selling a ladder presents a range of add-on opportunities. The properly prepared sales representative that recognizes this will ask the questions that elicit what the buyer is doing with the ladder. The sales representative can then run through a checklist with the buyer to ensure they have the supplies they need to tackle the job they are undertaking.

WHY DOES ONLINE TRAINING WORK?

There is no denying the power of a personal interaction when it comes to sharing the value of a tool, a part, or a process, which is why the traditional field representative approach has endured, and why face-to-face interaction at the point-of-sale will probably remain a staple of the product marketing process.

However, the average counter person working in a distributor’s warehouse is much less reliant on a product expert to teach them the features and benefits of a product, or the relative merits of competing products.

In today's workface, employers encourage and reward their employees' autonomy. Online training platforms offer a self-directed workface the opportunity to educate themselves on competing products at the time and place they need, without having to attend an in-person session with a product representative.

An online approach to training can provide animated 3-D graphics that take the product out of the box and bring it to life, making it possible for learners to see exactly where and how a product is designed to work. This is as close to real-life as possible, and makes the product--and its use--more memorable than just watching someone standing in front of you explaining how it works.

BlueVolt


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