A firm should work out a programme for sales training. The training is based on the nature of the job and the products to be sold.
There is a wide variety of training methods. A company has to choose either one or generally a combination of these methods. The methods chosen should be consistent with the training needs and the contents of the training program.
The various methods of sales training can be classified into two groups: 1. Group Training Methods 2. Individual Training Methods.
Some of the group training methods are:
1. Lectures or Class Room Instructions 2. Group Discussion Method 3. Sales Conference Method 4. Case Study Method 5. Role Playing Method 6. Simulation or Gaming Method 7. Sensitivity Training 8. Brain Storming Method.
Some of the individual training methods are:
1. On the Job Training 2. Job Rotation 3. Personal Discussion 4. Correspondence Courses 5. Sales Manual 6. Induction Course.
Methods for Training Sales Representatives
Sales Training Methods – Group Training and Individual Training Methods (With Merits and Demerits)
The various methods of sales training can be classified into two groups:
1. Group Training Methods.
2. Individual Training Methods.
1. Group Training Methods:
The group training methods also have been various types:
(i) Lectures or Class Room Instructions:
They are regarded as one of the simplest ways of imparting knowledge to the trainees, especially when facts, concepts, attitudes, theories and problem-solving abilities are to be taught. The lecture method may be used for a group containing good number of trainees and are to be trained within a short period of time. Audio-visual equipment’s, viz. VCRs, projectors, etc. increase the effectiveness of lectures.
(a) It becomes easier to impart knowledge on concepts and theories.
(b) A very large groups can be trained within a short period of time.
(c) Doubts on a particular point can be cleared on the spot.
(d) It reduces the cost of training.
(e) Use of audio-visual equipment’s increases the effectiveness of training.
(f) Exchange of views with the trainer may also increase the effectiveness.
(a) The learners are usually of passive nature and do not participate actively.
(b) Only the theoretical knowledge can be gained through this type of training but practical knowledge cannot be gained. It overlooks the principle of learning by doing.
(c) One-way communication takes place and there is no feedback from the audience.
(d) It is difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of training.
(ii) Group Discussion Method:
In this method of training, different groups are formed by limited number of persons (15-20). Each group seeks guidance under the leadership of a senior officer. The group discusses the sales problems with the leader and efforts are made to find out a commonly agreed solution to each problem. During group discussions, everyone gets an opportunity to learn from the ideas of others.
(a) Every trainee is benefited from the ideas of each other’s.
(b) The group will be able to work out a best solution to the problems.
(c) The salesmen are able to learn much about their jobs.
(a) All the members in the group do not participate actively in the discussion, and therefore its utility is limited.
(b) There is possibility to deviate from the main subject of discussion and in such case objective of training could not be achieved.
(c) This method is not suitable for training the new/fresh salesmen, who have very limited knowledge about the sales function.
(iii) Sales Conference Method:
In this method, the trainees discuss the points of common interest. It is a formal meeting conducted in accordance with an organized training plan. It lays emphasis on small group discussion, on specific subject matter. Such sales conferences are generally organized on yearly basis. Three types of conferences such as (a) directed conferences, (b) problem solving conferences, and (c) leaderless discussions, are usually organized. This method is sued for training the persons holding managerial positions and having basic knowledge on the subject of training. The success of such conference is depends on interest of participants.
(a) This method is informative and arguments oriented.
(b) It provides opportunity to trainees to examine from different viewpoints.
(c) The trainees actively and continuously participate in the deliberations.
(a) Since the participants are in large numbers everybody may not get equal opportunity to express his views.
(b) It is a time consuming training programme.
(c) In such conferences, participations are mostly interested to establish their personal relationships and thus, the training objective cannot be achieved.
(iv) Case Study Method:
In this method, trainees are given cases to analyze. They are asked to identify any sales problem and to recommend tentative solutions for it. The trainer points out the drawback and is given guidance for improvement. Case study method is primarily useful as a training technique suitable for supervisors to improve their decision-making skills.
(a) It provides practical knowledge to the trainees.
(b) It helps to develop the analyzing capacity, bargaining power, evaluation and decision-making abilities of the trainees.
(c) The trainees receive orderly arrange training from experienced trainers.
(a) This method increases the training costs.
(b) Excessive involvement of time is another drawback.
(v) Role Playing Method:
In role playing trainees act out a given role as they would do in a stage play. Two or more trainees are assigned parts to play before the rest of the members. The role playing does not involve any memorization of lines or rehearsals. The role- players are simply informed of a situation and of the respective roles they have to play. It is a method of human interactions.
The idea of role playing involves action, doing and practice. For example, the trainees are given certain roles as salesmen, sales supervisors, customers and others. They are asked to act in their respective roles. The trainer examines and evaluates their roles and explains to the trainees the correct method of role playing.
(a) This is a creative method of training through which the salesmen are experienced with their sensitivity and interactions.
(b) The trainee’s interest and involvement tend to be higher.
(c) It is a useful method to project the living conditions between learning in the classroom and working on a job, and creating live business situation.
(d) It develops skills and ability to apply knowledge, particularly in area like human relations.
(e) It brings abut desired changed in behaviour and attitudes.
(a) iris also a time consuming training programme.
(b) The trainees do not take interest seriously and consider it as acting only.
(c) This method is suitable where it is mixed with some other methods of training.
(vi) Simulation or Gaming Method:
Simulation is a technique which duplicates; as nearly as possible, the actual conditions encountered in a job. This method develops the decisions-making capacity of the trainees. The knowledge about various decision methods such as selling efforts, advertising, sales force management, size of the orders, time for getting orders, etc. are learnt through such training, the decisions taken by the trainers.
Computers are often matters are evaluated by the trainers. Computers are often used to evaluate the trainee’s performance. This method is complex as it is based on the game-model and has complexity of games rules.
(a) The salesmen get practical and theoretical knowledge.
(b) Expert knowledge to the problems is available.
(c) The actions of trainees closely related to real job situation.
(a) This method is not appropriate for consumer goods.
(b) It is not appropriate for new sales personnel.
2. Individual Training Methods:
These methods include the following types of training:
(i) On the Job Training:
In this type of training, salesmen are appointed to do their duties under the guidance of experienced salesmen. They learn by doing the selling job. This method is also known as “training within industry” or “teacher and taught training.”
(a) The trainees learn on the actual environment of job.
(b) It is economical since no additional facilities are required to be provided for training.
(c) The trainees learn the rules, regulations, and procedures by observing their day-to-day applications.
(d) Immediate evaluation of the progress made by the trainees is possible.
(e) It provides for the theoretical and practical form of training.
(f) It ensures motivation and self-confidence among the trainees.
(a) Possibility of reduction in sales volumes as mostly the sales activities are affected by the training.
(b) The training programme is highly discouraged and not properly supervised.
(c) In case the numbers of trainees are more, this method is not all suitable.
(d) The principle of a good training programme cannot be followed, as the working salesmen may not be able to devote sufficient time for the trainees.
(ii) Job Rotation Training:
This method is used to provide knowledge to the trainees in respect of functions of different departments; such as, research department, accounts, advertising, purchase, packaging and public relations, etc. Job rotation training is organized on the basis of a well-planned training programme. This type of training develops the practical knowledge of the trainees on different aspects of sales.
(a) The trainees get sufficient opportunity to learn well about the organization and functions of different departments.
(b) The role of sales department and sales function of the organization can easily be understood.
(c) The trainees are able to learn their relative dependence on other departments.
(a) More time is involved in the training.
(b) The work of other departments may also suffer.
(iii) Personal Discussion:
In this method of training, salesmen contact with his Sales Managers and Senior Managers from time to time and discuss with them the individual problems. The Managers give good advices and suggestions, on the basis of their experience in the field. The guidance relating to marketing their effectiveness, route planning, call scheduling, management of sales timings, and other matters related to sales are given by the Manages to the sales trainees.
(a) The practical problems of each salesman can be solved.
(b) Personal relationship between the trainer and trainees develops more closely and it is helpful for favourable evaluation of salesman’s performance.
(c) The trainer gets opportunity to maintain high morale among the trainees and can motivate them effectively.
(a) Personal matters get more importance in such training and the sales problems are left aside or are given little importance.
(b) A regular contact with the higher authorities by the trainees create formal relationship between them, but later on, problem may arise before the sales authorities in controlling the salesmen.
(iv) Correspondence Courses:
When the sales trainees are appointed to work at distant place from the headquarters, and their respective sales territories, it becomes difficult for them to assemble at the headquarters or at a place fixed for training. In such cases, training is imparted through correspondence. The training materials are printed and circulated to the sales trainee at different places where they are working.
The trainees read the materials carefully and learn to adopt or follow the guidance and instructions received through the study materials, in practice. If they find any problem in understanding the contents of such training materials, clarifications are sought through correspondence.
(a) A specific timing is not required for the training.
(b) There is continuity in the training programme.
(c) The study materials circulated to salesmen serve as guides for future use.
(a) Personal contacts are not possible between trainer and trainees.
(b) This method is not advisable to train the new and in experienced sales trainees.
(c) Face to face discussions between the trainer and trainees are not possible.
(d) It is a time consuming and expensive method of training.
Sales Training Methods – With Meaning and Evaluation
A firm should work out a programme for sales training. The training is based on the nature of the job and the products to be sold.
A planned training programme ideas or principles, often referred to ACMEE model of training.
A – Aim of Training.
C – Content of Training.
M – Method of Training.
E – Execution of Training.
E – Evaluation.
Content of Training:
The content of the training programme relates to the subject— matter of training. A training programme varies from firm to firm, because of the difference in products, markets, policies of the company, trainee’s ability etc.
A good training programme facilitate the trainee-salesman to learn and understand the following contents:
i. Knowledge of his job.
ii. The products.
iii. The company.
iv. The markets and consumers.
v. The competitors.
vi. The sales techniques.
vii. The reports preparation etc.
Methods of Training:
1. Group Training:
(a) Lecture Method:
An expert speaks to trainee-salesmen in a group about the various aspects of selling. This is a class-room training. Visual aids, demonstration and overhead projectors may be used for imparting effective training.
The executive or management development is a long-term educational process utilising a systematic and organised procedure by which executives learn theoretical and conceptual (i.e., problems identification and solving skill) knowledge.
Lecture method is known as on-the-job method in which an expert or a superior manager imparts job knowledge to subordinates.
(b) Audio-Visual Method:
In order to supplement the lecture method, training programmes include the use of visual aids, such as films, making them more interesting.
(c) Discussion Method / Case Study Method:
In this method of executive development, the trainees may be given a problem to discuss which is more or less related to the principles already taught. The trainees are encouraged to apply knowledge for the solution of realistic problems.
An actual case is given as a problem to be solved by the group. The members in the group are asked to understand the problem and draw a conclusion.
(d) Conference Method:
Sales conferences and sales meetings are organised time to time and thoughts of various persons are pooled in the conference. Such conferences have motivating effects for the participants.
(e) Role Playing Method:
The sales trainees are made to act out roles in contrived problems. The trainer explains the situation of the problem and assigns the role of salesman and customers of different characters to the sales trainees. Each one has to act the assigned role. The Trainer watches the role played by each and discusses their weakness and strong points. A few may be selected to act the play, while others may watch it.
Thus, the sales trainees have chance to see and understand the ideas in different situation. Role playing techniques are used for human relations and leadership training. A conflict situation is artificially created to allow trainees to take up different parts of play. Through this techniques, they learn human relations skills through practice.
(f) Sensitivity Training:
Sensitivity training or T group training is an experience in interpersonal relationships in which results in change in feeling and attitudes towards oneself and others.
(g) Brain Storming Method:
Under this method, persons assemble together and the manager starts discussions. The trainees have to understand the problems and find solutions. The solutions are analysed by the manager.
(i) On-the-Job Training:
Under this method, a new salesman is placed under an experienced salesman who explain the sales techniques. He also takes the trainee along with him on his rounds and gives him chances to observe the dealings with customers. In course of time, the sales trainee becomes a trained and independent salesman.
(ii) Sales Manual:
It contains details of the firm and products, job description, sales policies etc. It contains problems with suggestive solution. A copy of the Manual is given to each salesman to go through and understand the ideas.
(iii) Induction Course:
A new recruit is given induction training for knowing about the company, people, products, customers and competitors etc. Apart from above, a salesman can also be sent to specialized educational institutions and the cost is borne by the firm. It is important to note that even the trained or experienced salesman need periodic training called refresher training or follow up training.
Evaluation of Training:
Having trained the salesman, the marketing manager must evaluate the usefulness of the training programme. Evaluation is made on the basis of performance in terms of sales volume, sales expenses reduction, enhancement in profitability etc. before and after the training periods.
Sales Training Methods – Class-Room Methods, On-the-Job Training and Correspondence Coaching
Sales organisation usually prefers the following methods of training:
i. Class-room methods such as lectures, conferences, seminars, discussions, workshops, sales manuals, written tests, visual aids, etc.
ii. On-the-job training or field training,
iii. Correspondence coaching,
Let us give brief description of important methods of training:
i. Class-Room Methods:
We can have class-room methods such as lectures, seminars, conferences, role playing and demonstration of sales presentation by expert salesmen and authorities on marketing and distribution.
The lecture method with question-answer facility is the best method to pass on ideas, concepts, knowledge and information. Lecture can be combined with visual aids, slides, TV etc. We can also have guided discussion in which lecturer raises leading questions and trainees provide answers.
The trainees should have detailed lecture notes of all important lectures. Lectures with all types of visual aids are capable of offering fund of information on science or theory of salesmanship, selling and marketing.
a. Role Playing:
It involves, action, doing and practice. You learn by doing. You can appreciate the views of others. Knowledge secured by lectures, textbooks and discussions can be put into practice immediately. It is a good method to project life between learning and working on the job and creating live selling situation in the class room. Two or more trainees play different roles before the rest of the class. The class analyses and criticizes behaviour of players and we have immediately the knowledge of results.
b. Conference Method:
It is the reverse of lecture method. We expect all members to have ideas, knowledge and information as well as expression power. Members can examine ideas, share facts and test assumptions and draw conclusions. We have three kinds of conferences- 1. Guided or instructional conference used for training purposes, 2. Consultative conference and, 3. Problem-solving conference.
Instructional conference with, say, 25 members is ideal for the development of theoretical knowledge on selling, and for creation/ modification of attitudes of salesmen.
c. Sales Manual:
It is a specially compiled textbook. It is a useful ready reckoner and constant source of reference providing ample information on many topics mentioned above. It narrates briefly the history of the firm, job description and specifications, products sold, sales policies, selling process, list of records and reports needed for reference and so on.
ii. On-the-Job Training:
Real learning takes place only through work experience or on-the-job training or field training of salesmen working under the able coaching and guidance of an experienced and expert senior salesman. Trainee salesman conducts sales talk and demonstration under close observation of the trainer and learns ins and outs of sales process through trial and error method. Field training is an ideal method for travelling salesmen.
iii. Correspondence Coaching:
The sales organisation or specialised correspondence schools can offer postal tuition and coaching to salesmen operating in various sales territories. Postal coaching can be of considerable use for travelling salesmen having certain knowledge and experience. It is not good for a new salesman. It can give theoretical knowledge to be combined with practical knowledge achieved by travelling salesmen.
Salespeople must have knowledge, skill and attitude training if they are to be effective in their selling field.
Knowledge training includes:
a. Knowledge of the products,
b. Knowledge of types of customers,
c. Knowledge of the company organisation, plans, policies and procedures,
d. Knowledge of promotion mix.,
e. Knowledge of salesmanship to do the sales jobs,
f. Knowledge of market/ marketing process and competition,
g. Knowledge of sales office routine,
h. Knowledge of channels of distribution.
Sales knowledge training can be imparted through lectures, sales training conferences, plant visits, individual study and correspondence between sales managers and their people.
Sales skill training is given on the job by a skilled trainer. Skills in each step of the sales process will have to be developed. In addition to actual sales presentation, salesmen have to be trained on other parts of the sales calls, including approaching the customer, identifying sales prospects, as well as techniques for overcoming objections, closing of sales, and follow-up procedures. Role playing and videotape playback technique are used in sales skill training. The objective of such skill training is to use sales knowledge effectively.
This is accomplished through practice under an experienced trainer. Sales attitude training tries to strengthen salesmen’s positive attitude toward his company, product and sales manager, and to transform his negative attitudes into positive ones. Personal conference with sales managers, self-development courses, visual aids and correspondence are all employed to impart proper sales attitudes.
In salesman’s training, field training is essentially on-the-job training. The trainee learns by watching an experienced salesman in action, and by practicing sales techniques under the guidance of the experienced or trained salesman.
We have also programmed instruction for sales training. Ready-made programmed instructional courses can be prepared by skilled and expert trainers. At present closed-circuit TV broadcasts and V.C.R. are used for training salesmen. Training or retraining is a continuous process as we have new products, new problem and new competition.
We have four basic types of training methods or techniques:
1. Demonstration—to show the trainee what and how he must do,
2. Role playing method,
3. Telling method-to tell him what is expected of him as a salesman,
4. Discussion method—exchange of ideas, concepts and solution to problems encountered by salesmen under the close guidance of an expert in salesmanship.
There are five steps usually adopted in a training formula to make a salesman fit for his job:
i. To prepare the salesman to discharge his responsibilities (to customers and the organisation) effectively,
ii. To tell him regarding theory and artistry of salesmanship,
iii. To show him by realistic demonstration,
iv. To let him do on his own account, i.e., improving through trial and error method —going through the mill himself on his own initiative, and
v. To check him and his performance and indicate lines of improvement in performance.
Sales Training Methods – 2 Methods in Vogue for Training Sales Representatives
There is a wide variety of training methods. A company has to choose either one or generally a combination of these methods. The methods chosen should be consistent with the training needs and the contents of the training program. Thus, if a company wants to inform what its policy on holiday plans is, just the lecture method followed by audio-visual presentation would be sufficient. A training in sales techniques may require demonstration and role play method. The methods chosen must communicate the desired contents in the most effective manner.
There are two methods in vogue for training sales representatives:
1. On-the-job methods, and
2. Off-the-job methods.
1. On-the-Job Methods:
Here, the principle of learning by actually doing is used.
Here, the SR has to accompany the sales supervisor and perform the selling job in his presence. He is made aware of the problems in practical situations, and is trained by the supervisor by suitably briefing before and after each call. Sometimes, the supervisor himself demonstrates what he preaches. He gives oral and written explanations to the SR being trained. Tape-record may be used to give voice training.
Demonstration and Examples:
The supervisor does the detailing, and explains later why, how, and what he is doing. Demonstrations are supported by lectures, visuals, discussions, etc.
2. Off-the-Job Methods:
Here training is not on the field, as a part of everyday activity. It may be conducted in a classroom of a company’s training centre. An outsider organisation may be involved to impart such training.
These are delivered on specific topics by qualified trainers/instructors. It is the most widely used method to teach theory and concepts. The lectures are supplemented by group discussions, question- answer sessions, film shows, case-studies, role-plays, etc.
b. Conference Method:
According to a well-decided plan, a conference is held to discuss problems and to pool different ideas to tackle these problems. Buzz sessions divide participants into small groups. These report back to the whole groups with their inferences and questions. It makes the participants learn from each other and to reduce dogmatism. They also help in modifying attitudes and in developing conceptual skills.
Here a paper is presented on a topic which is later discussed. The paper is authored by a trainee SR.
d. Case Study:
A real or imaginary situation is presented to a group. The group is asked to identify one problem, and discuss alternatives to tackle them. Each alternative is analyzed to arrive at the optimum decision. The trainer only guides the discussion. It promotes analytical thinking and develops problem-solving ability. This method is more suitable for supervisory/managerial training.
e. Role Playing:
Here, the trainees have to enact a role which is given to them, e.g., one trainee becomes a medical practitioner and another trainee details before him. The role players have to quickly respond to the emerging situation. It is a method of human interaction.
f. Programmed Instruction:
It has two important components:
1. Step-by-step series of bits of knowledge, each bit/unit building upon the previous ones.
2. A mechanism of presenting the series and to check trainee MR’s knowledge.
Programmed learning is done through a manual or independent worksheets. It is primarily used to teach factual knowledge such as Pharmacology, Biology, etc.
Many organisations like Glaxo have a heavy budget for training and development in various areas. The pharmaceutical companies lay a lot of emphasis on sales training, which they usually perform through an in-house training department. Most companies conduct their programs both through internal and external trainers.
In this method, teams of trainees are formed to meet, discuss and arrive at decisions concerning sales management, sales forecasting, budgeting and such other activities. These games can be relatively simple, permitting rapid decision-making to be effected or extremely complicated, entailing long and detailed analysis of trends in costs, sales and inventories. Moreover, the requirement that decisions are made as a team provides the trainee the experience of working in a small group.
The business games are used for a variety of reasons, the primary one being the opportunity to learn from experience without paying the price that would result from wrong decisions made in real life. These are exciting and powerful educational tools with numerous applications in problem-solving, research, managerial decision-making and executive testing and selection.
This method uses the correspondence, instructional material in sales training. Companies send regular instructional materials to their salespersons about their products, new products and their applications. This method is also useful to train the representatives employed by the distributors. This method is useful for widely scattered trainees. Periodically, they are called for training at a centralized place and trained by the traditional methods like the lectures and case studies.
Developing software or instructional material for correspondence courses is the most challenging task. It is also necessary to motivate the salespersons to study the material and complete the assignments in time. Face-to-face discussions and personal contact programs are regularly arranged. This method is a supplementary selling method.
Three Types of Training Methods:
There are basically three types of training methods:
(1) The telling method,
(2) The showing method, and
(3) The discussion method.
(1) Telling Method – It is the oldest form of communication by means of lectures. It could prove to be boring. But it is quick and effective.
(2) Showing Method – Here, the trainer shows or demonstrates. It is more or less like role playing or actual doing. He takes the salesmen to customers to train them. The salesmen watch him do it.
(3) Discussion Method – Here, the trainees participate by asking questions, clarifying doubts and discussing case studies.