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Sue Witkowski

Training for successful sales

Author: Sue Witkowski, 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


4th Mar 2014


Since launching the very popular linear track with recirculating ball carriage (DA0115RC), we have received a few questions about fixing the carriage to panels.

This product has proved to have many different types of applications, so we asked our engineering department for a couple of options depending on the panel thickness.

Each carriage has 2 x M5 studs and the two options illustrated show the use of a connector bolt and a Nyloc nut. These are freely available and can be bought from your own fastening supplier.

Please email your technical questions to marketingeurope@accuride.com.

Helle Kinning

Intelligent lifestyle solutions: Häfele Functionality

Author: Helle Kinning, Marketing and distribution support specialist


2nd Jan 2014


Accuride seized the opportunity to have a brief chat with Mr José Lorca at the Häfele Head Office in Nagold, Germany. Mr Lorca is the Head of Product Management.

There’s a lot of talk in the B2B sector about Social Media and how it could be used beneficially – the same as in the B2C market. What is Häfele's take on that matter? Do you use it to communicate with your existing and new clients; how do you keep control of messages across the world and what do you get out of it?

Häfele already started with the "Easy-Link" web-shop in the 90s, which was quite new in those days for the B2B market.

Social Media is a megatrend and of course also offers great potential for Häfele.

We see our profiles in social networks as a way to expand our service and to talk to both new and existing customers.

The Häfele organizations around the world use Social Media and we can listen and react to our customer’s needs wherever they are.

Has Häfele seen any new business opportunities during the recent recession and how have you benefitted?

This has been a difficult time for people.

But those who have some savings would rather invest it in something lasting, something they can use in their everyday life, rather than sit and wait and see what’s going happen.

So they decided to spend their money on a new kitchen installation, for example, or perhaps added an extension to their house

What are the new emerging furniture/house/building trends & designs in Germany? How does Häfele respond to them; do they follow the trends or even create completely new ones? Do they have special research/new product development teams?

The trend for the past four to five years has been to combine various aspects of living space, for example, the kitchen and living room.

There has been a social change - life is more combined if you know what I mean. People work from home so they want to have a practical office that could turn into a living space or a bedroom.

At the same time, space gets more and more expensive. People are moving from villages to towns where space is also limited, so we can offer very smart and compact design solutions for every home. For example, your office desk can be turned into a bed in just a few seconds!

I would definitely say that we create the trends and not just follow them.

The turning point was Interzum 2007 when we started showing our products in lifestyle environments. We built real-life scenarios of a bedroom or kitchen where all the components were cleverly displayed. People came to our stand and found it easy to imagine how it could look in their own homes. We started offering not just a product but intelligent lifestyle solutions. We named it Häfele Functionality.

Häfele has its own product development teams and factories. We celebrate our 90th anniversary this year and have reached a 1 billion Euro turnover worldwide.

What is your favourite innovation from Häfele and why?

Oh, there are so many of them!

I think one of them has to be this office desk that magically turns into a bed, also our new swing up lift fitting ‘Free flap’.

You really need to visit our exhibition stands to see the concepts for yourself. These are all actually very simple and easy-to-install systems - but often the smartest things in life are simple!

Are there any completely new markets opening up that Häfele would like to get involved in?

Definitely Eastern Europe, India, China and Turkey. All these markets are rapidly growing and offering opportunities too good to miss.

So far, I would say our Dialock electronic lock system has opened new markets for us where we weren't involved before.

What is your strategy to protect good quality products like yours from the onslaught of cheap competition from the Far East?

EU legislation, which issues laws for certain quality standards and product life guarantees, supports to maintain quality standards.

But companies need to be savvy and astute. We obviously patent our innovations and invest in development. You always need to stay a few steps ahead of your competition for survival.

Brand name and what it stands for really counts. Customers want to feel safe when they purchase and have trust in the company they are buying from. We are also careful when we select our business partners and suppliers, such as Accuride.

Are there any new laws coming into force that Häfele could take advantage of?

From 1st July, you need to certify that your architectural products are fulfilling the EU standards* and that you follow them.

Manufacturing companies have to make a declaration of performance for the end user, which assures the quality standard.

In your role, what are your aims and objectives for Häfele?

I have been with Häfele for many years now. I enjoy being an innovator and to push innovations. My motivation is to see happy customers and to contribute to better solutions for furniture fittings and architectural hardware. (big smile)


.
*Construction products regulation EU No. 305/2011.

Helle Kinning

Business opportunities – a growing market in India

Author: Helle Kinning, Marketing and distribution support specialist


30th Oct 2013


While a lot of English and Indians were glued to the TV, watching the “Ashes” cricket, Accuride managed to have a brief catch-up with our local Indian distributor VRVS from Hyderabad. Mr V B Manoj gave us a brief update on the exploding market in India.

Mr Manoj, please tell us a brief history of your company; what sectors are you involved in and what products do you sell?

We have 3 divisions; firstly we distribute various electrical components. Secondly we do contract work and thirdly we have an operation and maintenance business. We provide technical services and employ about 500 people but I plan to take the business on a new level and hopefully have around 2000 people working for us.

That is very ambitious! What are the main growth industries and markets in India? Has there been a change in the past 5 years?

I think the current GDP growth is about 6%. The growing industries are power, consumer retail, white goods, infra-structure and housing. But I tell you - in India almost everything is growing! If you don't mind me saying, it is like a "New China" but most of the manufacturing is for the exploding local market and not just for exporting.

That leads me to the next question, that why would foreign companies come to India? Is it just about a cost effective labour?

Yes and no. The labour costs are obviously more attractive than Central Europe but as I said, most of the production is actually for providing the local market needs. The largest age group in India is between 25-40 years, which is obviously the most productive working age, so we have the right kind of people to do the work.

What are the biggest social and cultural differences lets say between India and Western Europe? Any examples?

Networking, networking, networking! Connections are important. I think India is actually extremely conservative. We have lots of manufacturing and are the world’s largest producers of steel.

Another difference is the use of internet which is not used as widely by everybody as in Europe. It is growing, but not everyone has access.

The most important household item in India is… a good old TV! People may be living in the poorest home but they have a TV in the corner. That brings me to the next huge difference between Europe and India - the B2B markets advertise themselves on TV but in Europe it is mainly aimed at the consumer market.

TV has also changed purchasing behaviour and as a result more and more people are using online shopping.

What advice would you, as a local, offer to Westerns companies who are interested in coming to trade in India?

We have a huge market potential and new markets. Why not produce a product for the local market that perhaps doesn’t exist in India yet? That is a great opportunity.

You are such an enthusiastic person, what is your motto in life?

Be good and do good!

VRVS Electrical Solutions Pvt Ltd
www.vrvsonline.com

Sue Witkowski

Is your home office as comfortable as it should be?

Author: Sue Witkowski, Marketing services manager


15th Oct 2013


You may work from home, have children playing video games, or have a workstation in a spare corner. It is unusual to find a desk and chair that will suit everyone in the family and often laptops or gaming consoles are used while sitting on the sofa.

We all need to be comfortable. I know that if I sit for too long in one position that I get very stiff. If I slouch around on the sofa, I get neck and back ache.

It is obvious that poor posture can cause back problems, but there could be other issues with neck, arms, hands and eyes.

For example, just sitting with pressure on the back of your knees and thighs can restrict blood flow – think about how this affects small children sitting on your office chair with their legs swinging clear of any support.

Sore eyes or headaches can also result from poor positioning of a screen or bad lighting.

When a computer is set up in your work environment it is normally subject to health and safety regulations related to working with Display Screen Equipment (DSE). But how many of us think of this when we buy a PC or laptop for use at home?

Does your home office desk and workstation suit the whole family?

We are not suggesting that the regulations apply to you at home (unless you are employed as a home worker, in which case refer to your own employer’s health and safety policy). But it makes sense to make sure that your family is not at risk when using a PC, laptop or gaming console in the home.

Making the computer comfortable for a 5 year old to use as well as an adult takes some planning.

Here are some suggestions.....

Adjust your chair height so that your feet are flat on the floor. This will keep 90° angles at your ankle, knees, hips and elbows. The arms should hang from the shoulder in a relatively relaxed position allowing the forearm to be nearly horizontal and your wrists in a neutral position. Try and keep your lower back supported, but also shift your position regularly or stand up and move around so you don’t become stiff.

place mouse near to keyboardAlter the height of your chair or desk to get this right. If you don’t have this adjustability, consider using a height adjustable keyboard tray and footrest.

Don’t let your children’s feet dangle in mid-air – use a box or low stool as a footrest.

Place mouse near keyboard. Place it nearby and easy to reach to keep your shoulder and arm relaxed. You may also want to have the option of using the mouse on the either side of the keyboard.

Keep your screen about 600mm away from your face. When seated correctly and looking straight forward you should be looking at the top edge of the monitor surround. (A telephone directory makes a very good screen stand or footrest.)

If your desk is too narrow you can use a keyboard arm or tray to move you away from the screen.

Try to reduce any unwanted glare in the screen by re-positioning the lighting.

Laptops

You’ve spent all day at work sitting at a computer then you come home and get the laptop out on your lap playing computer gamesor on the coffee table. Or possibly you’re on a business trip and using the laptop in your hotel room.

I bet that wherever you are using a laptop that you are stooping over it with your shoulders hunched and hands cramped together on the keyboard.

Consider investing in a desk and chair. Put your laptop on a stand and use a separate keyboard and mouse. This will help to get the screen to the correct height and place all the components in a much better position for you to use.

If you’re relaxing on a sofa you may find that a laptop table or tray will make you more comfortable.

Video games

Often people play video games with their head pushed forward and shoulders rounded.

If you or your children are spending time playing computer games then it is probably worth while investing in a better chair or lumber or arm supports. There’s plenty of advice around on the web and the cost of these items is nothing compared to the gaming equipment or your family’s health.

Finally, remember that even an ‘ideal’ posture will become uncomfortable if held without variety for long periods.

There’s lots of good advice on the internet about good posture and ergonomic products. You may also wish to refer to the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work for more information. https://osha.europa.eu.

Images courtesy of Sixninepixels and Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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