Everyone’s gone through sales training. As a new copier rep, you’re going to be trained in the ways of selling, according to your new employer.
To be certain, there are thousands of sales training classes, courses, programs and coaches in the ecosystem. Selling has been happening since the dawn of time and people have been teaching others how to sell for just as long. There is no lack of generic and professional selling curriculum – some may argue there is too much.
Your employer’s sales training program has been either developed in-house, outsourced to a training company, or a combination of both. It is your duty to understand their “proven” process, learn how they expect you to sell, and do so in the field.
It is your personal responsibility to improve yourself with this training. My recommendation is to think of the corporate program as a base, or platform for growth – not the end-all of your experiential sales journey.
The point of sales training is to help you sell. This is partially correct. Closer to the truth, sales training, in the dealer channel, is designed to help you sell your dealer’s stuff – it is what you signed up to do.
Regardless, all training is good training and the skills you acquire today are transferable to future employers.
I’d like to illuminate some issues around the three types of sales training:
- Vendor supported sales classes
- Outside or independent sales classes
- Homegrown, internal selling classes
Each type, at a minimum, covers three broad subjects:
- Product/Service Knowledge
- How to Engage Prospects
- The Selling Conversation
Take your seat, enjoy the donuts, try to stay awake right after lunch and soak up as much as you can.
Vendor supported training sessions
Most OEM or software training programs are zero cost to your dealer, so expect to see many folks come in to train you on their specific offerings. When a vendor or OEM hosts a training session they may cover cold calling, needs analysis, recommendation and proposal generation, and implementation tactics. But they will certainly cover their device specifications, the software that works with their devices and how to position their solutions as the best alternative.
I believe knowing how a device works from the end-user perspective is helpful. But understanding every single function and feature, which button does what and how a paper document becomes digital is more minutia than relevance. Yes, as a selling professional you must know the green button means go, etc. I call this “mechanical training” – the ability to push buttons, twist knobs and click mice is obligatory but will not create passion within your prospect.
When your instructor is demonstrating a feature, dig in deeper and ask, “What is the business impact of this feature?” The answer is the thing, not the function.
Your OEM’s agenda is to position his products in the best light, ultimately matching their specifications with every prospect’s requirements. Learn with a grain of salt; they’re selling hammers and every prospect is a nail.
How to Engage Prospects
Better selling systems suggest talk tracks starting with the cold call and moving through the cycle. Because manufacturers’ primary concerns are moving units, customer engagement usually revolves around the product demonstration.
Pay attention here. I’m not a big fan of demonstrating a copier, but as a new rep, you’ve got to possess working knowledge of a copier, any copier. So, get what you can out of the manufacturer’s demonstration.
The Selling Conversation
Most OEMs will echo basic selling techniques like building trust through bond and rapport, using open-ended questions, asking for a budget, obtaining existing costs, return on investment trial closing, and the like.
Outside training programs
When an outside sales trainer is hired to come in and present to the sales team, usually you’ll receive basic to advanced selling training. This may include the study of complex sales, prospecting strategies, deep dives into needs assessments, high-end presentations and sharing proven selling standards.
Good outside selling coaches will be familiar with your company, products and services in order to apply relevancy around this conversation. Beyond connecting the dots between the curriculum and your company’s mission, arguments are pretty neutral and apply professional selling across any industry. This is good stuff.
There usually isn’t much depth here because the concepts presented are relationship-based versus device-centric.
How to Engage Prospects
The better trainers have seen many successful and unsuccessful programs. This gives them insight into how the world of selling moves and what processes are most profitable.
When they speak about cold calling, prospect research, social media, presenting to groups, generating content and building your brand, listen. Their view is not myopic and content a mosaic of hundreds of selling professionals.
I’ve come to understand the best sales trainers have a proven, successful system and process, built over time.
These systems are easy to understand and follow and include scripts, tactics, techniques and a documented process. Pay attention and adapt the process into your daily routine. You can find an example of a good process (The Submarine) at Sandler Training.
The Selling Conversation
The talk tracks and knowledge transfer at this level is premium. Most coaches have experience from the trenches – the better consultants get in the field as often as possible to stay relevant.
Again, a well-developed process will help you talk with prospects at a higher level, elevating your approach, confidence and effectiveness in front of business owners and decision makers.
This is a tactical situation, hand to hand, belly to belly. Insight on good conversation is the point here – learning about pacing, open ended questions, mirroring, listening, isolating objections and empathy are valuable skills that will be with you forever.
It is good to hear ideas around digging out needs, decision process, budget, timing, organizational challenges and earning the right to ask for the business.
The best sales consultants explain the selling experience from 10,000 down to two feet; from the salesperson’s perspective to that of the prospect.
Take the technical prowess of OEMs, the business impact of software providers, decades of local, significant sales history, merge all this experience and one creates a specific, relevant training program. This is the potential of homegrown sales training systems.
Internally developed sales systems are powerful because they are designed to support the specific goals of the dealership.
A hybrid training system is the best, if by “the best” you mean best for the dealer – as it should be
There is no doubt that this model is perfect for the multiline dealership for product knowledge. Even if the dealership handles 20 different manufacturers, the sales team can receive training on all the different types of devices – under one roof, from one trainer.
This is one of the best reasons for homegrown sales training –copier, printers, scanners, wide format, production, workflow solutions, software, document management and IT services are all covered. Indeed, internal resources, like production specialists and other subject matter experts are all under the same roof, the same company. The best opportunity for learning how to turn functions into benefits is inside your organization. Take advantage of your internal resources.
How to Engage
Once again, company history is an excellent source of past successes and failures. Home-grown sales training programs incorporate programs developed around and in support of the company’s overall goals.
Only your company can do this. Pay attention to how you are expected to speak with prospects. How is your company marketed to the world? What does your firm think about the competitive landscape, customer service, prospect profiles, contracts, leases, and the overall industry?
One cautionary statement: The company introduction is typically considered the most important talk track in the program. I have been party to hundreds of presentations, from the prospect side of the table, and I can tell you, prospects are being polite when feigning interest in your company when the introduction exceeds one slide of your slide deck.
Get to the point, use three bullet points and move on.
The Selling Conversation
Here is where you can get the best advice from seasoned colleagues. Internal sales classes should include discussions with senior sales staff with topics ranging from knocking on doors, and opening phone conversations. Specifically, look to gain insight from your most experienced selling professionals in the following:
How to perform a cold phone call.
How to design a prospecting system.
How to read your prospect’s demeanor and interest levels.
How to organize a meeting.
How to recognize real buying signals.
How to work the CRM.
How to “manage the manager.”
How to find all the influencers and decision makers.
Setting up the right to ask for the business.
How to ask for the order.
Those who have gone before know more than we. Capitalize on the wisdom of the ages and use the knowledge to evolve your personal wisdom.
In the end, acumen. (Bonus point)
The key to reaching the pinnacle of professional selling, is knowing how businesses work. It’s about being skilled in the art of recognizing workflow, inefficient processes, costly practices and tasks that reduce employee happiness.
This is business acumen. The ability to see a business from multiple perspectives with knowledge from diverse industries.
Few, if any training systems, talk about business acumen. Why are few people discussing the need for good salespeople to acquire business acumen? Because it is a concept above speeds and feeds, software capabilities and closing techniques.
Now, more than ever, salespeople must be more than a numbers person. Trust levels are at an all-time low, which is perfect for those who can help organizations, not “sell” things.
There is a great saying, “Stop selling and start solving.” I don’t know who coined the phrase, but in the post-Covid world, there is no truer statement.
Take the highest performer on your team to lunch and ask for advice, counsel and help honing your skills and committing to your craft.
Good luck, sell on !