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Get Serious about Developing Your Salespeople

Copyright MMI, by Dave Kahle

Rub shoulders with a half dozen distributor executives, and it's clear that there is at least one thing they will all agree on. It's this: "We should do a better job of training and developing our salespeople."

It's amazing to me that almost everyone agrees with that statement. And rightfully so. Industry surveys indicate that the distribution industry is woefully behind the rest of the world when it comes to investing in the development of their salespeople.

For example, ASTD routinely surveys its members to determine what percentage of payroll they spend on training and development of their employees. Over the past few years, the percentage has been pretty consistent at around 3 to 5% of payroll invested in training.

The Facing the Forces of Change 2000 study found that the average wholesale distributor spends about 1.5% of payroll on training and development. That's less than half of what other industries do.

It's no wonder that the Facing the Forces of Change 2000 study concluded: "If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, lack of training may be the weakest link in a wholesale distribution company."

    Facing the Forces of Change 2000: The New Realities in Wholesale Distribution.
    The Distribution Research & Education Foundation., P.112
Here's the real problem. While everyone agrees with the need, very few companies actually do anything about it! Get that same group of half dozen of distributor executives together again a year later and ask them what they did about a problem they all agreed on and my bet is that no one will have done anything differently!
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If you are reading this, you may be one of those distributor executives who have done nothing recently. Consider this question: "What have I done differently to do a better job of training and developing my sales force in the last 12 months?" If your answer is "Very little, if anything," than read on.

The problem is not one of intention. Rather, it's that most distributor executives generally don't know how to go about doing a better job of training and development. That's understandable. Most distributors are good at distribution, not education. It's natural to do that which you know and ignore that about which you are unsure.

For those of you who really want to do something, but are unsure of where to begin, here are three simple steps that will get you well on your way.

1.  Mandate Continuous Improvement.

The first step is to let everyone know that you expect continuous improvement from every employee and salespeople particularly. That alone will perk some people up. Proclaim loud and clear that it is not enough to be content with last year's skill set or performances from the past. If they are going to work for your company, they need to commit to continuous improvement.

Write it into your mission or values statement so that everyone knows that continuous improvement is a core value of the organization. Make sure all prospective as well as current employees clearly understand your position.

Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of B2B salespeople, sales managers and business owners to be more effective in the 21st Century economy. He's authored nine books, and presented in 47 states and seven countries. To access Dave's training, insights and tools online, visit The Sales Resource Center. Visit www.davekahle.com to check out a seminar near you.

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