In my last entry, I cited a survey Symantec fielded last fall indicating that IT budgets would either stay the same or go up in the following 12 months. The survey drilled down a bit on training: 78% of respondents said training budgets would either stay the same or go up in the next two years.
That figure makes sense. Think about it: In the past few years we have thrown a lot of solutions at customers: server virtualization, networked and virtualized storage, archiving, improved data protection, and disaster recovery. These technologies were tossed at customers so fast they may not feel quite comfortable with how to use them. Now they’re looking for ways to learn more about what they have.
Before you say, “Stop; I’m a reseller; we really don’t do training,” you should know that I’m hearing from customers that, like you, they don’t get much value out of training (I wrote about training quality on SearchStorageChannel.com last year), and they don’t have time to leave the office to get trained. What they are asking for (can I go so far as to say begging?) is customized training in their own environment.
There is an opportunity to do informal, almost-triage-like training, especially within your existing customer base; you should know the environment so well that you can get your customers up to speed and more comfortable with the solutions you implemented for them over the last few years. They’re not looking for course material and 60 PowerPoint slides. They are looking for a sitdown, 1-on-3 type of training done right in their conference room connected right to their solutions.
In an upcoming article on SearchStorageChannel.com, I will provide more details on how to design this training, how to present it to your customers and how to make sure they purchase it from you.
By the way, what are the side effects of a well-trained customer? First, their satisfaction with the solution you provided goes up. That makes them more amenable to be a reference for you in the future. Second, they are able to fully realize the potential of your solution, and this almost always leads to additional hardware and software sales as more systems are brought into the project.
George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation’s largest storage integrators.