Customers are changing and the ways in which they are buying are very different from a decade ago. T21 managing director Paul Laville gives us his thoughts on why sales staff must adapt to the challenges and understand what it is that motivates buyers today
It’s 9.20am and our sales trainees for the day are filing into the training room. Among the warm smiles and polite handshakes, we hear a few grumbles: “What time does this finish, mate, only I’ve got to be out of here by three o’clock.” “We’re not doing role play are we?” “Don’t even know why I’m here, to be honest.”
There are always a few. But we don’t mind the grumbles. In a way, it’s a perfectly natural response, particularly if the trainee has been ordered to attend by the management.
For new starters, it’s different. Sales training is part of their induction. But for anyone who’s been in their job for many years, it’s often difficult to understand why the boss has selected them to attend a sales training course.
Some may feel they’re being targeted for underachievement, and worry that their jobs could be in jeopardy. Many more simply feel that they know everything there is to know and so the training is an inconvenience – a disruption to their routine they feel they could do without.
However, provided the training has been put together with the trainee’s and the business’s best interests at heart, there’s nothing to worry about. Whether you’re being asked to sign up for an online course or head off to a hotel in the sticks, training shouldn’t be seen as a burden. It is an opportunity to increase your knowledge, your expertise and your value, to discover more about your abilities than you ever knew, and to equip yourself with new and sharpened tools that will empower you to be even better than you already are.
In many industries, attending soft-skills training is a vital part of the job requirement. In banking and finance, media sales, property and car sales, call centres and many other sectors of retail, sessions are carried out quarterly, monthly, sometimes even weekly, as part of an ongoing development programme. There is always room for more knowledge and greater development.
The electrical retail industry is driven by innovation and constant change. We know that products and technology change rapidly, but so too do customers and their buying habits. Customers are much more informed these days and can compare prices with the tap of an app – you’ve probably seen them in-store doing just that.
It wasn’t like that 10 years ago, so if you’re still selling to people the same way you did back in the pre-smartphone days, then the chances are you’re losing sales.
Which means that your business is losing revenue and its profile among your customer base is diminishing. There’s a danger that your shop is no longer being seen as a destination and people are shopping elsewhere.
But what can you do when more and more people push you for a discount? How do you sell the value of a thing rather than have customers tell you repeatedly that it costs more to buy from you than it does online? How do you sell to customers who just seem to be using your store as a showroom for something you know they’ll end up buying off the internet?
Understanding why customers behave in certain ways, and what you can do to influence them, is a core component of great sales training, and taking advantage of any training opportunity you’re given will only help you.
Maybe you lost a few sales recently. A few customers said “let me think about that” and walked out, never to return. Why? Was it the customer’s fault for wasting your time? In a previous column, I suggested there is no such thing as a time-waster, so if the customer walked out then it’s most likely because of something you said, or didn’t say. Attending a training session will help you identify exactly why that happened and take positive action to stop it happening again.
If training helps you convert just one more customer every day, then it’s working to help you become more productive, more efficient and, as such, more valuable to the business. You’re one step closer to realising your true potential. That benefits not just your employer and your customers, but you too. These are now your skills – this is your expertise that you’re building.
Which leads me on to this final thought. If your manager has asked you to attend some sales training, it’s because they’re investing in you and your development within the business. They’re investing in your career. Yes, of course they want you to sell more, and sell more profitably, and be more productive and efficient, but if they didn’t think you were worth it, they wouldn’t be spending the money on you.
So if you’ve been asked to attend a training session in a hotel 40 miles away, or register for an online training course, don’t see it as an imposition and don’t feel threatened or insecure. See it as an opportunity to grab something that will help you raise your game and be the best that you can be.