Our sales staff members are a vital component to our bottom line. Constantly upgrading their skill set will not only help us have a premier sales team, but will provide invaluable opportunities for them for their entire careers. At Clark-Reliance, we have a myriad of ways that we offer ongoing education to our employees.
Clark-Reliance University offers a series of online courses and interactive training that develop “soft” skills like leadership, coaching and management, and “hard” skills like technology, welding, machining, design and engineering. We offer a multi-tiered approach to our training, blending “in-house” training with training from partners like local universities and technical schools.
“Natural born salespeople” just don’t exist. Effective selling is still a skill that must be developed. Sales training can help aspiring salespeople develop and practice the skills they need to succeed and increase their confidence level or take a seasoned salesperson and refine and update their skills.
Many are untrained
What we have learned is that there are many people in sales who have never received professional sales training. While they may be proficient at their trade, all sales professionals should be properly trained not only in the presentation, but the process of sales.
When a sales person stands in front of a potential customer, being prepared with product knowledge and a PowerPoint presentation is not enough. Training directly translates into results in the field. These components will help any salesperson in any industry:
■ Sales people need to gain a better understanding of the relationship between the buyer’s decision process and the selling process. Buyers generally adhere to a specific process.
■ Sales people need to understand the proper sequencing of sales presentations.
■ Sales training will provide improvement in the overall sales call planning. A clear commitment objective for every sales interaction is important.
■ Seek to achieve dramatic improvements in questioning and listening skills. Have your sales staff practice asking open-ended questions so you can draw out the customer’s needs from those questions. Open-ended questions can help sell the salespersons’ expertise.
■ Develop the ability to differentiate from the competition.
■ Form a common selling language between everyone. Develop an understanding of the sales sequence, common objectives, etc.
■ Make sales presentations based on solutions to the agreed upon needs of the customer. Your solutions need to address solving customer problems.
■ Increase ability to effectively gain commitment from customers. If you understand and have done a needs analysis you can gain a commitment to make the sale.
■ Document best practices of a core sales presentation. This important step documents the “best of the best.” You can incorporate some of your selling system, like commitment objectives, into your customer relationship management system. We use the customer relationship management system to capture specific accounts and contacts and to track sales opportunities and projects. In addition, a salesperson can plan their entire workflow on a daily basis.
Investing in formalized sales training is imperative and should constantly be evaluated, updated and reinforced. Quarterly sales meetings can be a venue to fine-tune your selling system. In the end, a sales training program will increase the efficiency and productivity of a sales person. This investment will help organizations remain sustainable and competitive in the long run.
Matthew P. Figgie is chairman of Clark-Reliance, a global, multi-divisional manufacturing company with sales in over 80 countries, serving the power generation petroleum, refining and chemical processing industries. He is also chairman of Figgie Capital and the Figgie Foundation, a member of the University Hospitals Board of Directors, corporate co-chairman for the 2013 Five Star Sensation, and chairman of the National Kidney Walk.
Rick Solon is president and CEO of Clark-Reliance and has more than 35 years of experience in manufacturing and operating companies. He is also the chairman of the National Kidney Foundation Golf Outing.