When is employee training the right solution for low sales productivity?

When we see low sales productivity, how do we address the root cause? Do we focus on product knowledge or sales training? Read more our our perspective

We have seen small and big retailers go through the following exercise:

When we see low sales productivity, more employee training is provided. Employees get equipped with more product knowledge and the company’s existing sales training is reinforced.

There are two things to consider when going down this road:

Is product knowledge really the issue that causes low sales productivity?

I know that product knowledge is a key component of being a good sales person. It is obvious that if I don’t know my product I will most often fail in closing the sale and fail at providing a good customer experience. Having high product knowledge gives me and my clients confidence in the future of the business relationship.

Strong product knowledge however, is more of a hygiene factor. It is almost certain that if I lack product knowledge I will be a below average sales person, however, having strong product knowledge is not predictive of strong sales. It is more of a necessity and a job requirement rather than a performance enhancer.

So, if I provide reactive product knowledge training as a fix for low sales productivity, more often than not I have not identified the root cause of the product knowledge problem. The root cause might be in the original training design, on-boarding process or even worse, have nothing to do with the Product knowledge of the sales team.

Related Article: Best Practices for Effective Onboarding of New Hires

The consequences of getting the team to go through this training exercise without identifying the root cause of the problem are:

  • Creating distrust and hurting the credibility of my company
  • Lower morale and disengagement at the training sessions
  • Lower sales productivity and loss of sales because of time spent away from selling
  • Over a long-period of time it can impact the company culture and make it acceptable for employees to be reactive and have low attention to detail

Will sales training target the current gaps in performance?

If the team has already been put through sales training, then I operate under the assumption that they are familiar with the sales process. Sales is both a science and an art. Sales training is usually aimed at teaching the science component. The art component gets developed over time and it takes coaching, experience and one-on-one attention.

If the gap is in the teams’ understanding of the sales process (the science component) then putting them through the existing sales training again should add some value. The bigger question though is why did it take two training sessions to gain understanding? And will the second session accomplish what the first one didn’t?

Training in itself only holds value if it is reinforced and applied in our day-to-day activities. If I have to put my team through the same training twice then I wonder if there are gaps in the follow-up process, the sales management, or if the training itself needs a redesign. I would probably scrutinize the above mentioned components before committing to another employee training session.

Does the team believe the sales process makes a difference?

Another cause of low sales productivity might be the teams’ trust in the existing sales process. If the team doesn’t believe that the current sales process makes a difference or helps in any way, they resort back to their previous experience, history or own knowledge of sales.

The challenge with this is that your customers will be treated differently in every store and the consistency of the customer experience will diminish. Aside from that, the team will no longer be committed to the same process, which will allow for a spontaneous culture change. Losing control over your sales culture can be both dangerous and costly.

Related Article: Proactive Hiring vs Settling for the Best Available Candidate

To sum it up, I do believe sales and product knowledge training are key components to a strong sales culture and are a necessity for an engaged team. A few things I can do to eliminate the possibility of making the above mentioned mistakes are:

  • Listen to my team. Get their feedback on the current training programs and processes. They live and breathe these every day, they will provide the truest feedback.
  • Involve my sales team in the design of the training program. Not only is their feedback necessary, they will feel a sense of pride and ownership in the program itself. They will  become the biggest ambassadors of that program.
  • Ensure that every level of management goes through the training program. For a program to work, there needs to be alignment across the whole department.
  • Follow-up on the behaviours and actions learned in training, not the results.
  • Recognize good behaviour as well as good results. Do not recognize good results without the right behaviour attached to it.

There are many other things to consider when discovering the cause of low sales productivity. In my next article I will explore how poor discipline impacts sales.

About Retailors Group

The team at Retailors Group has over 15 years of retail sales and field marketing experience. Retailors Group takes the time to understand your brand and align your core values into a tailor made solution that builds a long lasting relationship with your consumers.

We offer services in Experiential Field Marketing, On-site Sales Assist, Retail Management and Digital Marketing.

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