6 Vital Factors for Successful Sales Staff Training

Only read of you want to succeed

There is no doubt that a professionally produced and effectively executed sales and customer service training program can dramatically improve the results of your tire and auto service business. Improved customer relations and retention, increased employee productivity with higher sales win rates, less discounting, and more profitable sales are just a few key benefits of a successful training initiative. 

Unfortunately, countless tire and auto service businesses spend precious time and considerable dollars on team training that doesn’t produce the desired gains and ultimately fails. There are a variety of reasons for this.

With that in mind, here are my six vital factors to ensure your sales staff training is successful:

1) Match the Program to the Business and Needs

Often a tire/auto service business will conduct a training program, either internally or with an outside resource, and participants come away feeling that the content does not apply to them or their role. This disconnect is a recipe for disaster.

To maximize benefits and overall success, it is critical that a training program is directly applicable to your business and participating personnel. Accordingly, the training must go well beyond the conceptual and provide practical real-world strategies, processes, and techniques that directly apply to the performance challenges your sales and service associates are facing.

Since revenue is primarily driven at the point-of-sale, special focus should be on communication skills and process training to effectively manage face-to-face and phone sales interactions with customers and potential customers.

2) Engagement From Day-1

Any type of training is only as good as the trainer providing it. For training to produce meaningful performance improvements, participants must first be engaged with the trainer. Many otherwise good programs fail because participating personnel were not really engaged, became bored and tuned out long before any real gains were made.

When considering an investment in training, you should make who will be facilitating the program a priority. Often owners and executive managers will sweat the what and where particulars of training and give relatively little consideration to the importance of who will be conducting their program.

Seeking a solution, an existing employee will often be appointed to conduct training. This arrangement presents a significant challenge as this person is already perceived, for better or worse, as something else in the business. Typically, the tasked individual is an existing manager and, although they may be outstanding in that role, training facilitation is almost never their primary purpose or skill-set. Naturally, their well-intentioned efforts don’t carry the weight, nor have the desired impact, with employees as would a reputable training authority from outside of the company.

If you cannot sense employee engagement with the trainer during the first training, that’s a clear warning sign you’re heading down the wrong path and quite likely doomed to fail. In a nutshell: engagement first, everything else second.

Full Disclosure: My business provides training and coaching support for many of the very best “Top Shop” tire/auto service businesses in North America. It is no accident that the first element in my Pinnacle Performance Credo is ENGAGE.

3) Make Sure Participants Understand the Why

For successful training, it is critical that participating employees understand the why behind what is being taught. Accordingly, one of the first things I tell all my training students is, “If you want to know how to sell more, than you better know why customers buy.”

Although a well-designed sales process is essential, often salespeople are simply taught the steps of what to do without truly understanding the why of the strategy and the psychology behind the process. This typically creates a counterproductive situation of compliance with employees applying the sales process only because it is company policy, rather than buying-in and truly understanding the meaning of the principles that support the process.

4) Be Consistent

If you’re looking to succeed at the highest level, sales/customer service training should be a consistent part of your corporate culture.

All too often sales/customer service training is treated as an event. A business conducts in-house training and, assuming it was good, participants get energized with new insight, techniques, and tools. With no real follow-up program in place, participants soon fizz out and return (at varying speeds) to the same level of performance they were at prior to training.

Training research has revealed that without ongoing reinforcement, 90% of what is learned is forgotten within 60-90 days. Like physical fitness, it doesn’t matter how good your workout at the gym is today. If you don’t continue to exercise on a consistent basis, you will never truly get in – and stay in – shape.

A big part of the problem is many owners and managers adopt a been-there-done-that attitude when it comes to sales/customer-service training. It sounds simplistic, but the fact is training works with consistent training. The science of training confirms that true ownership of learning is created with consistent exposure, reinforcement and application of the skills over time. Recognizing this, world-class sales and customer service companies typically engage their employees in 100 or more hours of training in their first year in addition to regular ongoing training in the years ahead.

5) Stay the Course

Staying the course goes hand-in-hand with consistency but deserves separate acknowledgment. Like the proverbial kid in the backseat saying “Are we there yet?,” many business owners and managers view training as a destination with the goal of getting there.

Training should not be viewed as a destination but rather as an evolution. All too often, businesses will engage in “flavor of the month” training – never fully developing any one area, much less institutionalizing the principles and processes – before moving in a different direction.

Imagine this: You play for a professional football team… let’s go with the New England Patriots under head coach Bill Belichick. Do you practice regularly? Of course. Do you practice at the game? Of course not, you practice for the game. What do you think the odds are that one day at practice coach Belichick will say something like: “Hey guys, many of you have been practicing these same plays for a few seasons now. I think we all got it… no need to practice that stuff anymore. Starting today, we’re going to practice basketball.”

Odds of that happening are exactly zero, yet many business owners and sales managers do it regularly. They switch things up, fumble the ball, and ultimately miss the end zone.

This lack of focus directly correlates to reason No. 2, disengagement, with participating personnel not trusting the business will stay the course and see any program to fruition. If management demonstrates they are not fully committed to stay the course with a successful program, then they shouldn’t expect their employees to be fully committed as they continue to introduce new initiatives to the mix.

Proper training is an ongoing process of continuous professional development. Just like a professional sports team, your team must regularly practice and work on their game through a disciplined and committed training program if they are to consistently win in – and for – your business.

6) Measure Performance

This last reason is perhaps the most important. Very few tire/auto service businesses actually evaluate the effectiveness of their sales training. Without proper evaluation, it’s quite difficult to determine performance and hold salespeople accountable for changing and improving their behavior to improve results.

The best way to measure the effectiveness of sales training is to evaluate interactions at the point-of-sale. As referenced in reason No. 1, special focus should be on evaluating your sales staff’s process performance on incoming  customer sales calls.

It’s important to note that many tire/auto service businesses are already recording their incoming customer calls. If yours is that’s great, but you’re only halfway there. The other half – the more important half – is evaluating those calls on how well your sales associates are executing the established selling system.

In the case of my tire/auto service clients, we use award-winning call recording software with tailored scorecards to evaluate and measure every element of the Pinnacle sales process. Armed with the evaluation data, we can then pinpoint precisely where a sales associate is weak or missing key elements and provide the coaching to improve their sales/customer service performance. Details here > Measuring Training

As renowned management consultant Peter Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” That is certainly true of sales and customer service training and there’s no better way than evaluating sales associates performance at the point-of-sale on actual customer calls. 

Steve Ferrante

Learn more about successful sales/customer service training for your team here > Pinnacle Performance Training