Get Into Training

By Heather Baldwin

Think about all the time, effort and money going into choosing and purchasing your CRM application. How much of that is being spent on training? If you’re like most companies, the answer is – not much.

“I’ve noticed there’s been quite an issue with clients worrying about development and infrastructure and not about training,” says Jeff Bloch, manager of training services at CRM consultancy Infinity Info Systems Corp, referring to the past 6 to 12 months. But training should be the core of your application rollout, he explains. All those thousands or millions spent on the application will be for naught if people don’t know how to use it.

For maximum training effectiveness, Bloch says companies should schedule classes to coincide with the deployment of their CRM application. “I’ve gone in to train people on an application, who then go back to their desks and don’t even have that application on their desktops,” he says. “If you don’t use what you learned within 24 to 48 hours after a class, you’ll forget most of it.” So make sure employees can walk out of training and start using the CRM application immediately in a real-world environment.

Bloch also recommends scheduling a follow-up training session three to four weeks after the initial class. “Three to four weeks is the sweet spot,” he says. That’s when people have been using the application long enough to have questions they can’t resolve on their own. “We recommend users keep a notepad on their desks and make a list of all the questions they have as they’re using the application. We address those questions in the follow-on training class,” Bloch says.

In addition, Bloch advises companies to incorporate real-life scenarios into training if they really want users to get the hang of the new application quickly. Bloch worked with a high-end imaging company on Long Island that wanted to make training as real and as useful as possible for its employees. Working with Bloch, the company instructed its salespeople to bring real opportunity information to the class. One group of participants entered their opportunities into the system; another group represented management level and determined whether that opportunity should be added to their forecasting; a third group played vice president with the authority to override or concur with management’s decision. The result? Not only could salespeople go right from training to using the system effectively, they could see how the information they entered escalated up the chain. “The additional investment in training,” says Bloch, “makes a company’s thousands of dollars worth of investments into customization of a product pay off.”