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