Training Sales Personnel
Sales organizations have their own option over the variety of methods and tools of training used for the sales force, depending on its needs and resource constraints. These salesmen training methods may be divided into two individual training methods and group training methods.
Salesmen Training: Individual Methods
Individual sales training methods are micro level training from the angle of each salesman. It is highly personalized which involves direct interaction between the trainer and the trainee. This method is most suitable where sales-force to be trained is limited and needs individual intensive attention. There are two such methods namely — on the job training and programmed instruction method.
1. On the job training
In this method, the salesman is given the opportunity of observing and performing the selling job of a typical salesman. Keen observation and active participation are two important aspects of learning the job. The trainer observes the performance of the trainee. The trainer corrects him in case of need. This method is also known as field training method.
2. Programmed instruction method
In programmed instruction method, the total subject-matter of training is broken down into chunks called ‘Frames’ — the numbered instructional units. Each frame contains specific points, questions. problems and solutions. The trainee is expected to learn through these frames by solving the problems and then verifying them with solutions. He repeats the frame till he gets correct solutions to his problems.
Salesmen Training: Group Methods
1. Induction and orientation training
When a newly appointed employee reports for work, he must be assisted to get acquainted and adjusted with work environment. Thus, it is necessary to give him a friendly welcome when he joins the organization, to get him introduced to the organization and to help him to get a general idea about the rules and regulations, working conditions, etc.
2. On-the-job training
This is considered to be the most effective method of training salesmen. Under this method, the salesperson is trained on the job at his place of work. One of the easiest ways is to give him on-the-job coaching. This enables him to get training under the same working conditions and with the same process, materials and equipment that he will be using for the job execution.
The responsibility of training may be given to his immediate supervisor who knows exactly what he should learn.
3. Off-the-job training
When the job is complicated and requires much technical information or when on-the-job experience has to be supplemented by further knowledge and experience, the employees are required to attend training courses in institutions outside the organization.
Training in a class-room is preferable as the atmosphere is congenial and there would be no fear of interruption of work. In the classroom, actual working conditions may be reproduced to enable the trainees to acquire actual-job experience.
Another increasingly popular technique of training is simulation experience. The widely used ‘case study’ method is a means of simulating experience in the classroom. Similarly, there may be group discussions, brainstorming sessions, and seminars on various problems relating to the job.
4. Organization of Lectures
Under this method, lectures by experts on various aspects of selling are organized by the firm for the benefit of the salesmen (to make the salesmen know the principles of selling). The salesmen attending the lectures take down notes of the lectures. They also take part in the group discussions, seminars and written tests that follow the lectures.
The main advantages of this method are that salesmen get exhaustive information about the products, markets, techniques of selling, etc., and it is an ideal method of imparting factual information. However, this method suffers from a serious defect. That is, lectures provide the salesmen only theoretical knowledge of salesmanship. They do not provide practical training to the salesmen.
5. Conducting of Sales Conferences and Seminars
Under this method, the salesmen are invited to attend the sales conferences at periodical intervals. In such conferences, selling techniques, selling policies of the firm, complaints received from the customers, competition faced by the firm, company’s advertising programme, difficulties faced by the salesmen, etc., are discussed.
Merits of conducting sales conferences and seminars
The chief merits of this method are given below:
- It helps the salesmen to think logically and take balanced decisions.
- It facilitates exchange of ideas and experiences among the participants. This exchange helps to broaden the knowledge of the salesmen.
- Salesmen are able to get much information about the latest techniques of selling.
- It brings administrative staff and sales staff together. This contributes to cordial relationship between the staff of the two departments.
- It helps to find out solutions by group discussions, for problems for which solutions could not be found out by each individual salesman.
However, this method also suffers from certain limitations. It is a slow and time-consuming method, besides being very expensive.
6. Supplying Sales Manuals
Under this method, sales manuals are prepared and distributed to the salesmen for their guidance. A sales manual is a book prepared by experts to meet the specific needs of the salesmen. Sales manuals contain detailed information, such as the history of the firm, description of the job, product specifications, their prices, sales policies of the firm, selling techniques, etc.
The chief advantages of this method is that the sales manuals serve as ready reference material for the salesmen at work. However, the preparation of sales manual will involve much expenditure.
7. Arranging Correspondence Training
Under this method, postal tuition to the salesmen working in different sales territories is given. The training office of the firm prepares lessons on principles and techniques of selling and sends the lessons to the salesmen by post. The salesmen study these lessons thoroughly. Doubts if any, are referred to the training office by the salesmen by post and clarifications for the doubts raised are received from the training office by post.
8. Sending the Salesmen to institutions Offering Courses on Salesmanship
Under this method, the firm sends the salesmen to institutions which conduct special courses on salesmanship. The tuition fees and other incidental expenses of the salesmen attending such courses are borne by the firm. This method is, no doubt, useful. But it is practicable only in countries like the U.S.A., the U.K. etc., where there are a large number of institutions offering specialized courses on salesmanship.
In countries like India where there are not many specialized institutions offering such courses, this method may not be suitable.
9. Arranging for Apprenticeship
Under this method, a newly appointed salesman is made to work as an apprentice under a senior salesman to learn the art of selling. The newly appointed salesman works under the senior salesman, observes his work and learns the art of salesmanship.
This method helps the salesman to observe and learn the work. But the serious drawback of this method is that some seniors may not teach all the tricks of the trade to the apprentice.
10. Arranging for Field Training
Under this method, the salesmen undergoing training accompany the trainer (i.e., an experienced senior salesman) who actually approaches the prospects with catalogues,
products, etc. The trainee salesmen observe the various steps of the sales talk made by the trainer.
The trainer, after the conclusion of his sales with the prospects, explains to the trainee salesmen the various stages in his sales talk and the selling points he emphasized during the sales talk. After this, the trainee salesmen are asked to approach the prospects and do the job of sales talk, while the trainer observes the whole process.
This gives practical training to the salesmen. However, it is a time consuming process besides being costly.
11. Provision of Visual Training
Under this method, through visual training aids, training is given to the salesmen. Visual, audio-visual and audio aids, such as slides, etc., are used to demonstrate the steps involved in the selling process to the salesmen. Pictures depicting the various stages of the work of a successful salesman are shown to others during certain hours once or twice a week. Tape recorders, record players, etc., are used to record the talks of the salesmen so as to make them improve their style of speaking.
Visual aids have the following advantages:
- Topics which cannot be made clear by explanation can be made very clear through visual aids.
- Visual aids create more interest in the trainees.
- They give some sort of practical knowledge to the trainees.
Under this method, five or seven trainee-salesmen are grouped under the chairmanship of an experienced salesman. The chairman gives problems to the trainees and the trainees try to find out the solutions to such problems and write the same on notebooks. Either the chairman or the top executives examine the answers and give instructions wherever necessary.
13. Case Discussion Method
The case discussion method is very effective because individual cases and problems are discussed between seminar executives and salesmen. Before discussing the actual cases, some hypothetical cases are framed and discussed at a higher level. The discussion is designed to involve all the salesmen with a view to finding suitable solutions. Sales trainees should identify the problems and choose specific solutions from among the different alternatives available to them.