Does Sales Training Work?
That's a fair question, but to answer it accurately, you need to know who is going to receive the training. Selling is an activity which combines knowledge and a range of skills which aren't common or easy to teach. You either have a natural disposition towards them or you don't.
An important part of sales work is relating to other people. This comes easily to some individuals and much harder to others. To convert an introvert who prefers his own company into an outgoing personality who hates to be alone is more than can be expected from any training course.
On the other hand those people with appropriate sales traits only need to be shown a structured sales approach, and warned about mistakes to avoid, in order to begin to develop competency in selling.
Sales training information comes in a variety of formats. Each has its advantages and drawbacks. Sales-training seminars are a good way to put across a lot of information in just a day. This saves down time for the company that employs the participant and keeps costs to a minimum.
But when many points are covered in eight hours 'information-overwhelm' can be a problem. But it can be said that if only a few good ideas are learned and go on to be applied, then the return on the time and money can still be worthwhile.
Far cheaper than a seminar is a book about selling and you can dip into it as and when you have the time and inclination. But you need to have your own motivation to do so.
An easy way to pick up ideas on sales technique is to listen to audio products when you are driving or otherwise travelling on business. The first sales training audios were on cassette, today they come in all formats - CD, mp3, Video and DVD.
Short movies by a UK company called Video Arts were IMO some of the most effective sales training. They featured an all-star cast of actors, including John Cleese, who despite his talent for comedy, played some (fairly) straight roles explaining important points about selling.
What's the best that can be achieved with sales-training? It's when there is one of those 'Eureka' moments and somebody grasps an important idea for the first time.
Here's an example: in my Selling for Engineers sales courses, I ask delegates to sell an item to the person next to them and suggest that they use their mobile phone or watch for this purpose. I give no instruction on how to go about the selling and afterwards ask them how they got on.
Irrespective of the answers they give, I next ask, 'Who did most of the talking?' and invariably it is the person who was the role-play salesperson. Then I ask, 'Does that make sense?'
And after a few seconds of reflection, the delegates tell me that it doesn't. 'Why?' 'Because if you don't ask questions and listen to the answers, you don't know what the buyer wants to have in the product.'
That's a valuable lesson to learn which the delegates hadn't picked up 'on the job'. In that instance it's clear that sales-training works.
For any form of training short sessions are best, otherwise retention is difficult. When I worked as a Sales Manager, I'd do my best to lead by example as well as giving my team half an hour of sales coaching at least once a week.
In a dynamic American sales organisation I worked at once, all salespeople except the top ten performers were required to attend sales class first thing every morning. There too it succeeded, the organisation's closing rates were exceptionally high.
A good sales pitch for any form of sales training is to say, what would it be worth to you to sell just one more job a week by using a new idea? If you consider what every lead costs to generate - thousands of dollars / pounds / euros in some cases, it's clear that failing to develop any one of them to become firm sales is a colossal waste of potential business.
Looked at that way, It's false economy not to train yourself or your sales team.
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