How Intel Salespeople Went from Good to Great

Intel developed an immersive, interactive business simulation to teach and reinforce key selling strategies within its current market.

By Margery Weinstein

Realizing that selling methods from the PC industry would not open doors in non-traditional markets, Intel Corp.’s senior leaders challenged the company’s Sales and Marketing group to develop sales talent to better drive Intel’s overall growth strategy and transformation efforts. Here is how this initiative evolved:

  • The training team partnered with a new company to help Intel solve its business problem rather than take an off-the-shelf product to fill a training gap. First, the team interviewed more than 40 top performers worldwide and documented differences in behaviors and selling techniques between top and successful salespeople.
  • New insights about top performers include: They spend significant time researching their customers’ roadmaps, industry trends, competitors, and Intel’s strategy so they can advise and recommend solutions based on customer needs rather than solely on Intel’s product roadmap; they get more targeted coaching; and they are better at listening and understanding all of the company’s motivators.
  • Next, Intel developed an immersive, interactive business simulation to teach and reinforce key selling strategies within its current market. This deliverable was the company’s first true blend of skills and product training. Of the nine hours of face-to-face engagement, only a little more than two hours is traditional instruction. The rest is interactive role-plays, sharing of best-known methods, and reinforcement through animations, videos, and activities.
  • Following Intel’s philosophy of “use our best to train the rest,” the company trained 25 senior Sales and Marketing leaders as instructors. Their experiences and “war stories” add credibility to the training content and having senior leaders in the room allows real-time coaching on how to apply what is learned. And since behaviors rarely change without active management support, the company developed a class for managers of employees taking the business simulation on how to reinforce the new skills and behaviors their employees just acquired.
  • The program was evaluated on multiple levels. In addition to detailed reactions (Level 1) and post-testing to assess knowledge gain (Level 2), application (Level 3) is evaluated on feedback from the learners and their managers. Impact (Level 4) will be gauged by correlating sales effectiveness with content mastery.
  • In addition, learners are assessed on 16 sales competencies by themselves, their managers, and peers. Assessment results and training resources are loaded automatically into a development plan to help employees close skill gaps and maximize strengths.
  • Three hundred Sales and Marketing employees and their managers took part in the pilot. Post-pilot results and interviews done after the training demonstrated the pilot’s success. As a result, the company is continuing to deploy the business simulations and manager courses, and launched the assessment to all of its sales force in fourth quarter 2011.
  • Although the full impact assessment is not yet complete, preliminary results and anecdotal evidence shows the training is making a big difference for Intel’s sales force. Achievements credited to this training include breakthroughs with customers entrenched with competitors, higher-level executive engagement, increase in presence and added value to the customer, and better customer meeting outcomes.

HAVE INPUT OR TIPS on this topic? If so, send them our way in an e-mail to with the subject line “Intel,” and we’ll try to include your advice in an upcoming edition of the Training Top 125 Best Practices/Executive Exchange e-newsletter.

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