April 15th, 2021
Sales Training – Keep Them Sharp
With concerns over COVID-19, many door and window companies canceled their traditional sales meetings, typically held during the winter months, to prepare their sales group for the kickoff of the spring selling season. Suddenly spring is already here, and the fenestration selling season has begun. Demand in the fenestration industry is so strong these days that it is tempting to put off sales training. This would be a mistake. At some point this unusual demand curve we are enjoying will correct itself. So, if sales training is neglected, your company may find itself playing catch-up with a less than competitive sales group to fight the ongoing battles in a softer market for fenestration.
Sales training is too important. It cannot be skipped. Even the most seasoned sales professionals need periodic training. This is a very dynamic industry and an ongoing sales training program is absolutely necessary to ensure your sales staff is on top of their game. Technology is constantly evolving and so are market dynamics. For example, ten years ago, if a potential customer would ask you about the pros and cons of a hard coat low-E coating on surface number four, you might have scratched your head thinking that he or she was misinformed. But now, if a customer broaches this subject, you had better be ready to answer and defend your position. Are surface four coatings a practical and cost-effective means for achieving energy performance or are they a shortcut, risking possible condensation issues during cold winter months? Knowledge of the subject is vital for a meaningful discussion!
In the past, sales training sessions would normally entail getting the sales group together at a fun location for a few days, surrounded by fun activities to build comradery. That may not be advisable these days for obvious reasons, but it does not mean that a fun sales meeting is impossible. Using Zoom (or similar platforms) and some creativity, companies are coming up with very informative and fun sales training sessions to make sure that their salespeople continue to be well versed on the company’s product offerings, industry knowledge, selling skills and competitive information.
The agenda should focus on the following:
1). Recent developments: most notably in the marketplace, such as new technologies and marketplace developments. What will the next round of Energy Star requirements look like? What is the likely impact of vacuum insulated glass (VIG)? What are “skinny triples” (or “thin triples”) and in what applications are they going to be cost effective? Is aerogel in windows really a viable approach to reaching the next level of thermal performance or is it “pie in the sky?”
2). Product launches: What does your company have that is new? How can your sales team create excitement in the marketplace with these new products? Are pre-orders a valid strategy in this industry? Look at what the video game industry does with pre-orders. They create such a hype over new products that potential customers order well in advance, waiting extended periods of time to receive these new products. Given our concern over existing lead times in our industry, could such a strategy be used in the fenestration industry to even out the demand curve, thereby boosting demand down the road when it would normally correct itself?
3). Changes and strategies being implemented by your competition: Nobody has more information on this than your own salespeople, so this is an opportunity for management to listen and gather valuable information regarding competitors. Be sure to encourage the sharing of stories and findings. What do you have to offer that is better than your competition? Discuss areas in which competitors offer potential advantages over your company and how to counter these.
4). How do you most effectively convey your product advantages to prospective customers while minimizing the significance of your competitors’ strengths?
5). How can your salespeople seize the moment and win the sale?
Always be prepared to leave your sales staff with tools which they can carry out to the field to help them seize the moment and win the battle. These tools might be new product samples, superior financing programs, new sales strategies, sales aids, visually appealing yet simply devised literature sheets, feature and benefit sales sheets, and product feature demo aids. Sometimes the simplest demo is all that is needed to convince the customer, seize the moment and win the sale.
Just because the fenestration industry is currently riding a wave, it is a dangerous proposition to become simple order takers. The day will come when selling techniques and strategies will take on much more of a “win or lose” perspective. So, keep scheduling the training days and be prepared to maintain your status as a winner!