Wholesale Distributors: Do You Suffer from These Sales Training Shortcomings?

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Acquisitions, new transactional channels and shrinking margins are the new normal for wholesale distributors. In this era of changing customer needs, are you providing your sales team with the training they need to thrive?

That’s what Real Results Marketing aimed to find out in its recent survey of wholesale distributors.

We reviewed the results and found three prevalent opportunities for wholesale distributors to improve their training methods. If any of these shortcomings sound familiar, don’t worry, you will also discover insights that can help you address the holes in your company’s current training system.

[Related] Why Negotiation Training Makes a Difference to Distributors

Shortcoming #1: You over-rely on “on-the-job” training

More than four out of five survey respondents cited on-the-job training as the “preferred method” of sales training. Just behind it was side-by-side training at 74 percent.

Can on-the-job training work? Sure, it can be very effective. But in most cases, the training is either demonstrated or verbalized with limited documentation or follow-up.

It’s hard to tell if this style of training actually works because the effectiveness of most internal training isn’t tracked. There’s no formal structure, which typically means no benchmarks with which to compare performance. Rather than following a set program, you rely on a veteran member of your sales team to serve as an example, meaning success is highly reliant on the individual trainer. One trainee’s experience can be excellent. Another’s experience can be horrific.

Because veteran trainers typically have no vested interest in the trainee’s success, trainees are often left to sink or swim. Trial and error learning can lead to lower morale and higher turnover, which can lower customer satisfaction.

[Related] The Difference Between a Trained and Untrained Negotiator

Shortcoming #2: You prioritize product knowledge over profitability

When asked about the type of training provided for customer-facing employees, most distributors said product training was offered most frequently, followed by general sales training, then followed by another type of product training: vendor product training.

There’s no question that product-centric training is valuable, especially for newer employees. The problem is when training begins and ends with product knowledge and internal systems. In The Conference Board’s “2016 CEO Challenge,” leadership development was a recurring “top concern” among distributors, yet this concern is not reflected in the actual training distributors offer.

Another type of training that allows customer-facing employees to evolve into leadership roles (and has the most direct effect on a distributor’s profitability), negotiation training, is also offered much less frequently than product and systems-centric training.

By empowering employees to play a strategic role in customer satisfaction and profitability, they can grow customer relationships and loyalty while also serving their desire to grow with the company.

Shortcoming #3: There’s no system in place to ensure sales training “sticks”

Real Results Marketing’s survey revealed that while 75 percent of distributors would like to see training delivered via a learning management system (LMS), only 22 percent of respondents are actually using an LMS. The minutes per month spent on online learning (below) also reflects the lack of a formal training process.

The problem with most training is that it’s delivered as a one-time event via PowerPoints, webcasts or videos. When the training ends, the training materials are filed away, never to see the light of day again. The knowledge within the training material gets filed away as well, limiting the distributor’s ROI.

Lack of accountability can also negatively affect training ROI. When given a choice between training and selling, salespeople most often opt to perform their normal, day-to-day duties.

So, what is the best way forward for sales leaders at wholesale distributors? As one distribution executive noted, “We need to do less training and find ways to retain the training we are delivering in a more effective way.”

To thrive, modern distributors must build an effective, repeatable training path that returns real, provable value to both salespeople and the company. Training effectiveness should be tracked so that sales leaders and executives can be certain that mission-critical knowledge is retained.

[Related] Learn 10 Negotiation Tactics Buyers and Sellers Use to Gain Leverage

See how your buyers and sellers can learn and retain strategic negotiation skills that significantly boost long-term profitability. It’s easy.

[Watch] 30-minute, on-demand webinar Introduction to Negotiation Mastery


Set You and Your Team Up to Win Better Agreements at Battle For Margin


Your organization’s profits depend on the individual and collective negotiation skill of your employees – from sales to purchasing. The Battle for Margin negotiation intensive is a rare opportunity to dive deeper into negotiation strategy that will immediately drive for more profitable agreements. Don’t you and your team deserve to be set up for success? Don’t miss the Battle for Margin.

It will be held in Miami at February 9-10 at the Grand Beach Hotel Surfside.

Get negotiation intelligence you’ll find nowhere else:

Revolutionize how you and your team view negotiation. Give your organization the tools and knowledge to drive more profit than ever before with compelling and eye-opening case studies, critiques, and group exercises. Instill knowledge fast. The day will fly by because our seminars are purposefully entertaining and educational; people learn more when they’re having fun.

Attendee Testimonials

Here what our clients have to say about the power of strategic pricing tools from SPASigma Negotiation Training Seminars.

“SPASIGMA breaks the standard mold of slow pace seminars. It’s engaging, fun, and interactive in a setting that feels warm and comfortable.”

     — Mitch Koepp, Marketing Manager, All World Machinery


Other SPA Events

Join us for one of the following upcoming webinars:

SPASigma Personality Quotient Training

Wednesday, January 11, 2017 @ 2:00 PM Eastern

Imagine you have to build relationships with two personalities as different as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. A single strategy probably wouldn’t work equally well with each of them, would it? What if you could learn a practical set of skills to help you quickly and efficiently differentiate your strategy to the personality of the individual? You would build stronger relationships, faster and more efficiently, than if you applied a one-size-fits-all approach. You would increase your RQ!

With proper PQ training, within a couple of minutes of meeting an individual, you can identify which of four temperaments they relate to, and adjust your relationship-building, selling, negotiating, and other strategies to efficiently accomplish your objectives. You can boost your RQ!

Check out these two short videos for a glimpse of the tools the webcast will provide:

Donald Trump Video:

Hillary Clinton Video:

We can’t wait to show you how to master these skills! See you at the webinar!

Click here to register


Pricing Effectiveness – You Get What You Can Negotiate

Thursday, January 12, 2017 @ 2:00 PM Eastern

What would happen if every deal that came across your desk suddenly had a one percent higher margin?

What if, in a few months you were seeing 3-5 percent higher margins on most of your deals?

These aren’t pie-in-the-sky questions – this is reality for SPASIGMA clients.

You and your team can become master negotiators. That sounds far-fetched, I know, which is why we’re offering this overview of how we make it happen.

It’s simple: just register for the SPASigma webinar on a new approach to negotiation training.

Click here to register


Click here for other SPA event dates and times including our upcoming webcasts.


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We also encourage you to join the Strategic Pricing discussions in our LinkedIn group and to sign up to receive our Strategic Pricing Newsletter by clicking here.

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