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GITOMER: Training is out; education is in


There are no two companies that train alike. Some go all out. Some do little or none. 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.”

REALITY: Most companies provide salespeople 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 a 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.

• Communication skills. How to speak and how to write are at the fulcrum of sales success. Poor communication 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 but are 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 – 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. This is the communication device of the present and the near future. It must be mastered.

• 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.

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 the 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 (ROI). Subtract last month’s sales from this month’s sales, and sales this month last year from this month’s sales and compare results. You might also want to measure employee retention.

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

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