Investing in sales training is essential if you are going to enjoy success as a business. In the United States, billions are invested in sales training annually. There is a generally held belief that anyone can sell therefore there is little or no investment in sales training in some organizations. There is need for a paradigm shift and change of attitude towards sales training because it is what brings in the revenue. Whether it’s a manufacturer of tangible goods or a provider of an intangible service, sufficient sales must be recorded for the business to continue operating. It means that it would be irresponsible to employ sales peo ple and allow them to “get on with it” on the assumption that they know what they are doing.

Let’s explore some reasons why it is important to invest in sales training with a special emphasis on the service industry. As we focus on the service industry we need to broaden our definition of salesperson to include anyone and everyone who is the company’s link to its customers. They interface with the customer and how they handle the customer greatly impacts the customer’s decision to buy.

1. Trained salespeople ensure sales success, goodwill and customer satisfaction because they connect better with customers, are knowledgeable about the company and its products, are confident and believable. This believability makes it easy for the customer particularly for intangible products which you cannot touch, feel, smell etc. People buy you before they buy the product.

2. The business environment is extremely competitive. It is “dog eat dog” out there and there is sometimes little differentiation in terms of the products on offer, for example financial services, hospitality. Therefore, a high calibre sales force can be a source of differentiation and competitive advantage.

3. There are many skills demanded in the modern – day selling situation and there is a need to equip your staff on an ongoing basis, for example with communication skills, information technology skills, problem solving, emotional intelligence and administration skills to name a few. You cannot assume that your team is equipped without investing in them.

4. Salespeople are better able to adjust their way of thinking to the company culture, brand values and project an image aligned to what your brand stands for. I remember when I worked for a certain courier company that was a market leader at the time. We had a sense that sense of pride and confidence in the company’s products instilled in everyone from the courier, the salesperson to the executive. It was a result of constant training.

5. Trained sales people are able to build trust and credibility with customers more easily. Tangible products are generally considered to be easier to sell because you are able to demonstrate the features and benefits and you able to “show and tell”. The customer knows exactly what the product looks like before they buy and it’s easier to compare. What makes a service more challenging to sell is the fact that it is intangible, therefore trust and credibility become very important. Most sales training programmes deal specifically with this subject.

6. Most people will do better if they knew better. I don’t believe anyone sets out to wake up in the morning to go to work to be unproductive. John Maxwell says, “good leaders set up their followers to succeed whilst bad leaders set them up to fail. Deliberate training is important because it’s not everyone with a brilliant resume that will perform on the job. The business has sales targets to achieve therefore training gives one tools to produce good results in perpetuity.

7. The service industry relies heavily on brand image and perceptions. It is important to ensure that all client-facing staff project the right image. I worked at a courier company where the commercial manager who had a strong background in the hospitality industry insisted that whenever sales conferences or any other scheduled sales training workshops or seminars were held, customer service agents, operations staff and even the credit controller who managed customer accounts participated. The results spoke for themselves