An Industry Training Veteran’s View: The Evolution of Training
By David H. Martin
Last June, at the 2019 Water Leaders Summit sponsored by The Water Council, I became reacquainted with David Scurlock. Nearly two decades earlier, he was the subject of a marketing column I wrote when he was Director of Training and Development for Culligan International in Northbrook, IL.
Today Scurlock is Director of Training and Business Development for Canature WaterGroup, with offices in the US and Canada. His unique perspective on the evolution of the training function in our industry is based on a blend of experiences gained from both within and outside the world of water treatment.
A 1977 graduate of the University of Wisconsin (BS, Marketing), Scurlock began his business career with five years at IBM as a sales representative. “It involved a lot of cold calling in business-to-business sales,” says Scurlock. “Following up on sales leads, canvassing, traditional lead generation, moving sales through the sales funnel. Two things came out of that: Number one, as a service technician once told me, sales sells the first product. Service sells everything after that. The level of service and support provided to the customer sells everything after that. Number two, I learned that in-depth customer training opens the door to additional sales opportunities. My passion for training came from my IBM experience.”
The topic of Sculock’s presentation at this year’s WQA meeting in Orlando is Service Sells. It’s a trend, says he, based on the truth that more and more, service technicians (and even engineers) are interacting with customers today and have the opportunity to generate sales and customer loyalty.
“There were three separate teams at IBM: sales, installation and service. And I found similar systems were present as I moved to other organizations, including Culligan. In the past, you would be trained in one of the three. For example, I was initially trained in sales. But today, particularly in smaller organizations, an employee might be trained to perform multiple functions. These hybrid employees are capable of tasks that overlap sales, installation and service.
“At IBM, I was selling a brand and products that were recognized as a ‘premium’ category that sold itself at a higher price. Today, a lot of products, across many industries are homogeneous, with similar technologies and features. And the way you talk with customers via the Internet and through social media has changed, requiring new forms of training.
“In 1983, I was recruited by Konica-Minolta, to national accounts sales. I called on the government, education and medical markets for Konica. Next I moved into a training role. At first I trained Konica salespeople in classroom settings. Next I was to include distributors and dealers—independent business people who represented Konica as the distribution channel expanded.
“After seven years as Konica’s Training Director, I left for my first experience in the water treatment industry. I joined Culligan International in 1992 at its Northbrook, IL headquarters as Director of Training and Development. There I would train Culligan dealers and sales managers on their broad lines of residential products, but also on sales promotion, marketing/lead generation and in-home sales presentations. Training at Culligan was primarily in the classroom for three-day or one-week sessions in Northbrook, but also at dealer conventions around the country. The content was 85-percent product training and 15-percent sales training.”
While with Culligan, Scurlock established the company’s ground-breaking corporate university that focused on training and exercising the muscle of its industry-leading distribution channel. After nine years with Culligan, Scurlock was ready for a new challenge. He next joined Sears Home Products as Regional Training Manager. Training at Sears focused on the technicians, who installed and repaired appliances and electronic consumer products. By then, traditional face-to-face training was being supplemented (if not largely replaced) with computer-based training and videos, using CD and DVD drives from technicians’ mobile computers. The content mix evolved into 60-percent product training and 40-percent customer service training at Sears.
Blended-learning, defined as combining traditional hands-on classroom training with computer-based learning, proved to be more efficient and cost effective. At the same time, the technician’s role was shifting from just parts-swapping to more diagnostic work and troubleshooting. This naturally changed the training curriculum. Computer training became vital for technicians as service calls and daily reports needed to be downloaded and uploaded as part of the enhanced communications process.
Teaching cross-selling skills was especially important in Scurlock’s work with Sears service technicians. Better-trained technicians were positioned to cross-sell service contracts, opening up a new profit center for the company. They were now trained to look for additional sales opportunities in the homes, such as leaking water heaters or broken refrigerator ice makers. So at the same time more training was becoming computer-based, the in-home technicians were learning to cross-sell products, a real paradigm shift from traditional technical service skills.
“Training just in case has evolved into training just in time. In other words, instead of referring to manuals, today’s technicians will search a problem online, then view a video showing how to solve it. And, when equipped with such mobile devices as iPhones and laptops, they can access reference videos at the point of service. That’s powerful!” To recap, technology has revolutionized how companies (and WQA) deliver training today: not from volumes of printed manual but from a combination of videos and electronic devices, plus the Internet.
In 2013, Scurlock joined Johnson Controls as Training Manager of the residential and light commercial division of the HVAC giant in Milwaukee, WI. (Johnson sells through direct channels and independent dealers.) It was largely traditional face-to-face factory training while surrounded by HVAC equipment in JC plants in Milwaukee, WI, Witchita, KS and Norman, OK. According to Scurlock, safety was a large component of the training at Johnson Controls. “A big change during my tenure with Johnson Controls was training in a world of smart products, which meant more computer training. Now I was training with software and how it interfaced with the customer.”
Early last year, Scurlock returned to the water treatment industry, joining Canature WaterGroup as Director of Training and Business Development. With its US headquarters in Carmel, IN, Canature combines world-class manufacturing and global distribution. Focusing on online training to supplement face-to-face, Scurlock is working with Canature distributors who provide a full range of water treatment for a diverse group of customers, including residential markets, hotels, car washes and light-industrial companies.
What’s the future of product and sales training? Scurlock believes that augmented reality (AR) technology and artificial intelligence (AI) will play a role. “This involves putting a 3D animated object on screens to facilitate the learning process,” explains Scurlock. “Ordinary content is enhanced by augmented reality video, audio, dynamic 3D graphics and more.”
With ongoing advances in product and communications technologies, training and development will play essential roles in the water treatment industry as well as in most others. In Scurlock’s professional training experiences, gained in a variety of industries over 20 years, he has seen dramatic shifts in best practices and has consistently been able to identify and embrace emerging technology that will have an impact on training in the future. “Most rewarding in my career, several times I was hired and allowed by my employers to define my position to best align with the business.”
About the author
David Martin, President of Lenzi Martin Marketing, has more than 30 years experience in the water quality industry working with dealers, distributors and manufacturers. He can be reached at (708) 848-8404 or firstname.lastname@example.org.