About 2,500 years ago, famed Chinese philosopher Confucius said, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

Let that sink in a little bit.

If you really digest those words, you’ll realize that, nearly 30 centuries after Confucius first uttered them, they still make a lot of sense in our world—particularly in the context of sales training.

Just think about how you learned to do your job. You didn’t just sit at a desk, listening to hours of recorded training tapes, and then walk out the next day ready to hit your quota, right? You learned by doing as well—by watching other top salespeople do their jobs, by making your own mistakes, by fully immersing yourself in the products you sell and by experimenting with new tactics and strategies.

The more experience you acquired, the better you were able to do your job.

Why Telling Will Never Match the Value of Doing

Now, think about your own sales team.

Do you know how your sales reps learn? Do you feel surrounded by reps who don’t seem to “get it,” or who are fully capable of selling products but struggle to sell your services (managed services, cloud services, SaaS and so on)? Have you considered the possibility that you’ve never actually encouraged those reps to fully understand and experience how your products differ from your services?

Sure, maybe you’ve told your reps what those differences are. But as the Confucius quote above shows, simply dictating the differences won’t get you very far. Services, after all, are intangible items, which makes them difficult to understand without the context of experience.

How can you provide that? Here are two tips that should help:

1.     Show your reps how customers use your services: Whiteboard it in a schematic medium, just as you’d do for your tech-centric staff. Create pictorial infographics that demonstrate how services are used in the customer environment. Demo the software.

2.     Involve your reps to cement the learning: Have each rep sit down with a help desk consultant, follow an engineer onsite for a day, play with the software, watch a backup recovery test or attend a project meeting. Your goal here is to let reps fully experience the services in action.

Simply put: If your reps are struggling to sell services, you have to find a tangible way to make them experiential. And the only way to do that is to immerse them in the actual delivery and value of those services.

The Very Tangible Benefit of Experience

We’ve trained thousands of IT sales reps over the years. And, over time, we’ve learned that once reps experience services, they won’t just understand them better, they’ll also fully embrace and enthusiastically sell them.

In our Master Series, "How to Hire and Onboard Great IT Sales People,” we dive into this issue a little bit deeper, sharing with sales managers how to integrate action and involvement into sales training. Ultimately, the goal is to rapidly accelerate a new hire’s time-to-productivity, and that is very often the result our customers see from this approach.

So, if your sales reps don’t seem to “get” your services, or they consistently miss their numbers, I’d highly recommend taking a step back to assess their grasp of your offerings. It could be that some hands-on training is required to get them on track and drive more sales faster.

Kendra Lee is a top IT Seller, Prospect Attraction Expert, author of the newly released book, “The Sales Magnet,” and the award winning book, “Selling Against the Goal,” and president of KLA Group. Specializing in the IT industry, KLA Group works with companies to break in and exceed revenue objectives in the Small and Midmarket Business (SMB) segment.