There’s the phone. Dial “9” for an outside line.
Sometimes, sales “training” consists of little more than this terse directive. That’s unfortunate, for such lack of guidance sets reps up for failure, resulting in lost time and money for the company. To prevent this wastefulness, it’s important to provide new hires with proper training and to continue to support them over time.
“Taking a systematic approach to training will position the rep to succeed, which makes your company more successful,” says David Blaise, owner of Blaise Drake & Co., an industry consultancy.
Here, we offer some training tips that are sure to give your salespeople a jumpstart beyond just a list of contacts and a phone.
Offer Industry-Specific Education
Giving reps that are new to the world of promotional products a strong educational foundation in the industry’s workings is essential. At the Northbrook, IL-based distributorship Added Incentives (asi/106725), the in-house training focuses on an array of areas, from learning about key suppliers to dealing with e-mail proofs and the process of placing an order.
Other distributors believe that a broad base of product knowledge proves pivotal in winning sales. So, Top 40 distributor CSE (asi/155807) has representatives from supplier partners meet with new hires to review their offerings and get advice. Recently, CSE hired two young sales associates who benefitted greatly by meeting with apparel suppliers.
“They learned about garment fabrics and got great tips on how to sell them,” says Mark Ziskind, chief operating officer for the New Berlin, WI-based supplier.
In addition to in-house training that many distributors offer their new salespeople, ASI also provides a Distributor Success System that walks salespeople and new distributors through how to quickly ramp up business in the ad specialty market. That course, as well as many other education sessions, can be accessed through the ASI Education website at www.asieducation.com.
There, users can log into the Online Learning Center and take an array of training classes right from their desks. Additionally, ASI Shows (www.asishow.com) across the country give distributor salespeople the opportunity to quickly learn about the inner workings of the market and how to successfully navigate it.
Provide Sales Process Instruction
Whether reps are new to the industry or new to sales altogether, many top firms find it important to educate them about the sales processes of the imprinted products business. At Added Incentives, reps receive intensive practical training.
“We go over every step of the sales process, from prospecting and pitching to client management,” says Vice President Danny Friedman. Sales situation role-playing helps bring real-world scenarios to life, enabling reps to better learn and think on their feet.
“We’ll do situations like being in front of a gatekeeper and finding out who the decision-maker is,” says Friedman.
Even if a new associate has industry experience, sales process training can help sharpen skills. While CSE acknowledges that each rep must use a style that suits them, the distributorship wants its associates to operate within the framework of a consultative selling approach that seeks to invigorate clients’ brands while inspiring those customers’ employees and/or customers.
Beyond extensively communicating this philosophy to new hires, CSE provides practical advice on consultative selling and reviews its new business pitches so reps can see how the company positions itself with customers.
Deliver Real-World Mentoring
When it comes time to start pounding the pavement, Friedman doesn’t send new associates onto the streets alone. He’ll often accompany them on in-person presentations, serving as a safety net if they run into trouble and observing their performance so he can afterward provide pointers for improvement.
Similarly, Friedman has reps attend his meetings with prospects and clients so they can see how an experienced industry salesperson handles situations. “You can’t help but learn a few things that will be helpful,” says Friedman.
Keep the Learning Going
The key to successful sales training is that it shouldn’t be a one-time event. While new-hire training is vital to introduce people to the industry and your company go-to-market strategies, it’s vital to reinforce these principles consistently throughout a salesperson’s employment at your company.
Even after reps get on their feet, offering continued professional development will help them grow their business and enhance their relationships with customers. CSE provides continuing education on consultative selling, helping associates hone their skills. Companies also often elect to have reps undergo outside training. Many established pros have benefitted from the instruction Blaise offers on how to maximize business with current clients and layer in lucrative new accounts.
This year, some CSE associates will attend outside training at a sales boot camp. “We want to accelerate our people’s proficiencies,” says Ziskind.