"When you're out explaining a new brand, on top of a technically complex product, it's very difficult," says Palermo. "What we're doing, basically, is we bypass that entire discussion, and cut to the chase by asking, 'Do you have a need for data to be available in less than 48 hours?' and if the answer to that is yes, then we've got services that would benefit that company."
But determining this level of need required a different kind of rep, a rep who could listen, understand and, most importantly, interpret the contents of a phone discussion.
The task at hand: Turn reps with telephone skills, but little or no IT experience, into proxies for a dataservices company and use the results of their interactions with IT professionals to determine the best targets for the sales force.
To bring the existing telemarketing program to the level Palermo had in mind, Martin suggested bringing in consultant Liz Kislik, who has a background in teleservices training.
Reps for this program must survive a multi-step screening process before ever handling the phone.
"You certainly have to teach them who SunGard is," says Kislik. "But that may mean that you actually need to teach them what disaster recovery is, so they understand why a prospect company would want some."
"The screening process we have for this client requires them to be able to pronounce a long list of high-tech words," says Maneker. "There's a reading comprehension test customized toward high-tech. We're looking for technical comfort as a plus."
According to Maneker, the SunGard training program is customized and proprietary, combining classroom sessions, transition-to-floor, on-floor coaching and monitoring, followed by a 12-week on-the-job certification process.
Training the reps was one step; designing a plan for them was another.
"The first chunk of training preparation had to do with figuring out 'what is the content that should get covered in the call?'," explains Kislik. "What was the appropriate sequencing of the qualification information? So there you need branching diagrams. What are the skills needed to make those things actually work? … It's got to be conversational, but you've got to make sure you hit all the bases, otherwise you don't have a qualified lead."