Troop Boosters

Mark helps you recognize what level of training your staff needs.

It’s a great scene from the classic 1981 movie Stripes. In a desperate attempt to pass basic training, army private John Winger, played by Bill Murray, keeps his fellow troops up all night drilling in a last ditch attempt to gain the skills necessary to pass the field test.

The movie cuts to morning as a frantic Winger and company is running, late as usual, to the display field. Disheveled and sleep-deprived, Winger stands at attention on the parade grounds with the rest of his rag-tag troop. A general in full dress standing at a podium on an impressive stage asks, “Where have you been soldier?” Winger responds, “training, sir.”

“What kind of training?” barks the General. Winger replies in a cracked and crooning voice, “Aaarrrmy training, Sir!” To which the entire field adds, “Aaarrrmy training, Sir!” It’s a hilarious show of comic unity.

If you’ve ever felt your troops were in need of some training, here’s what you need to know to turn a rag-tag unit into a fierce selling force.

What Is Training?
There is a difference between presenting, facilitating and training. Presenting is typically the one-way communication of a policy or a program. Facilitation attempts to harness the brain power of the group to solve a problem or create something new.

In training, the person leading the session brings the skill set or the solution to the group and transfers the necessary idea to the group. (This is not to say that participants can’t or shouldn’t make suggestions about how the skills presented can be adapted or refined — they can and they should.)

Attending a presentation means you’ve heard some ideas; with facilitation, you’ve shared some ideas; with training, you come away with new skills.

When To Use Training?
Training is an important and effective tool for improving performance if skill discrepancies exist. How do you determine if there is a skill discrepancy? Could they do it if their life depended on it? If your employee can’t, then quality training is the solution. Typical examples of sales skill deficiencies exist when a salesperson can’t:

• Effectively answer commonly asked questions
• Answer a simple question about the motorcycle
• Respond to customers’ queries about interest rate or monthly payment
• Handle a basic price objection
• Explain why doing business with your dealership is good for the customer
• Doesn’t know how to complete a basic deal worksheet

Four Levels of Development
People have different skill levels in different areas. In sales, I like to break the skill sets into three areas: prospecting, presenting and following up. In each of these areas, most sales people have different levels of ability.

Ability can usually be categorized as one of the following:

Natural: Have you ever heard of someone described as a natural? Michael Jordan is a natural basketball player; Tiger Woods is a natural golfer; Eddie Van Halen is a natural guitar player. The great thing about naturals is that they are high performers and for them it is almost effortless. The downside is there are certain aspects of their performance that they don’t even know how they do it.

Learner: Others are conscious of their inability or incompetency. I don’t mean total incompetency (we’re not talking the village idiot here) but rather there is some aspect of their sales performance that they can’t perform. What’s great about these people is they recognize the skills discrepancy and can take steps to rectify it.

Ignorant: Others still don’t or can’t. They are not conscious of their incompetency. Do you know someone who doesn’t know, and they don’t know that they don’t know — you know. These people really can be dangerous to the performance and morale of the dealership. In my younger years, I used to try to show these people the light. It rarely works because they are intractable in their incompetent positions. Now I just politely disengage and work around them.

Developer: We should all aspire to be conscious of our competency. To be effective and to know why and how we are so that we can develop others.

Andragogical Perspectives
One of the challenges with adult skills transfer is that many training “professionals” treat them like children, especially in formal training situations. It drives me crazy when people refer to adults as students; this means they don’t get it. Adults are participants, children are students. Classes are for kids, adults attend workshops.

Avoid These Phrases:
• Let’s have a class on objection handling
• It’s time now for you to be students
• Now let’s role-play

Instead use terms and phrases like these:
• Let’s have a sales workshop on objection handling
• It’s time now for you to be learners
• Now let’s have some skills practice so we’re ready for this situation

You won’t be perfect at this at first, but keep working at it. The language we use has powerful conscious and subconscious effects on senders and receivers. This is as important as your piston to cylinder fitment. Too loose with this and your participants will smoke as well.

Adults want you to see them as savvy and professional. All adults bring ego baggage to every situation, especially staff meetings. We want others to see us as accomplished and knowledgeable. So treat them as such.

With real-world pressures, don’t be bothered if during a sales meeting training session, your crew isn’t necessarily on the edge of their seats with every comment you make. People have many things going on in their lives that may have nothing to do with what you are talking about in the workshop.

The problem with most training sessions is that what is being talked about is either esoteric or not directly applicable. If you tell me I should have a better attitude, that’s not skills transfer. If you tell me I should really have more pride in the dealership, that’s not skills transfer, either. Show me how to handle a price objection. Now we’re getting somewhere.

Next month we’ll discuss the training sequence and how it can transform your ragamuffin crew into an elite force.

For more on Peak Prospect Attraction go to
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