One of the biggest challenges currently facing sales management is how to effectively and affordably train a large and/or geographically dispersed sales force. The most common ways to train a sales force on product knowledge and sales skills is through classroom training, computer-based training, sales teleconferencing or at annual or manager led sales meetings.
All of these training options have their strengths. However, these training methods are limited by inconsistent delivery of the information, expense, and the lack of feedback to management on the training effectiveness. These methods also lack a mechanism for regular product updates.
Fortunately, the power of online training makes these challenges negligible. Gone are the days when the main method of sales force training was to either rotate people through a program or close down once a year for an annual sales seminar. In these seminars, sales training would usually be crammed together with product update information and training.
Today, Web-based technology makes training easy and affordable by maximizing flexibility and effectiveness for both individuals and management. The benefits of this form of training are many, and include:
- 24-hour access. Through the Internet, access to training is available 24/7. Management can create sales skills modules, new product feature/benefit modules or product updates and then set a date for their sales team to review and test on the information. Participants can access training from their offices, homes or remote Internet locations at their convenience, at a time that best fits their schedules and maximizes comfort, reduces stress, and most importantly, allows them to sell during business hours.
- Easy management of geographically dispersed teams. Managing a geographically dispersed team is always a problem, with training being one of the more significant struggles. By employing online training programs, however, sales management can increase sales performance while balancing the time required for productivity training. Through database reporting system, they can view the progress of a participant in Great Britain as easily and quickly as a participant in California.
- Instant new product information and current product updates. Once of the biggest headaches for companies is the lag time between finalizing a new product or service and getting their sales force up-to-speed and actively selling it. Online training is like a big aspirin tablet for this headache, and can eliminate it.
When the new product or service is finalized, management can create a features/benefits module for their salespeople to complete. Depending on the complexity of the offering, salespeople could competently sell the product the next day.
- Instant results measurement. Participants can receive instant assessment of their performance at the completion of each module. They can review areas of particular interest and/or an entire module as often as they like. This will help ensure understanding and retention of the information, making them more productive salespeople.
For management, this instant feedback feature provides a method of tracking individual progress and a benchmark for individual and team success. No longer will they hear complaints from their salespeople that they aren't trained on the product or they don't know all of the features and benefits.
- Economical, low relative cost. Online training produces a strong economic savings, too. Oftentimes, airfare, hotel stays and per diem costs equal, if not surpass, the investment in actual training. With online training, these costs are eliminated. And if you are large corporation, the cost involved in simply producing printed material and sending it to the sales force can be tremendous. What's more, salespeople can remain productive in the field, serving their customers without being pulled away for training.
One of the leaders in this technology is Issaquah-based Advanced Training Solutions, and there are several other good companies in this field as well. I recommend you explore the feasibility of your company providing its sales force with online product and sales skills training as the benefits are many.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.