How to fight your corner

Denise Stocker puts forward some persuasive arguments on growth and
profitability to help safeguard the training budget from shortsighted
cost-cutting measures

Challenging, difficult, slow and demanding. These are some of the adjectives
used to describe today’s business environment. A worldwide economic downturn,
global terrorism, uncertainty and loss of confidence – all contribute to
exceptionally difficult conditions for business. For many, survival has
replaced growth as the main goal for the coming year.

As you may be discovering, many companies are looking for ways to cut costs.
At first sight, the company training budget for non-statutory training looks an
obvious target. Reducing expenditure on training is easier to do than many
other options, and will often have an appreciable impact on the bottom line.

But this apparent benefit may well be an illusion. Training is an investment
as well as an expenditure, and investment is needed for future growth and
profitability. Cutting back on training means reducing investment in the
workforce – the most valuable asset in any business and the key to its survival
during tough times.

This is especially true in sales training. It is very clear that if
salespeople are not selling, the business has no future. To sell during a
recession, sales staff must understand how a downturn affects thinking and

During a recession sales teams could actually find themselves busier than
ever. Because things are quiet, prospective customers will often have more time
at their disposal. They are keen to explore the market and hear what
salespeople have to offer. They give every appearance of being interested in
buying, but do not.

At such times, it is essential for sales staff to recognise at the earliest
possible stage whether the sale is likely to happen. They have to distinguish
between having an interesting conversation and a purposeful one. To achieve the
sale, the salesperson must ensure the communication with the prospective
customer moves towards the desired goal.

Right direction

But it is not just sales teams who need to learn how to keep communications
moving in the right direction. In a typical organisation, there are large
numbers of people who would benefit from learning to define the objectives of
communications, and how to stay focused on them.

There are other skills covered during sales training courses that are
equally applicable to non-sales personnel. Good sales training, for example,
teaches interpersonal and behavioural skills. Delegates need to identify, and
deal with, the three basic personalities – dominant, dependent and detached –
and are given techniques to handle them effectively.

People who have this ability are much more effective at any job they may do.
They will recognise different attitudes and approaches to work, be able to
identify common goals and support each other in working towards these. The
result – better-motivated and more content staff as well as a more functional

Good sales training, then, does much more than teach salespeople selling
techniques. It teaches them how to communicate and focus on goals, and how to
recognise and deal with different personality types. These are transferable
skills, required by everyone in the organisation.

It is often not practical to send everyone on a sales training course, but
in a recession, businesses stay successful by being sales focused. Sales
training for non-sales personnel can be a powerful way of achieving this.

When money is tight, companies must carefully evaluate training to ensure
value for money. The choice is between training programmes that set out to
teach specific skills and programmes that take a broader approach. Training
that teaches transferable skills benefits the individual and the organisation.

Effective sales training may make the difference between a company that
survives and one that thrives.

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