Sales Training

Jul 20, 2008

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  1. Guest
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    Guest Guest

    Interesting article: From Evan Carmichael.

    [SIZE=-1]A sales force is a business’s window to the world, and the effectiveness, morale, preparedness and general well-being of your sales force will have a direct affect on the future of your business!

    First of all, what type of training does a sales force need? It falls into three broad categories.
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    [SIZE=-1] • Product Knowledge: Salespeople need to be knowledgeable of the products and services they sell. They need to understand those products’ applications, both their benefits and drawbacks, what unique features they offer, what they can and cannot do for those who purchase them, and how they rank against competing products. Salespeople do not need to know how to disassemble, repair and re-assemble the products they sell the way a soldier needs to know how to disassemble, clean and re-assemble his gun in a foxhole in the dark, but they should be able to talk about them intelligently to customers and prospects. I remember meeting with a sales manager to put together a sales training program, and I asked him how the products he sold ranked against the competition, and is response was that they were “the best”. What unique features do they have? He could not tell me. How do they rate in terms of performance and durability? He had no idea. He just knew that they were “the best” and he kept making that point. That’s not much for a salesperson to go out into the world and try to sell. It was no surprise that the company’s sales were dropping and they had high sales force turnover. Had the sales manager not been the company owner’s son, he would never have gotten or kept his job!

    • Selling Skills: In addition to knowing what they are selling, salespeople need to learn (and, very often, re-learn) selling skills. Many people come to selling with misconceptions, and even experienced salespeople get into bad habits or forget to go back to the basics when they are in trouble. Also, selling to consumers who purchase a product or service for their own use is much different from selling to employees who are buying products and services for the business, government agency or not-for-profit group that employs them. For example, selling carpeting and floor coverings to homeowners is an entirely different process from selling carpeting and floor coverings to a business, store, school or church!

    • Industry and Technology Knowledge: Salespeople cannot sell in a void. They need to be aware of what their customers do with the products they buy, especially if their customers are industrial. One can easily imagine what a homeowner does with new flooring, but what are the concerns of a business that is purchasing carpet? That insight is invaluable to successfully selling carpeting to businesses and other industrial users. Also, salespeople need to be aware of the technology that is out there. For example, does a business care for carpeting the same way a homeowner would? How do hospitals, nursing homes and day care centers keep their carpet from transmitting diseases? If a salesperson does not understand what a customer does with the products he is selling, and how his customers use, maintain and care for those products, he is totally unequipped to talk intelligently about them!

    Red Flags that Indicate Problems: There are numerous early indicators that your salespeople lack the skills they need to sell efficiently, productivity and in the best interests of their employer.

    • Sales Force Turnover: Successful businesses have stable sales forces. Over time, salespeople should become increasingly more and more effective, more skilled, more knowledgeable and a more valuable asset to your business. A salesperson leaving (whether he quits or is fired) is rarely the fault of the salesperson, and almost always the fault of his employer, specifically the sales manager. I recall a sales manager telling me he was not upset about a salesperson who had recently left because he “was a colossal jerk” “Then why did you hire him,” I asked. Some businesses still use the practice of hiring essentially anyone for a sales position and figuring that he will sink or swim. If a sales hire does not work out, they will just hire some more sales force tryouts, and if they hire enough experimental-salesperson-maybes, then maybe, just maybe, some of them will work out. Research has shown this practice to be very time consuming, extremely expensive, disruptive to the rest of the organization, poor for employee morale, and it dramatically reduces repeat business from the existing customer base. If sales force turnover is increasing, or it is too high, providing effective sales training is one way to bring it down. A sales manager that is managing and leading the sales force, and not constantly replacing salespeople who have left, is far more productive and effective.

    • Increased Returns, Credits and Adjustments:
    Trained and competent salespeople sell the appropriate product or product configuration to each customer and prospect, and they make sure that all customers understand what they are purchasing, the terms of the sale, and what the obligations of both parties are. A sign of a competent and properly trained sales force is problem-free sales that are completed professionally, smoothly and effortlessly. The customer takes delivery of the product, or it is shipped or delivered to the customer, and the invoice is paid. If products are coming back, orders are being cancelled, customers are refusing to pay, and/or credits must be issued to account for misunderstandings or adjustments, the sales force is in need of serious and immediate training!

    • There Are Disputes Between Salespeople and Other Department Personnel:
    Whenever a salesperson gets into a dispute–or, worse yet, an argument or screaming match–with a company employee, all kinds of red flags should go up. First of all, everyone who works for your business, from the receptionist and loading dock personnel, to the sales reps and the CEO, are supposed to be on the same team! Any argument between two employees within a business is bad news, but when a salesperson–your front line infantryman who has to go out and battle against your competitors on a regular basis–gets into an altercation with another company employee, forget about any threat from the competition. You have met the enemy, and he is you! This is a serious indicator that the sales force needs training, as do those employees who engaged in the other half of the argument.

    • Problems Have to Be Resolved by Managers: Let’s say that your Parts Manager and one of your salespeople have a dispute–not an argument or shouting match–they just have a serious disagreement that they cannot resolve. They keep it professional and civil, but the only way they can resolve the dispute is to take it to a manager. Both the sales force and the personnel of the department involved need training. Such events are an indication of a much deeper cultural issue, a broad misunderstanding of each department’s responsibilities and authority, and it needs to be addressed immediately!

    • Salespeople Are Complaining: It does not make any difference what they are complaining about. What is important is that they are not out making sales calls, they are making excuses for not making sales and sales calls! First, however, let’s define “complaining”. There is nothing wrong–in fact, it should be encouraged–for salespeople to bring field intelligence back to their sales manager and other managers in the business. When a competitor introduces a new product, adds features to a product, raises or lowers prices, closes or opens a facility, has products on backorder, or does anything else that the sales force and management need to know about, bringing that intelligence back to the sales manager is appropriate and should be acknowledged. However, when a salesperson complains about the weather, the economy, phases of the moon and uses terms such as “bad luck” and “bad break”, this is a salesperson who lacks the selling skills he should have!

    • Re-Orders Are Down:
    If your business relies are re-orders from existing accounts, and re-orders begin to flatten out or decline, that is an immediate indication that your salespeople are not managing their accounts! And account management is a key selling skill that every sales force needs to have.

    • The Account Base Is Not Growing: If one of your corporate objectives is expanding your customer base, and its rate of growth is slowing or it is not growing at all, that is also an early indicator of a sales force in need of new skills or that needs to re-learn skills they are no longer using.

    • Decreased Order Frequency:
    A key measurement of sales force effectiveness and productivity is how often the salespeople write orders. When the number of sales being closed (not the dollar volume of sales, but the number or orders) begins to drop, that is also an early indicator of a need for new and better selling skills for your sales force.
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    Guest, Jul 20, 2008
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  2. agent4sail
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    agent4sail Expert

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    Thanks Rob, maybe this should be sent to the Mega -lack of management- training managers- (Regional Managers, Division,and District). The ones I know, continually perpetuate their own lack of training to all those they teach. This 'throw on the wall' mentality continues to add un-trained, mis-informed and often uneducated agents to the field. By their actions and lack of training they do more harm than good, which directly affects those of us who do get proper training.
     
  3. Guest
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    Guest Guest

    I completely agree.
    It seems that you and I (and a handful of others) know the experience firsthand and what potential harm and good there is when it comes to training and lack of.

    Thanks!
     
    Guest, Jul 21, 2008
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  4. Guest
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    Guest Guest

    Do you sell a training program of your own?

    The Jackass
     
    Guest, Jul 21, 2008
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  5. Guest
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    Guest Guest

    Is that rhetorical?
     
    Guest, Jul 21, 2008
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  6. Guest
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    Guest Guest

    No. Not at all. Sales training seems to be a subject you are very interested in and seem to know a lot about so I was wondering if you have your own program. I have no idea what your real name is in "real life."

    It's a fair question. I meant nothing by it. Just curious. You are free to answer or not answer... no wrong answer.

    The Jackass
     
    Guest, Jul 21, 2008
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    Guest Guest

    I said rhetorical because I thought you knew already.

    Allow me to explain.

    My name is Rob Liano. And I'm originally a health agent who over the last two years has been hired to train and consult for lead brokers, agents, agencies and insurance companies. Most of whom I'm sure you've heard of.

    Since I'm off this month, I'm here (on the forum) to try to help educate and empower those that may find it useful and are open to it. There's a lot to learn out there.

    :)
     
    Guest, Jul 21, 2008
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  8. Labman
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    Labman Super Genius

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    Alright Rob I will bite,how about we do this? I'm a 50 year old male transitioning from one career to a totally new field (insurance). I'm motivated, get along great with people and have a very good work ethic. My sales area will involve working with Colonial Life selling supplemental insurance, along with small group and individual health insurance. Would you care to share your expertise with me to help get me up and running?

    The last three days of this week, I'm in an opener class sponsored by Colonial, the rest of the time I'm free. Otherwise, like you I have the month off. How about I post some questions that may benefit a lot of new folks and you shoot us your best thoughts on how to deal with the situation(s) related to selling?
     
    Labman, Jul 21, 2008
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    Guest Guest

    That's part of what the forum is for and you can do that if you'd like. Just make sure you choose fresh topics. I'd search the threads first to ensure that won't it will end up being a re-thread.

    You might also want to search some of my recent posts that were geared specifically towards that.

    Other than that, fire away. If I don't have an answer, someone will, that's the beauty of the forum.

    Thanks!
     
    Guest, Jul 21, 2008
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  10. Labman
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    Labman Super Genius

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    Here is one:

    Since I will be selling group and supplemental how do I respond to the business owner who says he cannot afford any insurance? Or, better yet, what approach, if any, could be taken when he says, I just give the employees X number of dollars per month and they are responsbile for finding their own insurance? Thanks!
     
    Labman, Jul 21, 2008
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