Training customer-service reps to be experts on a number of changing products is not as difficult as it sounds. Maureen Betses, service director at Harvard Business School Publishing (HBSP), in Boston, approaches this task with the philosophy that you learn the most when you teach someone else. Her customer-service reps take turns reading HBSP publications and presenting what they've learned to coworkers who deal with business customers. One rep makes a 15-minute presentation on a self-selected publication at each weekly staff meeting.

What's the benefit of peer trainers over traditional technical trainers? "Peer trainers have good customer knowledge," says Betses. "They are more likely to focus on how to sell the book, to whom, and when." Reps are more likely to ask questions and engage in discussion with peer trainers because they are all on the same team. Peer training is also a form of professional development for HBSP reps, because the publications they sell provide information they can use to advance their careers. In addition, Betses says, her reps are more comfortable with HBSP products, so they are more apt to suggest them to customers and thus cross-sell.

The peer presentations are one of several elements of a cross-selling program that together have increased customer-service sales 5%.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing