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Sue Witkowski

Training for successful sales

Author: , Marketing services manager


24th Mar 2014


It seems obvious that if you want someone to sell your product then you must give them the tools with which to do it.

Accuride’s distribution network covers all of Europe and employs well over 1,000 sales representatives on our behalf. We want our customers to buy the correct slide for their project, so keeping our distributors up to date with our products is vital. They need to be able to understand our products and be able to specify them into a huge variety of markets and applications.

One-off training just won’t do. We are always introducing new products and discovering new markets so we need to be training continually.

We make certain that our distributors are experts on our product line and that the end customers have full confidence in them.

It is not only front line sales who need in-depth knowledge about Accuride and our products. The distributor telesales and customer services staff are also included in training sessions.

Accuride’s regional sales managers all take direct responsibility for training their own distributors. This strengthens the relationships between the staff on both sides. We will go to their premises and organise hands-on training, which will be tailored depending on the expertise and job function of the group.

Product training is just one part of Accuride’s sales success, but we think it’s an important one.

Some tips for successful training

The follow can be applied to most product training. I hope that you find it helpful.

  • Adult learners gain through two-way communication - encourage discussion through interactive sessions such as case studies and role-playing.
  • Adults learn what they see as useful to them in their situation and that are related to problems they face daily - make the content and materials relevant
  • Use their experiences as part of the sessions – this will encourage them to be involved
  • Adults are likely to have fixed points of view that can make them closed to new ways of thinking; get discussions going between you and the group and within the group
  • Make the surroundings comfortable and informal to put everyone at their ease. You should be well prepared and relaxed

Using slide presentations

Although slide shows can be useful, don’t be a slave to the screen.

Your audience cannot listen to you, look at a sample and read the slide at the same time. Add blank slides where you think you may stop to look at samples or discuss an issue or invite examples from the floor. PowerPoint is ideal for showing pictures and creating a lesson structure, but can also be boring for an audience.

Consider using flip charts for more interactive sessions.

Using training aids and hand-outs

  • Don’t have too much on the desk or on show
  • Keep the product hidden or use cloths to keep items covered during introductions
  • Only introduce items that are relevant to that session
  • Don’t pass around a product sample and continue to talk; make a statement – pass around the examples and encourage the group to discuss it. Once the discussions have come to an end, make a statement or ask a closed question to conclude the point and remove the sample from view. You can then move on
  • Hand-outs should be given at the end of a session, unless you are referring directly to them
  • Catalogues -the only time that you use these during training is when referring directly to them – make sure that the whole class is looking at the correct page.

Case studies

Use case studies from their experiences. You may find that they already have some problems or queries that you can use in class as a group discussion to find the solution.

You can also make some up to illustrate particular points and introduce role playing if you think that it will be useful and welcome. Have some case studies or application problems ready for the class to discuss.

How do I know if the training is successful?

Be clear about the objective and make sure that every point made leads to that objective.

Be clear, precise and get confirmation that each point has been understood by the group. If the session is a series of building blocks then ensure that each block is understood before moving on. Use questioning, discussion, case studies and working examples to check understanding.

Questioning is the most usual way of checking on understanding. An ‘open’ question calls for an answer which draws on experience, knowledge and judgement – often beyond the confines of the class.

When training, you need to get the audience interested and involved, so make sure that you use every opportunity to get their opinion or experience by using conversation starters or open questions.

Be sure that you know why you are asking questions (does the question meet the lesson objective?), know the answers, be sure that the students’ ideas will not be dismissed and that you can control any ensuing discussions.

You may wish to use a questionnaire to find out if your audience has found your training useful.

Lesson plans

  • Be aware of the group you are training and plan appropriately
  • Think about your objective for each session
  • Write it down in one clear sentence. This will stop you from trying to do too much and will keep your plan to the point
  • Think about the method you will use to teach this subject. For example, do you need to do a re-cap on any points prior to the main session? Consider the type of discussions you want to develop and make sure that you have the application examples ready
  • Collect together the training aids, e.g. samples, hand-outs, catalogues
  • What audio visual equipment do you need?

Summary

1. Understand your audience
Assess your audience; group size, interest and level of knowledge. Agree with your customer beforehand what result(s) you need to achieve at the end of the session.

2. Prepare the content
Structure the key messages, pulling together the relevant information. Decide on the correct visual aids, hand-outs and demo units to put across the information.

3. Create the right environment
Get the location right and be well prepared to present in that location.

4. Work on your performance
Identify what your personal style/strengths are. Understand how to build rapport with your audience. Work on voice projection and handling questions.

Photo: Geoffrey Whiteway, freerangestock.com

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