Training is so important, mainly because whatever you do during the training session is what your employees are going to remember and act on when they're out in the field. So if you screw up one aspect of the training session, that screw-up is going to replicate like a computer virus.
Here are eight ways in which you can improve on your retail sales training process:
1. Make It Simple
Keep your training process as simple and straightforward as possible. Remove from the program any unnecessary information that your trainees won't remember anyway if you asked them about it tomorrow. They're already learning enough - no need to bog them down with more than they need to know. Consider that periodic messages, documents, and videos can be delivered to field reps via your mobile workforce task management system. If you're successful at developing a culture where people look forward to, and utilize these tools your training can be ongoing and cost effective.
2. Don't Overwhelm Your Trainees
This goes hand-in-hand with point number one above. Don't overwhelm your trainees with the information they do need to know. A lot of field managers like to use manuals in their presentations, but your trainees won't be able to consult those manuals once they're out in the field. Keep things simple enough to remember. Confident and clear communication is more important than definitions or other mumbo-jumbo that trainees are often tasked with memorizing.
3. Avoid Acronyms
Acronyms are fine as pneumonic devices, but if they're there for trainees to remember something that can be deemed otherwise useless, then this is yet another example of unnecessary information. Focus instead on providing your trainees with the practical application drills and step-by-step processes that they are more likely to remember while in the field.
4. Give Your Trainees Opportunities for Practical Experience
It is still a surprisingly common practice for companies to train their sales force in the basement or in some other such room that is tucked away from the very hustle and bustle that they will soon be thrust into, as well as from the same customers with whom they will probably be interacting later on. Another mistake? Sticking trainees in front of a monitor in order to "learn" what to do, with a follow-up test to determine what did and didn't stick. The sales process should be fun if your trainees are ever going to be successful at it. Tell me, how is this fun?
Get your trainees out there to interact with the outside world and get their hands dirty. If you want your trainees to be able to work with the public...then you have to permit them to work with the public.
5. Don't Throw Trainees in the Deep End
How many of us have heard our managers utter "that's the way I learned! They threw me in the deep end and said 'swim!'" Yes, well, anyone who has had to listen to this blather will be pleased to hear that this isn't the most effective training method, whether or not your manager ended up excelling in spite of it. This training method is a quick way to alienate your reps, who can be made to feel embarrassed at having to learn their skills while on the job instead of being properly trained ahead of time.
Don't be stingy. Establish designated training areas that are well-lit and personable (so, again, NOT the basement), and invest the proper amount of time, energy, and resources that are necessary to providing the best possible learning environment for your trainees. It's true that you will only get from this process what you put into it, and you truly do get what you pay for.
Nothing kills a sale faster than an employee who can't deviate from a script when attempting to communicate with a customer. Scripts should be like make-up -- they're most effective when they appear effortless. Trainees should be provided with a general script that they can then be permitted to customize. It is more important for the trainee to learn how to persuade a customer into a sale (we have previously discussed on this blog the vast difference between "persuasion" and "manipulation"), rather than sticking to a script and sounding like a robot -- something customers can smell like blood in the water.
7. Don't Condescend
Don't treat your trainees like children who need every little thing spelled out for them. Show them that you are confident that they can handle whatever you throw at them -- after all, isn't that why you hired them? Make sure to instill in them a can-do attitude, then focus on teaching them how to applying the skills that they do have to everyday situations.
8. Make Sure the Trainer is Top-Notch
Above all, the trainer is the most important part of the training program. You can have the best training program in the business, but if the person heading it up is a wet noodle, then your trainees will feel like wet noodles in the end, too. And worse, that wet noodle feeling will ultimately rub off on your customers. The trainer should be someone that your team would be proud to emulate.
Is your training process regularly churning out well-polished talent, or could your methods use a little work? See how your training processes stack up against those of your peers by clicking below to receive our free Field Force Productivity Assessment.