Selling is not only an art but also a science. Let’s examine if selling can be effectively taught in a class room. Well, traditionally selling was taught on the job. A new sales executive followed a senior sales person on a few calls and then went on to be on his own. In his book “Life Insurance Company Sales Training Programs” H P Gravengaard says that scientific selling methods were perhaps first started by subscription book companies and that they are the pioneers in terms of organizing training for their sales staff. Subsequently, modern organizations started giving importance to the training of sales personnel reinforcing specific skills that are important for their domain.
Selling is best learnt through experiential learning which involves ‘learning by doing’. In learning on the job, a senior sales person is assigned to juniors to provide guidance or feedback. Training is effective in a classroom environment, when sales situations are simulated and learners get to enact the role of a sales person and that of a buyer while the instructor provides the feedback about the best method to be adopted in a given situation. Training is not likely to be effective if the participants are given a lecture through PowerPoint slides for 2-3 days. Role plays, situation analysis and case studies have to be part of the program. However, it is not always possible to incorporate all of the above in an ILT program.
This is where online training and resources prove to be handy. Animations, video enactments or simulations are components of an online training program that can be effectively used in sales training. Consider the following situation. A sales person is about to make a sales pitch. He has forgotten his reference material which gives key data about his product and his competitor’s product. Would it not be handy if he had access to a resource where he could simply download the same to his iPad or smartphone? In another situation, imagine a sales person who is disillusioned with himself and needs a mentor to pep him up and instill confidence or provide guidance. Would it not be ideal to have an online mentor available, say through the company intranet, who provides guidelines?. Imagine how much more it would add value to the sales person, if he is provided with bite-sized modules giving sales tips or selling ideas to sales personnel.
I think technology can play an important role in providing training to sales personnel. It can be innovatively and creatively used for the benefit of sales staff who are typically action-oriented and detest being confined to a typical classroom type setting.