Getting Back

   Training as a
   Sales Excelle

 to Basics

 Basis for

by Wain Swapp

   IN THIS “HIGH-TECH DOT.COM” ECONOMY, we find ourselves learning an entirely new business vernacular. So while we are obligated to speak of “smart card java scripting” and “128-bit encryption for online payment gateways” and other such euphemisms, discussing the concept of “back to basics” sounds downright crude. As the Internet has proliferated, huge new opportunities have meant chasing the next new thing. But while the landscape has changed, consumers still make their decisions to buy based on the presentation of a well-trained representative of a product or service. It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.
   From the onset of our business plan, experience suggested that the most effective way to develop a distribution channel would be through direct sales. We knew that many organizations were developing Internet -based marketing strategies and often forgetting to mature their sales forces in the process. Others who focused on retraining to keep pace with rapid change were exhausting resources on pure product knowledge. Understanding the new phenomena was consuming management’s focus and educating on the fundamentals of sales skills was moved to the back-burner. Like most in this business, we allocate extensive resources to research and development, however we continue to devote equal resources toward comprehensive sales training as well.
   Dealing with a competitive job market, we had to design a training process that would inform our Sales Representatives while at the same time, help them build successful habits. Experience reminded me that exercises of repetition create behaviors that are undeniably crucial to survival. In an industry in constant flux, we could barrage our salespeople daily with industry trends and updates in the hopes that it would make them well-rounded and better informed. But repeated focus on sales presentation techniques produced consistently higher quality results in the overall sales process. Product knowledge is important too. However, if you can master the basics and close sales, the rest will come.

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   Through tactical and careful monitoring of sales team recruitment, we were able to establish clear trends. Without reinventing the wheel, we simply tracked various characteristics of new-hires as they progressed from ad response to interview to first day of training. Steps such as prospect introduction, qualification, presentation, language flow and speed, closing, paperwork execution and even etiquette were refined and retained. We uncovered the basics of properly executing a high-tech sale and creating a standard by which all sales offices could operate.
   In almost logarithmic fashion revenues ramped. Suddenly, it was clear that developing the direct sales channel was not only a huge undertaking, but also one with an equally potent return on investment. We recognized that with the ability to identify, isolate and duplicate traits of success, we could reduce turnover and maximize the results of the substantial investment made in every sales representative.
   Our training team was directed to further develop the end-to-end training process. We continued to mine feedback from the sales directors and found a pattern emerging: the successful sales people were all doing the same thing. By simply comparing the actions and behaviors of the top performers, we distinguished detectable traits that led to success. Within the framework of lead management, appointment setting and time management, we created a training process.
   Finally, in concert with the process of managing sales calls, we developed a tracking system to compare closing ratios between cold calls and telemarketing generated leads. From this data, we gleaned information that helped determine the amounts of cold-call training that would be vested in the final phase of the sales training process.
   To bring it all together, we had to ensure that geography and demographics could not upset the newly executed standard operating procedures. We considered conditional variables such as pricing structures to cold-calling in extreme weather and created applicable standards across the board. While we recently sent a very comprehensive version of the ECP Sales Training Manual to press, we are certain that the process of evaluating and developing our sales training program will be an on-going one.
   Today, dedicated National Sales Trainers travel to sales offices to recruit and train. Sales Managers follow the same model for advanced training during bi-weekly evening meetings. The same system is used without variance. Their directive is clear — express our message with passion, motivation and fun — and make it very clear that by adhering to the basics the Sales Representative will be successful and the merchant retained.

Wain Swapp is the CEO and Founder of ECP Commerce. Visit the ECP Commerce website at