You know training is important. Your contractors know it too. You agree to sponsor a seminar and, more often than not, the turnout is disappointing, or you even cancel it because you can't get the sign-ups. Something always seems to fall between the cracks. You are discouraged. Sound familiar?
First of all, training is important. In Ron Smith's new book, HVAC Spells Wealth (www.ronsmithhvac.com), he repeatedly states, “Training is management's most important responsibility.” Why? The world is evolving faster than ever, and, he says, “whenever the rate of change outside the company exceeds the rate of change inside of your company, the end is in sight.” Enough said.
Let me share with you what I have found it takes to make a training seminar work for your contractors and for you.
The Best Impact. Decide what training is going to have the best impact on your contractors and your business. Your territory managers (TM) should be constantly looking and listening for customer clues on what their problems and/or opportunities are. Also, as we teach in Winning the Sales War seminars, training will only have value to your customers if you create value with it. For example, provide sales training on certain products in exchange for a business commitment to purchase those products from you.
The Best Time. Choose the best time of year to do the training and put it on your training calendar. Publish the calendar as much as a year ahead, but at least 60 days in advance. It's a good idea to have a monthly written communication with your contractors anyway, through the TM, e-mail, fax or mail, and include your upcoming training schedule.
The Best Trainer. Choose the best trainer for that subject and lock him in for that date. This may be months or even a year in advance. Many outside trainers now require a non-refundable deposit to confirm and hold the date. Require the trainer to provide a written specification on his other meeting room requirements. Be prepared to explain your expectations for what you want the training to include and, in some cases, what not to include.
The Best Location. Determine the proper meeting location, including making it easy for your customers to get to. If it's a hotel, you may need to make a commitment months in advance. This may include a block of sleeping rooms at a negotiated rate. Many hotels require a “guarantee” for rooms and meals; be conservative in your guarantee or the hotel can increase rates just before the event; they seldom decrease the cost. Hotels negotiate everything: room rates, meeting room rates, meal rates, AV rates, VIP rooms … everything. The hotel meeting planner/salesperson wants you to come back. The clearer you are about what you want and expect, the more likely you are to get it.
The Seminar Champion. Put someone in charge of the seminar and responsible for its success. This may be the most important step in the process. This person probably will need management's support and muscle in getting other team members to give this an appropriate priority. The Champion should review the registrations with the TMs at least weekly.
The Best Way to Get Started. Hold a conference call with your TMs and the trainer to go over the agenda and discuss all questions. During this call, be clear with your entire sales team that each of them is accountable for getting attendance of the right customers. It's best to have each person identify their target individuals during the call, with The Champion taking note of each potential participant.
The Best Marketing. Create a flier to promote the seminar and have the TMs personally hand it out at least a month in advance. Create a sense of urgency by limiting the class size and encouraging early bird registrations. E-mail, fax or mail the flier each week.
Charge Tuition: All seminars should include tuition which attendees should prepay. If you don't charge, the message you deliver is that the training has no value. Early bird registration incentives can be effective. Multiple-attendee incentives can be effective. Performance rebates can be effective. (They are given when the seminar graduate sells the products after the training … proving they now know how to effectively use the new skills and tools.)
The Best Registration Management. Have a dedicated person responsible for registrations. This person will receive information by phone, fax, e-mail or from the TM and must be organized well enough to get it all recorded. They will need to advise registrants on the details of the seminar location, time, agenda and so on. They will need to reinforce to registrants that they are making a good decision by choosing to attend. They will phone-call or e-mail follow up to remind the registrants of the event as it gets closer, including the day before.
This may sound like a lot to do, and it is, but when management makes it clear that training is important to everyone and holds their team accountable to create a successful event, people will focus on doing their part and get the job done.
A successful seminar will provide your customers with tools and the confidence to use them to change and improve their performance. Now it's your territory manager's job to make sure they do it!
Tom Piscitelli is president of T.R.U.S.T.® Training and Consulting. You can register for his monthly newsletter at www.sellingtrust.com.
Should the TM attend the training?
In 95 percent of my seminars, the TMs are AWOL. Or sometimes they show up for lunch. Or if they stay the day, they are in the back of the room tapping away on their computer or Blackberry or taking and making phone calls.
This is wrong.
Again, Winning the Sales War teaches the TM that their primary role is to help their customers create behavior change that will result in growth. In other words, they must become an expert on the subject matter for which the contractors are receiving training, so they must attend and fully participate.
I have a client for whom I've provided continuous sales training for their key contractors. We've had five two-day seminars so far, and, in every case, the attending contractor's TM has been there with the contractor. These TMs have been through the training four or five times. They have become experts in this material, and they can, and do, coach their customers on implementing what they learned.
The result? Sales are significantly up. That is what you want … isn't it?