A client asks, "My sales staff would benefit from some sales training, but I absolutely do not have the money in my budget this year. Can you suggest some ideas for building sales skills without having to spend much money?"
Sales training should be an ongoing activity, no matter what your budget is. Developing a sales force that wants to constantly learn and improve will result in many benefits to your company. Here are some inexpensive ideas that you can implement right away.
I have long been of the opinion that sales professionals should regularly read books about different aspects of sales. Together with your sales staff, select and read a book on sales each quarter; alternating between your sales staff selecting the book and you selecting one will allow everyone to cover topics they deem important. The books do not need to be long or complex. Books that are available on tape or CD have the added advantage that salespeople can listen to them while on the road. If there is an area in which you feel your staff could use some additional training, start with a book that focuses on that topic. Stephan Schiffman has written an excellent series of targeted books on various aspects of the sales cycle. Set up a time each week to discuss part of the selected book, allowing each member of your sales staff to lead at least one of the discussions.
Subscribe to one of the better known sales magazines, such as Sales and Marketing Management (www.salesandmarketing.com) or Selling Power (www.sellingpower.com). Circulate each issue through the sales force (order multiple subscriptions if necessary), marking the articles that you would like the sales staff to pay particular attention to. Ask one or two sales representatives to comment on the articles at a staff meeting and talk about how the information they read caused them to make changes in their sales methodology. Encourage discussion.
Select an email newsletter or two about sales that best matches your own sales / business philosophy, and sign the sales force up to receive it. Some are free and others will charge. While books and magazines provide in-depth looks at various topics, newsletters provide tips, techniques, and reminders on an ongoing basis. Art Sobczak's TelE-Sales Hot Tips of the Week (www.businessbyphone.com) is one that I would recommend, and both of the magazines cited above offer newsletters.
Whether you choose books, a magazine, an email newsletter, or some combination, you are setting a tone for your sales staff. Some of the reading assignments will introduce new ideas to the salespeople; others may remind them of effective techniques they used to incorporate into their sales calls but have stopped using for one reason or another. They may disagree with some of what they read. That's fine. No matter what, you are promoting regular sales education and it will pay off for your company. Finally, when you put together your budget for next year, it wouldn't be a bad idea to set aside some money for a more formal training program.