How important is company-sponsored training when you're competing in recruitment against big companies that offer company cars to new sales reps? When prospective sales reps make a decision on where they will spend their next few years, here is the bottom line:
- 80 percent:Company-sponsored training was the deciding factor.
- 58 percent of sales reps age 32 or younger thought training was useful in preparing for sales careers. And for you as a manager or group owner:
- For every $1 invested in training,you should get a $30 return.
If you think people are your best asset, you're wrong. Well-trained people are your best asset - everyone else is cannon fodder. Most sales managers look at training like pulling teeth and, possibly even more important, most sales people think training is about as exciting as watching snow fall. Still, training is the most important thing you can do for your sales reps and for your sales organization. It should start the day the reps walk in the door and continue until the day they leave!
Here are tips to make sure that your reps see an exciting interactive approach.
- MAKE SURE IT'S ONGOING. Set up 13-week training programs that have a quarterly graduation attached. An exciting program is important to the health of your sales department, but equally important is its overall effectiveness - and that requires advance planning. Some sales managers prepare for sales training meetings while driving to work. Your salespeople have better things to do than sit through an impromptu, un-planned training meeting.
- REVEAL YOUR EXPECTATIONS. Let your reps know immediately what is expected of them and how they will be evaluated. You can (and should) tie sales training to your compensation program, based on what they learn - and execute in the field.
- PROVIDE INCENTIVES. Have an incentive at the end of your 13-week program to reward the sales rep with the highest scores for that quarter. Celebrate the accomplishment, too. Remember, 25 percent of good people leave organizations because of lack of rewards and recognition.
- MAKE IT REAL-WORLD. Role-playing real-life situations is far better than having the sales rep just sit and listen to you cover an outline. Explain their roles and your expectations; have them prepare for the role-playing scenario a week in advance.
- FOLLOW-UP IN THE FIELD. Outside the classroom, it is your responsibility as a sales manager to apply the training program to real-world situations. How do you know what your people are presenting to the client or how they are conducting a customer-needs analysis if you can't see them perform? It's like coaching a team from the press box. You see more and feel more from field.
The above box shows part of a 13-week training program from Curtis Parcell, general sales manager at KOLA-FM in Riverside,CA. It's part of his quarterly MBA program for sales staff. Senior people teach some courses with his supervision. His curriculum is based on a 21-module, in-house training manual designed specifically for his station. The station's average sales have increased by 20 percent, which Parcell attributes to his training program. His meetings are twice weekly for a minimum of one hour.
Sometimes a little creativity is all you need for a learning experience that is profitable for both you and your clients.