5 April, 2016
by Challenge Action

Sales training

There are many ways to increase sales in a company I’d like to present the different solutions available to you, their advantages and disadvantages, so that you can make the choice that’s best suited to your company and your needs. Sales conference A motivational speaker delivers a lecture or even a training session to a […]

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There are many ways to increase sales in a company I’d like to present the different solutions available to you, their advantages and disadvantages, so that you can make the choice that’s best suited to your company and your needs.

Sales conference

A motivational speaker delivers a lecture or even a training session to a large group of participants, giving a catalog of sales principles, techniques and tricks, with anecdotes to keep the audience on their toes. Very much in vogue a few years ago, this type of service has all but disappeared, as the impact on the company’s results is virtually nil insofar as participants have to adapt the techniques presented to their particular case. Conceptual salespeople are able to do this, but not others, and the lack of practice and role-playing doesn’t really change people’s behavior. These conferences are especially suited to new salespeople who need to discover the world of business, but also to some experienced representatives who want to refresh their knowledge and add a few techniques to those they already know.

Sales training integrated into product training

Unlike the first approach, which is very global and theoretical, this one is practical and focused on products, their features and benefits. It’s the kind of capsule given by the marketing department when a new product is released, or during the initial training of new salespeople. This micro approach doesn’t give salespeople any perspective on how to approach customers holistically, resulting in product-centric rather than customer-centric selling, which runs counter to basic sales principles. Worse still, the product approach generally leads to a disjointed, unnatural approach to customer relations. You can see the results, for example, with certain beauty consultants or beauticians, who are generally excellent at pushing a product they know very well, but incapable of having a global approach centered on their customer’s needs. On the contrary, the consultants with the best sales results have learnt for themselves how to focus on the customer, to take a three-pronged approach, i.e., logically, skincare, make-up and fragrance.
Product-focused training can only be effective if it is complemented by an overall customer-focused approach.

Generic sales training adapted by the trainer during the course

The trainer does not know the company and will disseminate the techniques, but will adapt them during the training with the help of his audience. He creates the sales pitch as the training progresses, then tests and improves it during role-playing. This formula is ideal for SMEs and small groups. It’s flexible and interesting for participants, since it requires their input and participation.
Knowing that the sales pitch has to evolve at least a dozen times to be excellent, this is generally not the best formula for large companies.

Training adapted by a focus group of top salespeople

This is generally the best formula when it can be applied, since the trainer will choose the most appropriate techniques with the company’s best salespeople. There is a synthesis between theory and practice, which will give rise to a sales pitch that must be a basis for perpetual evolution. The content must be validated by management before distribution, which generally makes it possible to enrich the whole.

External or internal sales training?

In Quebec, large companies tend to cut all external training and replace it with in-house trainers, thinking they’ll save money. Surprisingly, the opposite is true in France, where many companies have calculated that a group of in-house trainers is much more expensive than ad hoc training when it’s needed.
The solution lies somewhere in between. It’s very clear that in-house trainers are the best solution for all technical training, but the results are much more mixed for sales training. Generally speaking, they adapt a training course already given by an external trainer, which gives acceptable results at first, since the conditions are the same. But the market is changing fast, and in-house trainers who always see the same horizon will continue to repeat what they did before, whereas the external consultant whose job is to work in all sectors of the industry observes and analyzes the new things being done elsewhere. The sales force will be trained to repeat what they’re already doing, whereas the advantage of an external trainer is to confront them with the best that’s out there.
And that’s why we pay an external consultant, so that he or she can constantly bring in new blood, challenge the status quo and be at the cutting edge. In short, we’re trying to save a few thousand dollars on the one hand, and risk losing millions on the other.
Ideally, internal and external training should complement each other.

Big mistakes

  • The North American subsidiary of a large multinational decides to organize a major symposium with the American gurus of sales and motivation, but does not plan any practical application during the workshops or follow-up after the conference. The party was superb, and the participants still remember it; cost of the operation: 3 million dollars, in terms of increased sales: none…..
  • A large institution decides to develop an in-house training program, the orientations of which would have been criticized by any sales specialist, but appealed to the director of training, who does not come from a sales background. When it was proposed to the sales network, they rejected it outright; there had been $1.5 million in development…
  • Another institution decided to have their training courses developed by the best product specialists, resulting in technically perfect content. The only snag is that the perfect interview with a customer lasts around two hours, whereas the maximum concentration time for this type of sale is around 1 hour. As a result, if salespeople apply the method perfectly… they lose their customer.

Organizing a sales training course

A good sales training course must contain a number of ingredients that are key to achieving results:

  • Participants reflect on the basic principles of sales and the sales techniques they already know, in order to build on their knowledge base.
  • Theoretical input to reach participants with the ability to understand and transpose concepts.
  • A specific, immediately applicable sales pitch.
  • Integration games to create automatisms.
  • Role-playing to integrate all that has been learned
  • The creation of a coaching grid.
  • A module on the use of social media as an extension of the representative’s action.
  • The basics of publishing content in selected trade magazines, which are now opening up publishing to readers.

The other points, which will be dealt with in another article, are the structure of the training and the composition of the group, and the follow-up to be given to this sales training to guarantee results.
Jean-Pierre Mercier