Training is out and education is in Are you in or out

April 16, 2012
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There are no two companies that train alike. Some go all out; some do little or nothing. From my personal observation over the past five years, training (especially sales training) is in decline. Training budgets follow the economy and corporate profits.

I wince at the word “training” because I have always associated it with lions and elephants. The word “education” seems more appropriate. Training teaches you “how.” Education teaches you “why.”

The person who knows how will always have a job. The person who knows why will always be his boss. (Although many people claim to be the author of this quote, it was originally written by Ralph Waldo Emerson around 1870. Emerson used “man” rather than the PC version “person.”)

REALITY: Most companies provide salespeople with initial (minimal) training of essential product knowledge and basic sales skills. Big deal. Then the real world kicks in, and the salesperson is expected to produce without the real skills he or she needs to “make plan” or “achieve quota” before they “get fired.”

Pile on the facts that customers have situations, barriers, problems and objections not covered in training, while the boss is demanding “cold calls” and all kinds of accountability. If you combine those elements with zero attitude training, a low belief system and constant rejection, it’s no wonder early turnover in some companies (maybe yours) exceeds 25 percent.

What to do?

Here is list of the major categories that need to be included in the training/education of your sales force in order to retain good people and achieve your sales objectives.

Caution: This list will require your company to make a serious investment in the education of people and salespeople — but take heart, whatever the money involved, it pales in comparison to the cost of employee turnover.

•Personal development skills. Attitude comes before sales success — positive attitude, followed by the five parts of belief, and classes on achievement and listening. Educate employees to make them better people before you throw them into the market.

•Communication skills. How to speak and how to write are at the fulcrum of sales success. Poor communication skills or poor writing skills will lead to failure faster than anything other than poor attitude.

•Buying motives. Why people buy is almost never taught, yet it’s the most powerful concept a salesperson can possess. Teach it at your best customer’s place of business.

•Product knowledge. It’s not an option to make your salespeople experts before they hit the road or the phone. Teach it at your best customer’s place of business.

•Personal presentation skills. Getting your compelling message transferred and “bought” is an essential aspect of salesmanship.

• Laptop and tablet (iPad) presentation skills. If you have the tool and you’re not the master of it, you will miss the marginal sale. If you don’t have the tool, you’ll miss a ton of sales.

•Selling skills. Asking engaging questions and establishing relationships is the basic science of selling. But the elements above need to be understood before selling skills can be learned, let alone applied.

•Smart phone skills. The communication device of the present and the near future. It must be mastered.

•Voicemail skills. How are you at creating one and leaving one? Two of the biggest enigmas of the modern sales era.

•Value messaging skills. Weekly e-mails, blog posts and tweets to existing customers and prospects to stay “top-of-mind.”

•Pipeline building. How to build the number of qualified and expected sales. At the end of the month, a full pipeline ensures you’ll exceed plan.

•Customer service skills. How to be memorable enough to create word-of-mouth advertising and unsolicited referrals.

•Loyalty actions. Going the extra mile. Being WOW! By your actions, creating positive word-of-mouth advertising.

•Customer uses of product and services skills. How the customer uses what you sell in order to produce and profit.

•Customer perspective skills. How the customer views things and how the customer wants to be treated.

•Business social media. No longer an option. No longer possible to ignore its power — not just for the company, but also for the individual.

•Networking and relationship building. Getting face-to-face with customers and prospects on a regular basis. Network for sales and relationship building.

•Earning referrals and testimonials. There is no better way to make a sale than a referral and a testimonial.

•Personal promotional skills. How to market yourself so that others will call you first. This is a combination of corporate support and personal (online) branding.

•Past history of company and product (even if it’s a service). Knowing the history of your company and product or service will help put much of the prospect’s fear and unspoken risk to rest.

•Continuing education. Once you start, you must make a commitment to continue as long as you exist.

This list is the minimum requirement for salespeople to be prepared to succeed. But my best guess is that you are not educating or being educated in most of these critical elements. Why?

There are no good reasons other than cost of training. And cost is a weak argument, at best, as the competition heats up their recruiting and training efforts.

And of course you’re going to want to measure the returns on your investment. Luckily, in sales, ROI is the easiest part. Here’s an ROI reality: Subtract last month’s sales from this month’s sales, and this month last year from this month’s sales and compare the results. You might also want to measure employee retention.

In sales, all you have to do is measure reality. How’s yours?

Jeffrey Gitomer’s website, www.gitomer.com, has more information about training and seminars, or e-mail him personally at salesman@gitomer.com

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