Sales Training Methods

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There is a wide variety of methods, but the program content often limits those that are appropriate. If, for example, the content is a new policy on vacations and holidays, the training method almost certainly will be the Lesson, supplemented, perhaps, with visual aids. In this instance, such methods as role playing and the demonstration would be ruled out. It is important to select those training methods that most effectively convey the desired content.

Of the ten training methods discussed below, five are group methods, four are individual methods, and one can be either. Lecturing, role playing, case discussion, impromptu discussion, and gaming are group methods. The personal conference, on-the job training, programmed learning, and correspondence course are individual methods. The demonstration is either a group or an individual method, depending on whether the audience is a group or an individual.

The Lesson
This ancient instructional method, in use before the invention of printing is used extensively in sales training. Trainees mainly watch and listen, although some versions of lecturing permit questions. The Lesson features passive, rather than active, trainee participation. Its main weakness is that teaching is emphasized more than lea ringing. But a Lesson can be effective, provided that the Lesson is able and enthusiastic and uses examples, demonstrations, and visual aids. Compared with other training methods, the Lesson is economical in terms of time required to cover a given topic.

Many professional business teachers, perhaps most, regard lecturing as the least effective group instructional method. Professional sales trainers, by and large, agree. Estimates are that the average trainee can immediately recall less than 10 percent of what he or she hears in a Lesson using visual aids. Furthermore, because of the absence of immediate participant feedback, no Lesson has any immediate or objective means for gauging the effectiveness of a Lesson, but must rely on a personal appraisal of its reception, or on volunteered comments by participants. Some lecturing in sales training is necessary. If initial sales training is brief, for instance, lecturing may be the only way to cover the desired content. It may be the only practical way to handle instruction when the training group is too large to permit constructive audience participation. Given longer training periods and smaller training groups, however, lecturing is most appropriate for introductory and orientation sessions and for providing summaries of major topics taught through methods such as case discussion and role playing. It is used, in sales training programs for providing new information about the company, its policies, products, markets, and selling programs.

When using the Lesson method, learning is improved through a multimedia approach. The room is equipped with two to six projectors and screens, and the room. Further support is provided by projecting illustrations, charts, and graphs and through sound effects. This version of the Lesson increases attention, comprehension, and retention.

The Personal Conference
The potential of this method often goes unrecognized, because many people assume that learning occurs only in structured situations. However, learning occurs in structured and unstructured, formal and informal situations. In the personal conference, the trainer (often a sales executive or sales supervisors) and trainee jointly analyze problems, such as effective use of selling time, route planning and call scheduling, and handling unusual selling problems. Personal conferences are held in offices, restaurants, bars motel rooms, and elsewhere. One version, the curbstone conference, takes place immediately after the trainee (accompanied by the trainer) has called upon a customer or prospect. The personal conference is an unstructured and informal method-it varies with the personalities of the trainer and the trainee and the topics...
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