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Friday, 09 November 2012

Sales Training Techniques

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sales-training-techniquesTraining is the First Thing That's Remembered But the Last Thing You Should Do!

Let me start by describing a training scenario most of us have likely experienced. You register for a retail sales training class or seminar, paid good money, and your expectations are high. After sitting through the session, you're completely blown away by the experience. The facilitator captures your imagination and makes you feel like he/she is speaking directly to you even though there are 200 people in the room. 

The training content is specific, relevant, and spot on. When it's over, you can't believe you just sat through a 5-hour training session. It felt more like an hour. You never once nodded off or wanted to check your text messages. In fact, you have 20 pages of copious notes because you were trying to capture every thought and sales step. 

You leave the training session charged up and thinking...wow, that was a seminar!

Now, full disclosure, one of the things my company specializes in is retail sales training and motivational seminars. In fact, over the last nearly 20 years, it's really what has built our reputation even though we do so much more. Our training is unique (to say the least) and it leaves an impression with an audience. We consistently hear from clients, "no one connects with an audience the way you do." The best compliment we can ever receive (and it's happened often) is when we train or meet with a company’s employees, and at the end of the session they can't believe we don't work for their company as in-house employees. That's when you know you've hit the mark! 

Here's the thing...the success of our retail sales training programs never starts with the live performance! That's actually the last step. Here’s why...

Our experience has shown us time and time again that no matter how good an off-the-shelf training program is, it doesn't guarantee success. What is right for company "X" might not work at all for company "Y". Yet how often do you see a company attempt to use the same material and content regardless of the situation? Okay, a different cover page but most of the content is identical.

What has made our sessions so unique and successful is the time we spend developing content BEFORE any session is taught or any material is printed. There are several sales training techniques we have used over the years to create successful programs. 

Three sales training techniques that will help you accelerate results:

#1: Know Your Audience. Sounds simple, right? Let me illustrate with a quick story. Our first client was a major electronics and appliance retailer that hired us to develop and train its store personnel with the end goal of increasing the company’s service contract revenue. We spent three months interviewing corporate people, store management, and line level employees. If there was someone to speak to....we wanted to hear from them. 

After compiling the information that would help this client the best, we helped design a sales training program we knew would be successful. We then went out and delivered the training to all of the related sales personnel in the field.

At the conclusion of the first session, I got a call from someone at the company letting me know they were not happy with the sales training because, and I quote: “This is not the kind of training we do or want." I was stunned. I knew the material was right because it was based on all the interviews and intensive research. The audience was enthusiastic and it made an obvious connection with them. 

To remedy the situation, I offered to conduct a session at their corporate office for the entire training department to evaluate what we were doing. So there I am in front of a group of people who looked like a firing squad ready to "evaluate" me. I knew the sales training we had created was right, so I just let it fly, and held nothing back. If we were going to go down, we were going to go down swinging!

At the end of the session, the head of training came up to me and said, "You know our people better than we do. Keep doing what you're doing." Three years later we were at an event where the CEO and founder of the company said; "You have shown us our people are capable of doing things we didn't think they could do. Thank you.

None of that would ever have happened if we had not invested the time and energy toward getting to know their company inside and out BEFORE we developed the content for the sales training program.

#2: Write Your Material Using the Language of Your Attendees. Otherwise, you will not relate or connect with the audience. For example, if the company’s salespeople are called “Customer Relationship Ambassadors”, then that’s what you call them during the sales training. Call them “salespeople” and you’ve missed the mark! If the corporate office is called “The Retail Support Center” and you call it “the corporate office”, you’ve missed the mark! 

Don’t believe this matters? Have you ever had a conversation with someone who constantly called you by the wrong name? Can you even remember what the conversation was about? 

Sure it takes longer to learn the company lingo and culture, but it has a tremendous impact on the retention of the training material being presented.

#3: Evaluate Your Performance -- Honestly. When you are finished developing the sales training program, ask yourself this question, and be brutally honest: "If I got this material (Live training, training manuals, videos, eLearnings) today, would it help me improve my sales performance tomorrow?" If the answer is “no”, start again.

Now understand, these three techniques can take a lot time. To help keep it in perspective, a great movie takes a year or more for production. When you're sitting there enjoying the film, you're not thinking about the filmmaking process. You are there in the moment even though a lot of people put a lot of time and effort to get that image on the screen. 

A great sales training experience is 25 percent performance...and the great ones are just that, a performance. And the remaining 75 percent is about developing outstanding content through learning the client’s business model, initiatives, language, pain points, and hurdles. 

There's a great line I am reminded of... "It's not the joke, it's how you tell it". 

True. But remember this...someone had to write the joke!

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John Quattrucci

John Quattrucci is President of Stuart & Associates, a retail consulting firm specializing in Sales and Margin Growth Programs and Returns Reduction Programs.

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