Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What Kind of Training Should Salespeople in your Business Receive?

You might be wondering why am I making such a silly question. And you are right. It sounds silly but it isn’t. It may not be your case, but in many companies there is the belief that just because a person defines itself as a "sales representative", with a wealth of experience in selling and backed up by a good network (even better if within the product-to-be-sold same industry), is enough to guarantee the candidate will bring in excellent results for the company, because such belief is not true, at least, it shouldn’t be taken as a guarantee on itself.

How much do your salespeople get to know about the company?

Keep in mind each member of your sales team becomes the tip of the iceberg, the face your customers see when going through the decision making process and finally purchasing your products or services, and this is a matter of great relevance if we look at it from the “customers acquisition and retention” point of view.

I’ve been surprised to find about companies that spend very little time, or don’t spend any time at all, making sure their salespeople are deeply familiar with the company itself, its mission and vision, its defining core values ​​and principles, with its short and long term goals. In brief, with all the things you might consider important for them to be completely aligned with the company itself.

Usually companies just make sure candidates are skilled enough to do the selling, have the ability to do the talking (in formal language, they do have strong communication skills) and that’s it: out the door they go, in a blink… with a product catalogue on their hands (when available) and business cards. And there you’re, the business owner, sitting back at your office just waiting for those wonderful results to start coming in, as you expect them to or, we should better say, need them to.

This is therefore the first area in which your sales team must receive proper training: becoming deeply familiar with the company they represent.

How deep do your salespeople know the products your company offers?

And this is a mistake often committed when the candidate comes from another company within the same industry as yours. It’s easier for you to think that, since the candidate has already sold the same products or similar ones, or has even been selling for one of your competitors, such candidate is fully prepared to sell your products, and that there is nothing else you should be concerned with.

Did you make sure your sales representatives know what sets you apart from your competition? Do they completely understand what your value proposition is?

Proper product training is of vital importance for a sales representative to achieve its best results. Without this knowledge, the representative will simply have "gaps", and by that I mean there will be questions for which it may not have answers because there is a lack of proper training.

A sales representative who doesn’t deeply know the product, projects a poor image of your company.

And these gaps will be visible to the buyer, who will simply get the message that either your representative is not properly prepared, or that you don’t value enough how important their work is and don’t provide them with the corresponding training, and, in either case, it’s not positive for anybody: neither for your company, nor for the customer and even less for the rising relationship between the two.

As you can see now, you have two areas in which you should properly train your sales team: becoming completely familiar with the company and corresponding product training.

Caution: Don’t take it lightly. Dedicate these two areas as much time as it takes to your sales representatives to become your company’s true ambassadors and properly convey your brand’s image to actual and future customers.

The “always-missing” area: Recurrent training.

Have you noticed that knives, as the time goes by, no longer cut as sharp as they did at the beginning? Do you know why we have to sharpen them regularly?  I know it sounds a childish thing but the answer applies to the proper management of your sales team (and I would dare to say to all areas of your business): We sharpen knives regularly to make sure they always make the cuts accurate and smoothly, in other words, efficiently.

With sales representatives happens fundamentally the same way: As the time goes by, salespeople have a tendency to lose effectiveness on their sales speech, to accommodate themselves with the product features that have become more popular and effective among customers, and don’t continue to develop new responses to customers’ potential concerns, and therefore, as with the knives, they don’t reach their best performance.

Recurrent training of salespeople is a tool that allows them to maintain their efficiency on its maximum levels.

This is why recurrent training is so important: It allows each representative to deepen its product knowledge, keeping up with industry news, company updates as well as with the product catalogue, giving you the opportunity to discuss with them all things that have come up within the market as well as to be completely prepared to answer unknown questions, since they will always be your best source of fresh information about customers, based on their continuous face-to-face contact.

How to get things moving and give proper training to your sales team?

It is very simple: training about the company and its products can usually be offered through printed materials, literature, PowerPoint presentations, instructional videos or the format that's most convenient and manageable to your business.

The advantage of having this type of material is that you can make use of them regularly on each training session your company has to organize.

Recurrent training can take different forms: brainstorming sessions, Q&As, role playing sessions, and so on.

My favorite one is the role playing session, in which a representative of your company takes the place of the prospective buyer, and behaves the same way a regular customer would do during a sales presentation, asking all sort of questions and posing every possible challenge to the sales representative.

Do you remember a while ago I published in this blog a post saying that "to have a successful product, you should become your most demanding customer"? Role playing sessions with your salespeople allow you to have this opportunity to become your most demanding customer and put your reps through the test, with the advantage of being within the protected environment of your office and not in front of real customers.

In any case, the important thing is that you take into consideration and, properly value, each of these three areas while training your sales team: familiarity with your business, its products and recurrent sales training.

Photo credit: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo

Related articles in this blog:
Want a Successful Product ? Become your most demanding customer.
Cold Calling Sales: Where can you start from? (Part I)

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