11/04/2012 - 09:59

Sales training is out and education is in

11/04/2012 - 09:59


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There are no two companies that train alike.

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.

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 politically correct “person.”)

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, low-belief system and constant rejection, it’s no wonder early turnover in some companies (maybe yours) exceeds 25 per cent.

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. 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 lot 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.

• 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 emails, blog posts and tweets to existing customers and prospects to stay “top-of-mind.”

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

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

• 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 prospet’s fear and unspoken risk to rest. 

This list, not complete, 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.


Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Little Book of Leadership, and Social BOOM! President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts Internet training programs on selling and customer service at www.trainone.com. He can be reached at 704/333-1112 or e-mail to salesman@gitomer.com 

He can be reached at 704/333-1112 or e-mail salesman@gitomer.com © 2012 All Rights Reserved. Don't reproduce this document without written permission from Jeffrey H. Gitomer and Buy Gitomer. 704/333-1112 www.gitomer.com.



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