There seems to be a resurgence in product training among a lot of the sales organizations around the country, and I wanted to dig deeper and learn more about this.

Take a moment and think about the training that you received when you started a sales position. Some of the first training I ever received from a manufacturer was focused all around the product. I was in my early 20s with no sales experience, but I was sent to the manufacturer and indoctrinated with features of their product. After days of training, they felt like they had won and all I felt was overwhelmed.

The hard thing was to take that information that I was given and put it into words that the prospect I was sitting in front of would understand. As a young and impressionable sales novice, I took the knowledge that I had accumulated and used it as a tool to show the world that I was knowledgeable. I had no sales skills, other than what I learned on the playground in grade school. “But who needed sales skills when you have product knowledge, “I thought to myself.

It was evident by some of the epic failures that I had early on in my career that product knowledge was not enough. As I have matured and now train sales professionals, I have been confronted with this common question: “What is more important, sales training or product training?” So, I wanted to lay out my thoughts on this and bring some clarity to the issue for those who question the validity of sales training.

Here are thoughts of product training:

1. Explains the features of what you sell;
2. Learn the “nuts and bolts” of the product;
3. Find out what the products and/or services cost;
4. Since the products tend to change quickly, the training needs to be done regularly and is obsolete quickly;
5. Your prospect tends to know the products better since the advent of the Internet;
6. Becomes the crutch for the weaker salespeople, when confronted with a savvy buyer, and;
7. Learn the problems that your product is intended to solve.

Here are the thoughts on sales training:
1. Sales training is the foundation of a solid sales professional. The product training is the structure above;
2. A good foundation will withstand whatever is built on it above;
3. The product and/or service will change, but the cornerstone principles will not change;
4. The goal of a sales professional is not to recite the product knowledge, but rather uncover the prospects pains as to why they need what you have;
5. Sales training will help you establish a budget with the prospect, rather than tell them how much it costs, we learn how much they have to spend;
6. You will learn how the prospects decision making process is done;
7. You will get in front of qualified prospects more effectively;
8. Improves communication – remember, 85 percent of our success is due to how well we communicate, not our education. Ask yourself, “what is more valuable, knowledge or how to communicate it?” and;
9. Multiple studies show that sales training pays for itself many times over.

Let me ask you this question…If you could get 24 percent higher gross profit margins and 218 percent higher revenue per employee, would you invest in that? Well, per a recent study, these were the numbers that were hit for those that invested in sales training. What was the investment? In this study, the investment was $1,500 per sales professional that hit these numbers vs. $125 invested per employee that missed these numbers. There is a cost to sales training, and it is not just paying the person doing the training. There is a time investment from the team for sure. And this needs to be considered when deciding if sales training is for you.

Still unsure?

What about large companies? Motorola calculated that every dollar they spent on sales training yielded an approximate 30 percent gain in productivity within a three-year period. Profits increased by 47 percent.

Once I have people understanding that sales training is a viable option for their company, then they start to think to themselves, “I am a good salesperson, I can do the training and save the training expense.”

And this may be true, but consider this…Per a study published by Personnel Public Management, it was revealed that training by itself increased productivity by 22.4 percent. But when combined with coaching, it increased productivity by 88 percent. So, it might pay for itself again to have someone come in and provide the training for you. In addition, I see a lot of “C” level people who need the training as well.

The No. 1 thing that most upper-management people need is the accountability that a coach provides. How many failed attempts did we start and stop in previous years? A coach who is not on staff will hold the team and its leaders accountable in ways others cannot. Consider who is your current accountability partner. If you don’t have one, then consider getting one, preferably one not on your payroll.

Sales training will increase your sales per employee by up to 57 percent and the gross profit by up to 37 percent. So, it is safe to say that the sales training will pay for itself, and then it will also pay for the time that each sales professional has invested.

Unfortunately, product training cannot boast these types of numbers of increased sales and increased margin, yet the product training is essential to being able to meet the needs of the customers.

The best approach to the training question is being able to have the flexibility to do both. If you can only pick one, then I am going to say, “pick sales training.” But I believe that you can invest time and effort in both.

The successful companies are mixing the two together. Let’s say that you have a limited number of hours that you want to keep your sales team in training. Let’s say that you want to limit the time that the team is in the office — after all, they don’t get orders in the office, but rather in front of the prospect, right?

If you can only invest three hours per month in training per person, I would suggest that you invest two of those hours in sales training and one on product training. If you question this, review the lists above as to why the sales training is so important.

I look at it this way: “Product training invests in the company, while sales training invests in the individual…”

So, why not do yourself, your team and your customer a favor and invest in some sales training? Oddly enough, there is no downside, only advantages for all.

Also, I just released is my new book, Growing On Purpose, which just became an Amazon # 1 Best Seller! Check out my website to get a hard copy or on Kindle.

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