Have you had trouble in the past? Not able to find someone with the same passion and expertise you hold for your brand? Maybe you know it’s the next step to grow your business, but what’s the best way to go about it?
I’m Nicola, founder of Ravensford Consultancy – Providing business services and consultancy to the companion animal industry. I have spent 20 years working in the pet industry in both small business and large corporate PLCs. I have a particular interest in innovation, customer experience and team training.
In the last 10 years I have written and delivered training to thousands of staff, across many subjects. From specialist technical animal care through to commercial business strategies and product development. These are my thoughts on how to approach product training as you expand your business.
You have a product, a plan and the ambition to succeed, but you can’t do it all on your own. Either now, or at a point very soon, you will need to bring in other people to help you. Hiring the right people, training them to a high standard and engaging them in your dream are the biggest steps to get a return on your investment.
Problems can start when you ask new freelancers, or employees, to sell your product on your behalf. How do you engage them to care as much as you do? Do they truly understand the product they are selling? Do they believe it is something that will really make the difference to the customer? Is the product too technical for a salesperson to grasp? These are all common worries.
All too often people fail to optimise their training because they fail to consider these worries before the training is developed. You don’t need to fall into this trap. Think about it logically, break it down and make sure consider the following points.
What is your aim?
Directly sell more products to happy returning customers?. Support third party stockists? Identifying the difference between first (your staff) and third party (your stockists’ staff) sales really helps you to develop the right training.
Methods of delivery
Delegates get so much more from face-to-face personalised interaction. That being said, you can deliver quality training on a budget to large audiences by utilising conference calls, skype, and a number of other available technologies. These are all perfect ways of getting your message out there and they can save thousands on hotel function rooms or even just travel time and fuel.
Pre-recorded product training or pre-recorded video links can be sent to your customer or client and can be password protected if need be. They are both visual and have the added convenience of flexibility for the trainee. You can also tailor them to suit first party/third party training needs.
In person can be one-to-one and a site visit. Sometimes this can be the only option. One-to-one training is likely to return the most revenue for investment though, so it is always to be considered despite the cost.
A more effective method is to group your product training with one trainer and multiple delegates. This can work very successfully for large chains and corporations as they often have training days or annual conferences you can attend.
Getting the most out of your window of opportunity
Book well in advance. Remember, you and your stockists are busy, paying staff to run the business. There needs to be a clear return by investing in team training. I would think about the following:
- What information do I need to be understood?
- What will directly empower team members to make more sales of my product?
- Who will best be able to deliver this for my brand?
Training your team to deliver the best for your products
To succeed in training, it’s important to remember that everyone learns differently. Some people are visual learners and will need to see illustration, others can read a brief and translate, some will need to be shown. Try to identify this within your team and adapt your style to suit. This is not always possible, and this is where a freelance trainer can bridge the gap.
Some products are self-explanatory. Show them the product and it sells itself. Some are much subtler in their use. If you are expanding your payroll, then you have been successful in selling your brand. Share that knowledge, passion and enthusiasm with your delegates.
Technical items need a robust understanding. Especially medical or nutrition as these products are normally sought out by a customer with a specific issue. If the background knowledge is missing here, then it can falsely display your product. Make sure you know the difference between what you expect from your staff and their grasp of the technical knowledge needed for a successful sale.
No one likes to be put on the spot, but you do need to work out if your team members truly understand the training you have given. Try gently asking some of the most common questions you get asked by your customers. Move on to try something a little trickier. If there are gaps then you must return to your original questions for the solution – Is this the right person? Have you given the information in the best format for that team member? Are you asking for the right level of specialist knowledge from that colleague?
Customer follow up
The easiest and most cost-effective way to discover if your training is working (barring an obvious upturn in sales) is to automate a quick survey out to any suppliers who have received product guidance from your company representatives. Ask questions such as: Do you feel confident using this product? Was anything missing from the training? Which part of the product training stuck with you most?
Finally, remember if you can successfully get your team to deliver your brand with both knowledge and enthusiasm you can count this as a fantastic achievement for your company and your revenue will grow.