If you have a “too hard” basket sitting on your office desk I’m betting that a folder entitled “Staff Training” is sitting somewhere near the top. OK, I’m talking figuratively here, but when it comes to training of staff most business owners tend to put it off until a later date. It’s not normally due to a lack of appreciation for its benefits but more about not knowing where to start.
Of course the first part of training is having the right staff in the first place. The beauty of having people with the right attitude is that you can always train them in the product knowledge and sales methods you want to implement. New employees, in particular, need to receive training very early on in their induction, if for no other reason than to saddle their early enthusiasm and give them a sense of structure to their position.
Before you implement a program it’s important to do the right sort of preparation to make sure it runs smoothly. Here are a few of our suggestions on what to consider before you begin.
- Work to their strengths. You won’t find the complete employee – someone who is strong in all facets of selling. Recognize this fact, and although you can offer training to support them, it may be as valuable to give them additional training around their strengths rather than spend a great amount of time working to build up their weaknesses.
- Use different learning methods. Not everyone learns the same way. Some prefer visual, others audio, others might like to ‘do’ rather than ‘watch’ and still others might be a combination of all of these. The more ways in which the message can be delivered, the deeper the training sinks in and becomes more automatic for the person concerned. With that in mind it’s always good to add a little…
- Role Playing. Yes, I know. I can see you rolling your eyes from here. The staff don’t enjoy it and you don’t like running it. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Role playing can be one of the most effective ways for staff to implement the training they get in a real life situation. Don’t shy away from it because it can be hard.
- Little and Often. If there is one crucial principle to follow it’s to make sure that you don’t stop once you start. Training is often implemented with a giant wave of enthusiasm which comes crashing onto the shore before ebbing away to nothing. It’s important that the next wave rolls back in. You are better to run short regular training sessions than try to do it all at once then forget about it again.
- Repeat, Repeat. This isn’t just about ensuring that training is ongoing, but that the same message gets hammered home regularly. You can’t expect staff to implement an idea with only one lesson. Allow multiple takes for it to become ingrained.
- Allow for individualism. The best sales staff often have a unique way that works just for them. In the interests of good performance don’t try to make them conform to a style. Sales are about personality and I’ve seen as many gregarious sellers who are effective as quiet achievers who can get the same result. Respect their individual skills and don’t make them follow a process that is contrary to their existing strengths. Sales training is about enhancing what they do well as much as learning new things to implement.
Above all, don’t go it alone. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel in terms of effective training programs and you don’t need to carry the training out all by yourself. Outside resources can help you with setting up an initial program and I know many owners who delegate the responsibility of making sure programs are followed through regularly. Often it’s best to bring in the experts leaving yourself freed up to do what you do best within your business.