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Sales Training Options to Help Your Small Business Succeed

Sales Training Options to Help Your Small Business Succeed

Having an effective and engaged sales team is one of the keys to guaranteeing your business’s success. Some people are natural sales men or women—they have the gift of gab, the ability to easily connect with others and win their trust, and are adept at juggling leads and following up with prospects and existing customers alike.

For most of us, though, sales skills need to be developed. Things like cold calling, making an effective pitch, and understanding prospecting strategy are not always intuitive, and so it’s critical that you offer your team training in various areas so that they can become the confident, well-rounded, skilled salespeople that will perform best for your business.

Cater to Your Team’s Strengths and Weaknesses

The first step here, of course, is to understand your sales team’s strengths and weaknesses. Now, these may be different for each person on your team. Maybe you have one person who doesn’t have any trouble picking up the phone and chatting with strangers multiple times a day, but who lets follow-up requests sit in his inbox. Meanwhile, you have another team member who’s skilled at managing relationships with existing customers and making up-sells, but who struggles with her demo presentations to prospects.

A good jumping off point is finding a sales training program that can cater each team member’s individual needs. Hubspot has a great list of sales training courses that cover a wide range of topics and are accessible at a variety of price points.

Providing your team with access to a generic course that can help them brush up on the skill or skills that need the most work is a great way to start getting everyone on equal footing.

Create Your Own Course

While having a general understanding of sales techniques is important, you’ll also want to create a course specifically for your business’s sales team. Each business has its own approach, and you’ll want to share tips and tricks, plus help them avoid pitfalls, that are unique to your business.

The first step here is to ensure that your team understands your value proposition. This is the driving force behind why you started your business, and it’s the reason that your salespeople are selling the good or service you offer. Trumpeting your value proposition empowers your team to motivate every action they take with that “big picture” idea always in mind.

From there, you want to make sure your salespeople understand your process and approach to sales. Is there a specific CRM tool you use and a way that you want information recorded? Do you have a script for cold calling or emailing? Do you have a set list of answers to questions frequently raised by prospects? Is there a system in place for alerting managers to potential issues that crop up with unhappy leads or customers? And how does your set approach incorporate the marketing team in the sales process?

When you have a clear and established set of systems and processes in place for your team, you provide them with a context in which to work, which then frees them up to focus on the art of selling and closing the deal.

Act It Out

One of the most daunting things about interacting with prospects or customers is that a salesperson can never predict how exactly the conversation will go. Experienced salespeople have seen and heard it all, but if your sales team is newer to the game (or just unfamiliar with sales at your particular company) they may feel intimidated by the unknown.

Much like a new airplane pilot starts out in a flight simulator before getting behind the wheel of an actual plane, you can start the greener members of your sales team out with role playing. Put together a list of the types of tricky prospects your salespeople might encounter: The one with lots of questions, the one who doesn’t want to pay full price, the one who declares they hate the product. Create a rough outline of a script for each scenario that details the points you want the “prospective customer” to hit. Then, get the whole team together and pair up members of the team, having more senior salespeople playing the customer and the newer team members acting as the salesperson.

When the role play wraps up, ask colleagues to weigh in on what the salesperson handled well and what they could have done better. Then have the pair reverse roles and replay the scenario, so that everyone can see firsthand how the salesperson incorporates the suggestions from their colleagues and artfully dodges those common pitfalls.

Start a Book Club

There is a lot of value in a great business book. Sometimes courses get monotonous, but a well-written book with compelling arguments and case studies can help a concept jump right off the page, and it can inspire the reader to try a new approach or tackle a new challenge.

Consider putting together a reading list for your team that includes titles by some sales experts you really admire. If someone on your team is excited about a particular book, hop on Amazon and order it for them. Make it as easy as possible for them to encounter fresh, new ideas that can revitalize their sales approach.

You might even take things a step further and set up an actual in-office book club. Select a title for everyone to read, and then gather the group together a month later to discuss. Come with your own questions and topics to help guide the discussion, and allow your employees to share their impressions, what they learned, and how they think they can implement some of the tactics or approaches covered in the book in their day-to-day work life.

If you’re looking for a good read to get your started, I’d recommend the following:

Make Mentors

One of the best ways to learn sales techniques is to watch someone else do it skillfully. If you have a team with some more seasoned salespeople and some other who are less experienced, creating a mentorship program can be a great approach.

Pair each novice up with a mentor. Allow them to listen in on their mentor’s sales calls and to tag along for in-person meetings and pitches. Learning from a pro in the field is one of the fastest ways to help develop a rookie’s technique. Also ask your mentor to provide feedback to their mentee; have them establish a monthly sit-down over coffee that encourages an open dialogue between the veteran and the beginner.

Studies have shown that mentorship programs have benefits for both the mentors and the mentees. Your novice gets to learn new skills, and your veteran gets to develop leadership skills that prepare them for even greater career growth.

You have plenty of options when it comes to sales training. From the preexisting courses on particular topics to more customized, in-house training programs, you should be able to strike the right balance and create an environment that empowers your team to succeed.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Sales.

11 The Most Important Element of Your Employee Handbook

Lots of companies invest money and resources in the creation of employee handbooks. These valuable tools usually dive deeply into rules, regulations, mission, policy and conduct, but often ignore what might be the most important category of all – marketing.

Any employee that comes into contact with a prospect or client is performing a marketing function. The question is, do they know how to perform that marketing function in a way that represents the organization accurately and positively.

Business owners must add marketing training as a major component of the ongoing development of every member of the staff. This includes new hires as well as routine, perhaps quarterly, all hands sessions.

Below are the kinds of things that need to be worked into the marketing training of your staff.

Here’s how to spot our ideal client

Write a paragraph that paints a vivid picture of the kind of client you seek, including the kinds of problems or challenges they are experiencing that make them right for you.

Here’s how to present our unique point of differentiation

Give your staff a simple, yet compelling, way to introduce what your firm does that’s unique. This is your core marketing message packaged in an elevator pitch kind of way.

Let them practice this in role-playing situations until they are comfortable delivering it in an authentic manner.

These are the trigger phrases for our prospects

People rarely walk around saying they need your product or service. What they do, however, is lament the lack of something, talk about specific problems or state an aspiration.

Instead of saying I wish I had some new accounting software they say things like I can’t ever get a handle on my receivables.

Your entire staff should know the most common things people actually say that would indicate they could be an ideal prospect.

These are our brand standards for images, colors and type

It’s funny how much time and money the marketing department might spend on getting the color and font just right, but then everyone else in the business that creates communication just wings it.

The best way to adhere to brand standards is to make them internal as well as external. Train everyone on the use of color, type and images and demand that they adhere to these standards in internal communication. This will ensure that everyone is consistent in the use of the visual elements of your marketing.

This is our current lead generation campaign

Show off your latest ads, direct mail creative and offers that are being put out in every medium. Make sure that your entire staff can talk about your current promotions.

Not only does this allow them to feel more engaged in the marketing, it equips them to talk about it when asked.

Here’s how we educate and serve our customers

Make sure the entire staff is required to read the company blog, understands all of the educational content, attends your online training and routinely takes a shift answering customer service calls.

Here’s how to refer a prospective client or employee

Make employee referrals an expectation and place appropriate emphasis on it by turning it into a game with a clear set of rules and way to win.

All of the education done in the previously mentioned steps will make this a natural focus.

Here’s how we measure marketing success

Show your staff how to know if they are winning the game. Share the key strategic indicators your organization uses to measure success. Teach them what these indicators mean and help them dig in and find a way to tie what they do to one or more of these numbers.

If you can get every employee to realize the way their day-to-day contribution is added to a key indicator of success and ultimately to the overall success of the organization you give them a way to connect everything they do with success.

Now cutting cost in their department can contribute to lowering the client acquisition cost.

Every business is a marketing business and all employees, trained in this manner, can become contributing members of the marketing team, no matter their job title.