Each sales organisation has the option over the variety of methods and the tools of training the sales-force depending on the individual needs and the resource constraints of the organisation.
These training methods may be individual or group.
A. Individual training methods:
Individual sales methods are micro-level training methods designed from the angle of each salesman. These represent individualistic and highly personalized approach involving direct interaction between the trainer and the trainee.
Precisely, it is a rifle training approach. These methods are a must 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:
1. On the job training:
It is that method under which salesman is given the opportunity of observing and performing the selling job of a typical salesman. Keen observation and active participation are the tenets of learning on the job.
The trainee is observed while he is performing the job. The trainer corrects the trainee in case he has any pitfalls. This method being on the job is also known as field training.
2. Programmed instruction:
Programmed instruction or learning is a linear programme of instruction in which the total subject matter of training is broken down into certain chunks called ‘frames’ the numbered instructional units.
Each frame explains specific points, questions, problems and solutions. The trainee is expected to learn through these frames by solving the problems and then verifying them with the model answers or solutions. He repeats the frame till he gets correct solution or the answer.
B. Group training methods:
Group training methods are those that are employed in training the salesmen in group. Here, the trainees may be passive observers or listeners or can be active participants.
The most commonly used group training methods are:
- Role playing.
- Sensitive training.
- Sales demonstrations.
Lectures by the trainers or the branch managers to a group of say 15 to 25 salesmen is the most common method of group training. Lecturing method is more suited to teach actual information; to be effective, lectures are to be properly planned, diligently delivered and valiantly validated. Current examples, visual aids, authentic information make lecturing interesting and inspiring.
The special merits of a lecture as a method of sales training are saving in time, economy, ability to reach large group and comprehensive and organized penetration of the training material to the trainees. However, it is one way approach where trainees are passive listeners or observers.
Discussions are possible in sales training conferences. These work best in training the experienced salesmen. These can be group discussions and panel discussions. In case of group discussions 15 to 25 persons come together who are to exchange their ideas, pool experiences and work out solutions to the common problems.
The discussion matters include current selling problems such meeting price competition, meeting objections, closing sales handling claims, and adjustments and the like.
Group training discussions should be thoroughly planned to ensure due success. As far as possible allow only experienced salesmen and keep attendance voluntary.
On the other hand, in case of panel discussion, there will be a leader and four to six salesmen on the panel who follow planned discussion of a sales problem in response to questions set by the leader.
The leader presents and explains the sales problem, calls upon each member of the panel by rotation to comment. He closes the discussion and summarizes the views of the panel.
3. Role playing:
Role playing or sales dramatization is another excellent method of training a group of salesmen.
Under the method, the trainer and another salesman or salesmen working together assume and play the roles of say salesman and different types of buyers, showing the most effective method of demonstrating, clearing doubts or making complete sales presentations.
The criticisms and comments by the trainer and the members are dramatized to look like real-life situation. Usually, the situations are unrehearsed and the skilful resistance on the part of opposing roles adds to realism and effectiveness of role playing.
Role playing can be assigned to trainee salesmen. It helps to develop skill and confidence through participation where he learns by doing.
4. Sensitivity training:
Sensitivity training method is perhaps the youngest of all methods. It belongs to ‘T’ Groups a highly participative learning method whose purpose is to improve trainee’s skills in working with other people by increasing the ability to appreciate how others are reacting to one’s own behaviour, to gauge the state of relationships between others and carry out skilfully the behaviour required by the situation.
In precise terms, it aims at making the trainees more sensitive to their environment and the customer’s behaviour. It involves role playing and interacting with other member trainees so as to increase the self ability to listen and understand the customer.
There will be post-role playing analysis in case of each role with reference to motives instincts, actions, proactions, reactions and other remarks with a view to find out the rationale behind other’s behaviour and suggest the ways to adjust to the same.
Under this method, the trainer shows a salesman or group of salesmen how to present facts, meet competition, open interviews, answer objections and conduct demonstrations. Each salesman is expected to present information effectively about his company, products, policies and knowledge as to how to close the sales.
After the demonstration, the trainee salesmen may be asked questions to verify whether they have really understood the implications of the demonstration. This method of sales training cannot be effective as in case of role playing because, latter gives chance of fuller participation.