Industrial Sales Training
Industrial Sales Training
� The training of industrial salesmen differs from that of
� salesmen in the consumer goods field. Apart from the very
obvious need for product knowledge, the industrial salesman is
more likely to become involved in the protracted negotiation
for new business than his counterpart in the branded consumer
� goods market, where purchasing decisions are frequently made only at headquarters level and where the negotiations are conducted by senior sales management personnel. Industrial buyers are concerned not with the re-saleability of the goods they purchase but with their technical acceptability, as raw materials or components in their company's manufacturing process. They are equally concerned about the reliability of the service offered by their suppliers, because merchandise purchased to feed a mass-production plant must be delivered at the right place at the right time if a highly complex manufacturing operation is not to be brought to a standstill. Furthermore, it is the duty of the industrial buyer to at least maintain and, if possible, to reduce the cost of the goods he purchases and he will, therefore, look for a high degree of competitiveness in the prices which he is offered. Because the motivations of the industrial buyer differ so much from those of the buyer of a retail outlet the salesman's approach also must differ. This difference, however, is only one of degree. The principles of successful salesmanship remain constant, whatever the class of goods or services one is handling or in whichever markets one is operating.
There is another aspect to be considered in the training of industrial salesmen. Generally speaking, the nature of their work will require some measure of technological understanding of both the product and of the manufacturing processes employed by customers. They are likely, therefore, to have good educational attainment and to be of above-average intelligence. In view of this higher degree of sophistication in the man and the work to be performed, a more sophisticated training programme becomes necessary.
The instructor appointed to train a group of industrial salesmen must be able to achieve a good rapport with his pupils.
He is likely to be dealing with men who are articulate and who may already possess considerable knowledge of industrial and commercial practice. He should avoid any tendency to talk down to them. Instead, it must be his aim to win their confidence and co-operation. He will best achieve this if he emphasizes that the basis of the training programme is the provision of the latest selling techniques applicable to the specific products and markets in which the company is engaged.
It is obvious that the instructor must know his subject and be capable of transmitting it. However, the greater the general level of intelligence of his pupils, the less they are likely to accept all that they are told without question. Instruction methods, therefore, should not be stereotyped. Flexibility of approach is essential to take account not only of the variation in the absorption capabilities of the individual trainees but also the differences which may exist in their educational background, previous commercial training and selling experience.
'Inside' training will consist mainly of lectures supported by the showing of films to illustrate and expand upon the points made. Group discussion can play an invaluable part in the training of industrial salesmen. Its chief merit is that it encourages the participation of all the trainees. Their knowledge and ideas are pooled. The instructor assumes the role of discussion leader and guides his class rather than 'teaches' it. It should be remembered that men of the calibre required to sell sophisticated industrial products frequently resent the idea that they are being 'sent back to school' and will adopt a negative attitude to training. By their very nature they are likely to want to participate and not merely to listen and observe. The Sales Manager should bear these factors in mind in fashioning the training programme.