The 7 Steps to Effective Sales Training

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You hired him because he is outgoing, clean-cut, friendly, and likeable. You set him up with promotional materials and a current customer list, while working with him for several days to teach him the ropes on how to sell restoration. Like clockwork he arrives in the office every morning for coffee, enthusiastically chatting about last night’s game before heading out to spread the word about how amazing your locally owned company is at customer service and quality. He reappears in the afternoon with several business cards and receipts and tells you, “I had some really great meetings today, and we should be getting business soon.” Four months go by with nothing sold, so you fire him and wait to try again until you have the patience to hire another salesperson.

Whose fault is this? Yours. The reason is in the second sentence above.

Sales training, even for experienced reps, takes months. In our industry, we spend only days. This is why business development representatives are one of, if not the, highest turnover position in your business.

According to The Bridge Group, an average company will spend between $10,000 and $15,000 to hire a sales rep, but only $2,000 to train them. This alarming statistic manifests in another from HubSpot: the average sales position turnover is 35% compared to 13% for all other positions. In my opinion, those that receive limited training when hired are significantly more likely to be fired or quit in their first year than they are to make it to year three. A lot of time and money is being wasted. In short, the massive turnover and cost in this position is a product of ineffective sales training.

Before you commit to hiring a sales rep, put a comprehensive training plan in place. Most companies turn their new rep loose within two weeks of hiring, because they don’t have an onboarding and training plan already created and they run out of ideas to coach on as the weeks progress. If you do this, I am telling you that your rep will fail. With my first position out of college, my sales training was almost four months long before I was given any authority to talk to a customer on my own. While this may not be feasible for many small businesses, it should set some expectations for the commitment needed to better ensure a sales rep’s long-term success. 

For a small business in restoration, a sales rep’s first three weeks should be allotted exclusively to training and development. The next three weeks should be a healthy mix of sales training and field time, preferably with the owner or manager present as much as possible. This includes spending a minimum of one full day each week riding with them to meet with prospects and accounts. Through their entire first six months, one or two days each week should be filled with additional sales training activities while continuing the scheduled ride-alongs. 

So what should you be training on to fill all this time? Sales training can be broken down into seven steps.

Step 1: Discuss the Company’s Culture

On day one, after all the HR paperwork has been completed and the new hire has settled in, discussions should be centered on the culture of your organization. Engage them with the mission, vision, and core values. Explain why you and other employees are inspired by working in such a demanding industry, knowing that what you do helps people during some of their darkest times. Make sure they are introduced to all employees, including them into the discussions of the day. If you want your new hire to be passionate about what you are building, give them a reason. Remember that culture should always come first. 

Step 2: Explain the Industry and Those We Serve

Sales professionals are very hesitant when they don’t understand the needs and terminology of the customer. Explain in detail what restoration is and what it is not. Show them the different verticals you market to (e.g. plumbers or commercial property) and why each would want to do business with you. Don’t assume they know on day one what took you years to learn, even if they have been selling in the industry before. 

Step 3: Paint a Picture of Your Services

Send your newly hired sales rep out to jobs so they can see in person how everything fits together. They need to spend time getting their hands dirty onsite with estimators, project managers, and technicians. If you have several current or former customers who are willing, schedule time for your rep to interview them on what their experiences with your company were like. The customers your sales rep will call on can quickly spot the difference between a sales rep who knows their stuff and one who is there to bring them donuts. They like the donuts; they hire the expert. Help them picture your unique selling proposition and be able to explain it to potential customers in ways that will resonate with them.

Step 4: Teach Them How to Sell

Notice we focused on the WHY and the WHO first. Now that your rep has a better understanding of the company, team, and customer base, it’s time to focus on the WHAT with effective selling strategies and behaviors. Remember, they are not selling a product, they are selling a service. It’s a different skill set. 

Specific selling areas to be addressed include:

  • Finding and qualifying prospects
  • Effective written and oral communication 
  • Cold calling
  • Presentation skills and elevator pitches
  • Asking insightful questions
  • Problem solving and creative thinking
  • Overcoming objections
  • Relationship building
  • Referral marketing
  • Reading and understanding body language
  • Proper documentation
  • Setting up sales routes
  • Closing skills
  • Effective follow-up
  • Customer service
  • Social media and digital marketing

Hopefully, at this point, you are starting to see why the typical three-day sales training for new hires performed by way too many restoration companies doesn’t work. To provide comprehensive, long-term training, research and purchase subscriptions to online training classes and Learning Management System programs specific to selling labor-driven services. Simple Google searches will produce hundreds of available and affordable online courses. Use industry Facebook and LinkedIn groups and tradeshows to ask other restoration companies what sales training classes they have found to be valuable. 

Step 5: Train on Company Tools 

Problems with CRMs and software programs are among the most talked about issues our consulting clients seem to have. Rarely is it the fault of the program for why something doesn’t work. It’s more likely that employees are not using the programs correctly. Avoid this by scheduling time for your CRM provider to train your sales rep and then follow up on the backend with company-specific procedures. Train them on digital services and apps you may be using as well, so they can work them into their process and deliver better results. Show them how your social media marketing is done and discuss what they can do to improve it.

Step 6: Set Expectations

A very common question is how much a new sales rep should produce in their first year. Multiple factors will weigh into the answer, but a good rule of thumb is $350,000 in their first twelve months for those new to the industry. Understand that the first four months will most likely result in little, if any, sales as they are learning and building relationships. During months five and six, some sales should start to trickle in, but the vast majority will be actualized in the second six months of employment. For their second full year in the field, it’s reasonable to expect $700,000 plus. 

Prior to hiring a new sales rep, establish a sales plan and goals along with a marketing budget and the key performance indicators you will use to monitor their performance. If the goal is $350,000 in year one, with the first four months being mostly training and helping get their “selling legs” under them, budget two jobs a month for months four and five with an average ticket of $10,000 each. Then build the rest out, gradually increasing each month. Explain how many stops, calls, Lunch & Learns, and events need to happen to help put them in a good place to hit their goals, along with how their activities will be tracked. 

Step 7: Provide Continual Learning

There’s a reason why IICRC and RIA require continuing education credits be earned to maintain certifications. Stephen R. Covey calls it “Sharpening the Saw” and it’s one of his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Companies that offer year-round, continual sales training will help their reps outsell those that don’t by 50%, according to ZIPPIA. But yet, very few do. 

Build out what continuing education will potentially look like. Create a budget for both dollars and time and make it a requirement that the rep comes to you with ideas for additional training, including specific classes, costs, and the expected returns. After all, they need to practice asking for the order. Step 7 should circle back to Step 1: Culture. Continuing education should be part of your culture. If it’s not, then you have bigger issues to tackle.

One Final Thought

Remember, most of the people in your company are around other employees throughout the day, either in the office or on job sites. They feel a part of the team. Sales reps spend most of their day behind a windshield or in someone else’s office hearing the word “no” over and over. Any bit you can do to include them in the office for training, while giving them the skills and confidence to turn a few more no’s into yes’s, will go a long way toward building an effective sales division, growing your business, and limiting turnover.

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Jeff Jones

Jeff JonesJeff Jones is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. Jeff has a wide range of experience in professional sales and marketing involving all levels of decision makers. Through VMA, Jeff works with companies to find the right mix of programs and services to help them develop their people and their profits. Jeff is a regular contributor to C&R, and winner of the 2022 Patricia L. Harman Golden Quill Award! To reach him, visit Violand.com or call (800) 360-3513.

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