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6 Steps to Improve Your Product Sales Team's Professional Skills

Most industrial manufacturers spend a lot of time, money and energy making sure products are produced in the most efficient, safe and cost-effective manner. Although much emphasis is placed on what is done in the shop, the sales team is just as important, if not more so. Without sales, the production facilities shut down and jobs are lost. To ensure your sales team is maximizing the selling potential of your company, follow these five steps to improve the team's professional skills.

1. Presentation Training

Strong presentation skills are essential for working in a business-to-business (B2B) sales environment. Providing regular sales training is a must. Some companies offer an initial training program, which may last a week or longer. Many industrial manufacturers find it beneficial to also offer monthly or even weekly presentation skills training. This provides an opportunity to give sales presentations tips, technology updates, best practices and more. 

Salespeople need to be equipped to showcase the latest in product demonstration techniques. Being able to showcase a product's capabilities in a way that stands out will lead to higher sales. Using the latest in technology is a way to do this. However, balance in this regard is necessary. 

2. Listening Skills Training

When thinking about what makes a successful sales representative, being a good listener is not typically the first thing that comes to mind. However, being an active listener is essential. It's well established that most people do not instinctively have strong listening skills. Therefore, helping your sales force to improve in this area should be part of your training efforts. 

Teaching individual team members to listen actively is key to building a successful sales team.  Ways to show current and potential customers you care about their needs include asking follow-up questions that demonstrate that you are really concerned about their needs. This will indicate that you are interested in establishing or maintaining a long-term relationship.  Offering the right products and being more effective in selling will result when active listening techniques are implemented. 

3. Product Information Training

This is much more than obtaining basic knowledge from a product sales sheet. Sales representatives should know everything there is to know about the products they are representing. Some companies even have their salespeople spend time on the production floor, in the inspection room and any other part of the manufacturing facility necessary to gain as much knowledge as possible. 

New team members will likely go through some level of product training immediately after being hired. However, knowledge training should not end there. Representatives must be able to not only explain every aspect of the products, but also details of the manufacturing process, employee training and safety programs that are in place. Having this level of detail will set your sales team and company apart from competitors. 

4. Objection Maintenance Training

There are a couple of facets to this type of training. Ideally, you want to train team members techniques that will minimize or, better yet, prevent objections. The reality is that some customers and potential customers will raise concerns. Teaching salespeople to be strategic thinkers will help reduce the amount doubts in those you are selling to. Proactively addressing common complaints will show your customers that you are a partner more so than just someone selling them a product. 

The second part of this is helping your sales staff to develop the skills needed to effectively deal with concerns that are raised. This is where the active listening skills, mentioned earlier, come into play. By demonstrating that they truly understand the customers' problems and that they are determined to resolve them, sales representatives will gain their trust. 

5. Customer Service Training

In any customer-facing role, being able to build a strong relationship with customers is essential to building a lasting relationship. The goal should not be to just sell products. Rather, it should be to establish such a strong connection with the customer that when they need a product you sell, they don't think about calling anyone else. 

Building this type of relationship will take time, effort and patience. Training your staff to develop these types of customer service skills will be invaluable. Over time, the relationship should actually develop into a friendship. 

6. Time Management Training

This is a skill that cannot be overlooked. Making sure your sales team members properly balance all these skills in a way that doesn't waste time is critical to the company's success. Technology has made it a lot easier to manage time effectively. Training your sales teams to manage their time effectively, therefore, may involve training on various project management software, analytics software and other types of technology that will help them become more efficient. 

There is certainly a lot to consider when it comes to training your sales teams. It may seem overwhelming, at first. However, following the steps considered will help your company improve its sales and profits in the long run.