Have you heard the one about shipping maps??

One of the loveliest sales training projects I did in my early days in business was for the UKHO. They are a government agency that provides maps and data to mariners and shipping companies across the world – sold through a global network of distributors.

For hundreds of years shipping maps had been large physical scrolls of paper and they were now moving into the digital age. UKHO wanted to invest in sales training to arm their distributors with the skills and confidence to sell digital solutions.

I designed the training and then delivered it with a gorgeous group of UKHO Account Managers in Rotterdam and Singapore. However, it didn’t get off to the best possible start.

I won the project through a marketing agency who were working on a rebranding project with UKHO. They had been asked to find a Technical Sales Trainer. I didn’t advertise myself as this but through the selection process managed to convince the agency that I had the right skills and experience.

The day came when I was to be introduced to the UKHO team. I talked about my sales, account management and training design experience at Mars Confectionery and sales training clients I worked with since leaving Mars. In my head the breadth of my experience in sales and training design was compelling! The agency already believed in me, why wouldn’t UKHO?

I could see the senior UKHO person looking more and more uncomfortable. She asked for a time out and took the marketing agency lead out of the room for a private chat. They called a break and the marketing lead took me aside. Nothing I was saying was giving them the confidence that I was a Technical Sales Trainer. He had my back but we needed to win back the client.

Back in the meeting I named their concerns – that they weren’t seeing anything technical in my training experience and they were worried my skills weren’t necessarily transferable. We went back to basics and dug deeper to understand their view of a Technical Sales Trainer. I acknowledged their concern about the ‘technical’ element and then provided parallel examples of technical(ish) training for different service categories. I played back the other requirements I was hearing and matched them with strong examples from my experience.

We were back on an even footing. I would still need to prove my worth ultimately but at least now there was some trust.

In a way we were lucky that the UKHO lead voiced her concerns. It gave us the chance to reset and get onto the right path. Looking back the problem – and the solution – seemed obvious.

Clients and prospects will have very specific requirements and they will filter what we say to hear how we plan to meet these. We need to recognise those hot buttons – and hit them!

Months later, in the foyer of the hotel in Singapore, we were having a drink to celebrate the end of the second wave of training. The UKHO lead took me aside and said, ‘That went brilliantly. Thank you!’ As you can imagine, that moment is mapped clearly on my mind!

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