What a year!

As we prepare to leave 2021 behind and greet 2022 with enthusiasm and anticipation for the challenges we will undoubtedly face and successes we will surely achieve, I find myself sitting in my office reflecting on my first year at Sullivan-Palatek. On the bright side, the demand for compressors was rebounding as the country and world emerged from the pandemic giving salespeople the hope of making up some of the losses they had endured.

Sadly, the positive beginning of the year was quickly diminished by the unprecedented supply chain difficulties that slowed everyone’s ability to deliver a product as they had routinely done. This affected every aspect of sales, including the customer relationships that salespeople had spent years developing on all levels. Suddenly we were unable to give customers the product they demanded in a timely fashion. Add to this the crippling inflation of prices for everything, and it is easy to lose focus on anything else.

We have all heard the old saying, “control your controllables,” and I have always tried to follow this tenet. I’ve never given a lot of effort or energy to the things over which I have no control, and the supply chain and inflation certainly fall into that category. So when I look at issues facing my sales team, I look for areas in which we can improve, which I can impact through training. As a sales manager, I have heard every kind of statistic such as “80% of all sales are made by 20% of the sales force.” Perform a simple internet search, and you can find dozens of these, and most of them point out the ineffectiveness of salespeople as a whole.

The majority of these statistics point to training being an issue needing to be addressed. When you couple this with another statistic showing that sales training returns $4.53 per dollar spent or an ROI of 353%, you cannot help but wonder why companies aren’t spending more on training their sales force. There is no simple answer to this. Only 32% of salespeople rate their sales training as effective, and somewhere around 80% of all sales training is forgotten within 30 days.

The real question is how do we train our sales force and make the training engaging and effective or, in short valuable. In 2021 I committed to my team that we would train formally at least two times per year. I was going to start with basic sales knowledge and skills and work toward a higher and higher skill level over time. One of the first practices I employed was “micro-learning,” which breaks larger concepts into very manageable lessons. For instance, instead of trying to teach someone to “close” as a whole, I will break it down into smaller units such as “language recognition,” “body language,” or “trial close questions.” By doing this, you re-enforce learning without overwhelming your team with information.

Another practice I use is “best practice sharing.” I’ve always found it is never more expedient to re-invent the wheel. Most sales teams have enough experience to share with others. The great thing about using this practice is that as a sales manager and trainer, I get to evaluate in real-time what someone might not know and if what they do know is good or bad. Is what they are teaching something I approve of? Or do I need to help them learn something new? Not all experience is good, and bad habits can often be identified in this manner.

Going into 2022, I am more determined than ever to continue to help my team develop their knowledge and skills. The only way to do this is through training. We will continue to train every six months and follow up on this during our weekly sales calls/meetings. I am convinced that well-trained people feel empowered, and empowered people to go out and make things happen. This is what gets me truly excited about the coming year. Happy New Year to all from the Sullivan-Palatek sales group.

Larry Colley,
Directory of Field Sales
Sullivan-Palatek, Inc.