Survey Says: Longer training produces better results

Home Columns Survey Says: Longer training produces better results

December 21/28; Volume 30/Number 13

By David Romano

Finding effective sales associates in today’s employment landscape is very challenging but retaining them once they are hired has proven to be even more difficult. Since the economic downturn there has been a noticeable downward shift in the length of time business owners are willing to allow for their newly hired sales associates to become productive members of the sales team. Many owners are looking to hire a unicorn with phenomenal experience that can bring in a big book of business and needs minimal training. They are reluctant to hire inexperienced candidates—although they may have great potential—because of the training requirement.

I have had hundreds of conversations with dealers who say it takes at least a year for their sales associates to become peak performers. If this is so well known in the industry, why do most dealers train their new sales associates for less than two weeks before releasing them into the wild?

When conducting exit interviews with candidates who voluntarily quit, an overwhelming majority told us the same thing: training was terrible. The old joke about a flooring retailer telling a new sales associate after only five minutes of training, “Just remember fuzzy side up” and “You’ll be alright because now you know a little more than the next customer who walks through the door” is a recipe that will not work on millennials who demand involvement from their managers and knowledge in order to produce results.

About 13 years ago, when the consulting division of Benchmarkinc was formed, we conducted a workshop with flooring professionals in the Northwest. We brought together sales associates, managers and owners to develop the best process to pump out productive sales associates in the shortest amount of time possible. After that workshop, a 10-week training program was created in which sales associates did not speak with a single customer until the entire process was completed. That program produced sales associates who didn’t take very long to start outselling veterans. Over the years that training program has been reduced to eight weeks because of the increase in technology and access to information.

According to a survey conducted by Benchmarkinc in which several hundred flooring retailers participated over a three-year period ending 2013, independent flooring stores that train their new sales associates for four or more weeks experience:

  • A 3% increase in gross profit
  • Sales associates earn nearly 8% more vs. those who are trained less than four weeks
  • $1.1 million in greater volume

When developing a training program it is important that the outlined tasks do not overwhelm the system or any of the trainers involved. Eight weeks may seem like a lot of time to invest in someone if there is only one person doing the training. Instead, training should involve reps, installers, online content, secret shopping trips to your competitors, various members of your sales, operations and administrative teams, and outside training classes offered by industry partners.

After completing the training program, your new sales associate should have a firm grasp on features and benefits of each flooring category, hands-on experience with installation, understanding of how to quote material, knowledge of how to process an order and exposure to customer-based selling strategies.


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