As a manufacturer representative, I’ve had the privilege of speaking to furniture owners nationwide. On one particular visit, there was an enlightening exchange about the sales training process – it became clear that this storeowner needed to understand how best to position their business for success through effective strategy and plan implementation. This story aims to share insights into what retailers need to do to strengthen their sales training process and reach their desired goals!
I was sitting in the office of one of my customer’s brand new three-story store in California, talking about the container flow of an upholstery company I represent. After that, our conversation turned to sales training. He tells me, “You must train my people on selling warranties. They are not selling enough.” I responded, “OK… well, how much are they selling now? Where should they be.” I was appalled at his answer. He said he didn’t know, but they should be selling more than they are.
Warranty as a category is an assessorial. It is an add-on to almost anything you have in store and should be sold with nearly everything. We all get that. But like everything else, many stores have yet to have a sales training process or plan, and little or no money is invested in the sales team.
Still disturbed at my friend’s insinuation that my supposed lack of training was the source of his woeful warranty sales, I asked him what he felt was an acceptable amount of exercises that he expected to be performed. He stared at me blankly, so I continued. I asked him how much of a bump in business he would expect each time I came in and trained—still nothing. I asked him if I came in twice as often to teach as he expected, would he expect an exponential increase in business? I answered for him. “ The answer is no, and here is why. I am happy to show up and do whatever you ask to make you happy because I respect you and the business you built. If you want my or any other rep’s training to matter, you owe it to yourself to come to a few conclusions independently.”
- What purpose do you want the training to serve? As a former retailer, I used to like my reps to come in on the weekend to train to show commitment to our organization. If we were coming in on the weekends and holidays to further our business, they should be here too. That was wrong. Every action should be the source of a positive reaction, not a negative one.
- Each training session should have a purpose with the goal of understanding. Call it an overview, but whoever is training should start with a statement of what will occur during the training time together. At the risk of being cliché, tell the retailer what you will say to them, and then tell them what you told them. I’m sure you’ve heard that one before.
- To get the attendees to understand why the meeting is essential to them entirely, start by explaining why. “Today, we will talk about increasing your bedding sales by selling a good night’s sleep instead of just another mattress.”
- Spewing information for information’s sake is a waste of everybody’s time. How many podcasts have you listened to or books have you read that went in one ear, marinated for a few moments, and then went right out the other ear? The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and ensuring that the training results match the intent is vital. Growth through education is excellent. Ensure the training is specific and repeat it until it takes root.
- Management and sales leads should back up the sales training process during the day and the weeks following. Continue discussions during down times to let the staff know that the company is behind what they learned without fail.
- Assign the metric and measure. You must have accountability, or else who cares. Build a standard and a process around the training so that you can decipher from the salespeople who are having difficulty with the new expectation and those who aren’t interested in it.
- Write out the process. Since this is a non-negotiable standard, write out the policy of what you want to be done, how you want it done, and why you want it done. ACME Furniture desires to develop a better return on our bedding investment and become a healthy sleep leader in our community. Our sales associates must mention a good night’s sleep in every presentation. During every sales presentation, regardless of the category, each potential customer will be asked how they slept that night to open up the conversation.
- Record each individual’s data daily, weekly, and monthly. Help those that are not attaining the standard so that they can.
Managers should coach the staff weekly until they understand the constraint of each salesperson. Observation will tell you who is on board and who isn’t. Leading is performed from the front and done by those who genuinely care about the people on their team. Only some of this does much good if the manager is committed to the success of every person on the team. If you’re managing managers, get a sense of their motivation. The motivation to train is for improvement to win sales and garner increases, not solely for a better paycheck. If you have a manager who truly wants to see the team succeed for the team’s success, you have a winner leading the team.