By Mike Voories, CSP
Adequate training, if there is such a thing, is daunting for snow industry professionals. The seasonal nature of snow and ice management, the obvious hands-on element and the all-hands-on-deck, “every second counts” reality that we face make operations training challenging. Yet, most industry-leading organizations make training a priority and find a way to make it happen. SIMA has done a great job making resources readily available to help snow professionals train their teams. Many organizations use these tools, along with internal training programs, to position their snow programs for success.
I hear much less going on in the way of sales training within our industry. To be clear, when I say sales, I’m not talking about bidding or estimating. I’m not discounting the importance of being able to accurately estimate snow projects, but I’m talking about the art of sales - an entirely different skill set and an entirely different necessity for training.
Benefits to sales training
I’m speaking of training that our industry seems to do very little of, according to the State of the Industry survey. Why no love for sales training, when sales is what grows our businesses? It’s safe to say that many, if not most, professionals selling snow and ice management services have backgrounds rooted deep in operations. It can be tough for those of us who know the business so well to acknowledge a need for training when it comes to selling our services. Industry experience might make it easy to talk the talk, but it does little good getting a sales professional in front of more prospects; and even a truly profound level of industry experience won’t alone help a sales professional close deals at higher prices than their competition.
Introducing sales training into an organization will almost certainly put more jobs on the roster. The benefits of sales training also translate into other areas of the business, most notably the bottom line. Sales professionals who are trained in the art of selling, not just in the technical aspect of snow removal and ice management, can sell work at higher margins. Well-trained sales professionals are also able to target the type of clients who are a good fit for an organization, rather than pouncing on every request for proposal that comes along.
Absent adequate training, salespeople often sell primarily on price. But, winning business because you were willing to do it cheaper than everyone else isn’t really winning, is it? Likewise, selling work to prospects that aren’t a good fit usually doesn’t advance the company in the desired direction.
So, we acknowledge we’re not doing enough (or any) sales training. Now what? Where do you find this type of sales training? There’s not really a one-size-fits-all solution to offer. Several considerations must be made, including budget, size of sales team, availability and level of internal expertise. Very few snow organizations exist with the internal knowledge base and resources available to successfully execute a completely internal sales training program from day one.
We recently hired a sales coach (trainer) to hold a half-day workshop for our sales team. It was a big hit, and the team learned lessons they could start implementing immediately. We then chose three of our sales professionals and enrolled them in a three-month sales training program with the same trainer. The training program consisted of two to three hours per week of classroom-style training. As an added benefit, our sales professionals could reach out to their coach during their enrollment to obtain advice and guidance on specific situations.
A benefit of using an outside training source is that it provides a new voice and a fresh perspective. From the inside, we’re often too close to see what’s really happening. We only know what we’ve always done, and an outsider can shed new light and bring a separate set of skills and experiences to the table. We don’t know what we don’t know, and there’s only so much we can learn through our own experiences. Furthermore, a sales coach or trainer is often viewed as an expert in the material they’re teaching. This perceived credibility tends to keep a sales person’s, or an entire sales team’s ears and minds open.
This is not the only way to obtain quality sales training. I strongly suggest the seven sales training essentials (see opposite page) be included in whatever sales training program you decide to pursue. These essentials can help lay the groundwork for future and more advanced sales techniques. Never stop learning, and fully embrace continuous improvement!
Seven essentials in a sales training program
Although there’s always more to learn, and sales skills can and should forever be expanded, seven essentials should be present in any snow and ice management training program:
- How to overcome price objections and win business without negotiating price
- How to be more expensive than your competition and still get the job
- How to qualify prospects
- How to put a precise plan in place to accomplish your sales goals
- How to track and measure your sales activities (what gets measured gets managed
- How to target the clients you want to work with and stop chasing RFPs
- How to get more referrals
State of the Industry 2017
- No love for sales: 23% = respondents who offer sales training to their teams, by far the least-offered type of training.
Mike Voories, CSP, is the Chief Operating Officer at Brilar, a metro Detroit-headquartered landscape and snow maintenance firm, and a consultant to the service industries. Contact him at email@example.com.