Training That Wasn’t

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Have you ever really trained your people? I don’t mean some of this stuff that is out on the market that is purported to be training; I mean really training. Every third call to my office is a dealer calling and telling me “we’ve tried training our salespeople, but it didn’t stick,” or reporting that it is impossible to train salespeople.

If you don’t think salespeople can be trained, you may as well extend that to all humans. When I ask these same dealers what they’ve done, many times they’ve simply sent some of their people to a seminar or workshop or something along those lines. Seminars and workshops definitely have a place and that place is normally education or creating momentum for a training initiative. For training to be effective, three elements need to be present. Education, Simulation and Accountability. If you don’t have a strategy for accomplishing all three of those things, you don’t have training.

Let me give you some sports analogies that make this easier to understand. I can watch golf all day long on TV. I can understand what it looks like when somebody plays well. I understand golf; hence I’m educated in golf. That doesn’t make me a good golfer. If I want to become a good golfer, I have to hit bucket after bucket after bucket of balls for the rest of my life to get good and stay good. That’s simulation. Then I’m held accountable on a scorecard. While baseball players need to be educated in baseball and know the rules, they also go to spring training every single year. In season, they take batting and fielding practice every day. And then, in how many statistical categories are they held accountable? All of them.

Training salespeople requires the same strategy. First, you have to educate. With today’s technology, that can be accomplished online in 15 to 20 minutes per day without a manager having to take salespeople hostage in a conference room for hours on end, reciting what they think they heard someone say at the Marriott in 2004. Then you have to simulate. This can realistically be done in 5 to 7 minutes per day with a manager focusing on one or two areas during each session. So, for example, if you want to train your people on properly handling a preowned ad call on a specific vehicle, you as the manager will play the role of the customer. You would then start the call using a vehicle out of inventory. After making sure the salesperson knows how to properly answer the call, you might say something to the effect of “I’m on your website right now and you have a 2012 Honda Pilot advertised. It’s says to call for price”. You would then want the salesperson to respond exactly the way they had been taught. Maybe today we would just practice the beginning of the call a few times or until they got it right. Tomorrow you might go a little further or focus on something else. That is simulation. It doesn’t take much to notice a big improvement. Momentum and excitement build as results are seen and cars are sold.

After that, we need to hold our staff accountable. If we are specifically talking about how they handle the telephone, for example, you need to be listening to call monitoring all day every day. That’s accountability. Think about it this way; if it wouldn’t work on a sports team, it won’t work on your sales team. Listening to someone talk for any period of time, calling that training and expecting a change in behavior would be the equivalent of popping in a workout DVD, plopping down on the couch and wondering why you’re not getting in shape. You absolutely can and need to train your people. There are sustainable solutions out there that can help you get it done effectively as well as cost-effectively. Just make sure that next time, what you’re buying is really training.