Once again, the annual Snow Business State of the Industry results show over 75% of snow contractors expect to increase sales, primarily through adding clientele to their portfolios. As exciting as it may be to see the ambition the respondents have for the industry and their businesses’ future growth, there is reason for concern in the results; only 12% of respondents plan to offer sales training for their employees. Sales training is the least popular type of training offered, trailing safety, OSHA and equipment training, as well as soft skills like customer service, communication and even leadership. As most snow contractors elect to skip sales training, there is a significant opportunity for the best to excel in sales by pursuing training.
Successful sales strategy is a teachable skill. To learn how to sell and consistently improve requires regular training and reinforcement. The most common problem in sales is that very few people choose to enter sales as a profession. Sales becomes a necessary job function that the owners, general managers, operations directors, or field managers must take on to help grow the business. Forced to tackle a new job, they emulate their best guess of what sales is supposed to look like. Unfortunately, this idea of a salesperson is typically made up of experiences from bad salespeople. It’s easy to understand why most salespeople we interact with are so poor at selling: Most work on commission only with little to no training. The few snow contractors who understand that there is a better way are the ones investing in sales training. By developing sales skills, these contractors earn more business in less time at higher margins with happier clients.
Looking into training
What type of training should you use? Sales training can take many forms, including reading books; attending seminars or group classes (online or in-person); or receiving individual coaching or company-wide training. While there isn’t one best method for all situations, individualized training will undoubtedly be the most beneficial.
In addition to format, there are a variety of topics that sales training can cover. Whether developing a sales process, improving sales management, working on prospecting and cold calling, increasing sales presentation skills, or even conquering negotiations, understanding the scope of what will be learned is critical to getting the most value from sales training. Developing a concrete scope before selecting a sales training program should be a thoroughly completed task.
The cost of training
Sales training costs time and money, and, while the amounts will vary greatly among different programs, very few contractors are prepared to invest any amount into yet another training area. But consider the costs of not investing in sales training. Close ratios are lower for untrained sales people — meaning they must talk to more prospects to earn the same business as someone who has completed training. Perhaps the time invested in training can be recouped many times over in the sales process. Untrained salespeople are more often forced to compete on price because they cannot effectively demonstrate the value of their service. Is it possible that money invested in sales training will yield dividends in higher-profit sales?
Good sales training is a non-negotiable for those serious about increasing sales. The best programs will provide coaching on self-identity and confidence issues, which can freeze salespeople and derail performance when sales are slow. A solid sales curriculum becomes the backbone of a salesforce and powers employees to continue working in any situation. In its absence, the fear of another rejection can become a self-fulfilling prophecy and businesses can suffer extreme loss as a result. The reality is that all organizations are sales organizations; no matter what services are provided at what value, there is no business without sales. So rather than ask who will offer sales training, perhaps it should really be a question of whether you can afford not to?
Neal Glatt, CSP, ASM, is account executive with Case Snow Management. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.