BenefitsEngaged WorkforceLearning

Case Study: Improving Sales Knowledge with a New Approach to Training

Autodesk and Intrepid Learning Solutions collaborate to reach sales goals. Efforts lead to quicker knowledge transfer.

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As the fifth largest PC software company in the world with more than six million users, Autodesk, a diversified software company, has more than 1,700 channels with a broad international reach and local market expertise. In recent years, Autodesk’s lifecycle management has led to an increased need for channel partner sales and technical training.

Autodesk looked to Intrepid Learning Solutions in early 2005 to provide a comprehensive range of outsourced training services. Outsourcing would allow Autodesk to continue to focus on its core business: developing, marketing, and selling industry-leading software.

Approximately 80 percent of the company’s revenues come through channel sales, so it is critical that partners have deep product and solution knowledge, a keen understanding of customer challenges within the manufacturing industry, and excellent selling skills.

Prior to outsourcing, new hire and channel partner time to competency in manufacturing industry fluency, product knowledge, and selling skills spanned nine to 12 months. Autodesk’s goal was to reduce this lag time to 90 days. A major execution challenge for Autodesk was a lack of dedicated, skilled instructional design professionals with deep expertise in sales training.

Autodesk sales execution leadership had a clear vision of where it wanted to take new hire training, but needed expert assistance to execute that goal. In order to successfully sell an increasingly complex array of software, services and solutions, Autodesk channel partners needed training in consultative selling techniques. Autodesk’s objective was to help its channel partners become “trusted advisors” to their customers.

Autodesk had to win the confidence of stakeholders who were skeptical of the value of working with an external partner. The challenge was to create a comprehensive training program utilizing the combined strengths of Intrepid instructional designers and Autodesk subject matter experts within a tight timeframe. To make this work, students with sales experience but lacked familiarity with the manufacturing industry and students with industry knowledge but little sales experience were brought together for training.

Intrepid’s plan involved conducting interviews and collecting data to confirm desired outcomes and build relationships with Autodesk stakeholders to establish a cohesive partnership and a shared vision of objectives. The provider had to assess and analyze current learner knowledge levels, desired future levels, and learner characteristics, and design a standard courseware format and a rapid instructional framework to enable development.

Intrepid worked with Autodesk to create and deploy a pre-event course preparation workbook including pre- and post-tests to measure knowledge transfer. A one-week classroom course was developed and comprised of modular, integrated training content targeted for Autodesk channel partners and the sales cycle realities they encounter including industry trends and challenges, in-depth competitive issues, and effective selling skills. Classroom activities enlisted active student involvement with hands-on practice, including videotaped mock sales presentations, games, and competitions. New sales training methodology was wrapped in an Autodesk and manufacturing context, created in collaboration with an Autodesk ValueVision associate. The training content, entitled “Manufacturing 101,” was designed to be repurposed for other audiences and for future events.

The results of “Manufacturing 101” have been impressive. The core objective of reducing new hire time to competency and increasing overall sales readiness has been achieved. Average salesperson knowledge transfer has increased 30 to 40 percent for each class delivered. Student feedback has been positive. On average, students scored the class 4.3 on a 5-point scale, indicating strong agreement that course content and materials were directly applicable to current and future sales efforts.

Boot Camp is held every year as a product-launch education event prior to the company’s annual software release. Previous Boot Camp events have featured excellent Autodesk instructors and strong event management, but the event has been dogged by weaknesses in the session’s instructional design. Inconsistency, absence of interactivity, and lack of integrated sales methodology training undermined some of the Boot Camp’s learning effectiveness. Also, Autodesk executives and territory sales managers were rarely involved in facilitating and supporting training activities at Boot Camp. In the past, Autodesk executives and sales managers did not have hard data and results from partners with which to gauge the event’s impact on Autodesk’s business objectives.

The challenges for Intrepid were to design and develop 72 hours of instructor-ready training content in 12 weeks, create and facilitate training for a diverse audience of channel partners, and deploy various methods of measuring Boot Camp’s impact on reseller satisfaction, knowledge transfer, application of skills, and business results.

Attended by more than 1,400 partners, the 2005 Boot Camp was the company’s largest and most successful training event in Autodesk’s history. All stakeholders, ranging from partner attendees to Autodesk executives, expressed deep satisfaction with the event and its outcomes. Level 1 results for Boot Camp sales sessions showed that 89 percent of participants gave the event an overall rating of 4 or 5.

Tags: Benefits, Engaged Workforce, Learning

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