Let’s face it. Training on any level can be an intimidating and daunting task. Questions like when to train, how often, and who should be involved come up. What type of training and who should teach and provide it also adds to the confusion. Most of the time, I feel that these questions become so overwhelming to both business owners and mangers, that the easiest decision to be made is the one that is made most, and that decision is to do nothing. To do nothing is to put yourself and your business on the path to extinction. As has often been said in business, you are either growing or shrinking, and if you are not providing your staff with the latest in tools, processes, techniques and learning, then you are definitely shrinking your business.
Deciding to train is the first step. Once that decision is made the following steps will make it easier for you to get going.
First, identify what you are trying to accomplish. For example: do you want to generate more sales? Do want higher customer satisfaction scores; better customer retention? All of the above? If it is to generate more sales, is it face to face selling processes that your staff needs, or is it telephone sales training? Is there a particular item or product you are trying to move? Is there a new type of sale that you are faced with such as selling from a display wall versus a service menu? The point here is that you want to narrow the focus of your needs as much as you can, so that once you or your staff experiences the training, they are getting specifically what you are looking for and what they need.
Second, determine who has the best product to fit your needs? If there is someone in your industry that has a product that is tailored to your business, this is a bonus, but it should not be the only criteria by which your training is chosen. I recall one of the best sales classes I ever attended was taught by an former insurance agent. Even though I never sold insurance and most of the examples that were used were based around that industry, I found that nearly all of what I learned was applicable to most sales industries.
Third, decide who should go? Would you be best served to send the whole group, or just one person? The advantage to sending the entire group is that everybody hears the message from the same source at the same time. However, if you or one of your staff members has the ability to teach, instruct and motivate, you may be able to save money by just sending that one person. In addition, you do not want to leave anyone out. Let’s assume your staff needs telephone sales training. Who in the department answers the telephone? Since the sale starts as soon as the telephone is answered, does all of your staff know at least how to keep a potential customer on the telephone until the right person can answer? Can they make the sale if necessary? The point is to make sure that all who need the training get the training.
Considering how the training should be delivered is the fourth thing to consider. Is “in your dealership” the best way or would sending the staff to an offsite location be better? What method of delivery is best? There are many choices here, and the choice you make should be determined by a combination of what is being taught, the complexities involved in the subject, who is being taught and what method has the best track record. Sometimes a combination of methods is the best way to go. For example, some of our best customers like to send their Service Advisors to a workshop first so that I can present the new processes and ideas to their Advisors. They then follow that up with an in-store visit to insure that what was learned is clearly understood and that the Advisors can and are using it. This is finally followed with our ongoing highly interactive online training where new methods, techniques and processes are taught and then reinforced and sustained through weekly meetings. Often just as beneficial, dealers will select just one of these methods based on their needs, and are successful as well.
One of the most critical areas of providing training for your staff is the fifth step: make sure the trainees know what you expect them to gain by being involved in the training. A pre-meeting agenda should be created and discussed with each individual as to why they are being trained, what they are expected to learn and what is expected of them once they complete the training. If possible, discussions should be held at the end of each session of training to further help ensure that your goals are being met. Once the training is complete, yet another meeting between you and the attendees should be held to discuss and create a plan on how the new methods, processes and techniques are to be implemented. Time frames, standards and expected results should definitely be topics of discussion that are included in that meeting.
Finally: accountability! This is the most often missed step. Once your staff completes any form of training, regular meetings should be held to guarantee they continue to benefit from the training by continuing to use what was taught. Too many times I find that companies invest in training and then expect their employees to install and enforce the training themselves. This is wishful thinking and rarely happens, since training usually requires change, and change is one the things in life that most people fight. This is where regular and consistent follow-up meetings become paramount.
An idea that we find helps with making sure the training is used, is to have a co-op and earn back fee program for staff. For instance, you could write into their job descriptions and company policies that they will be required to invest a given amount ($500, $1,000 or?) in their own annual training. This money could be earned back by attending the training and passing all required and related test. You might even choose to increase the amount of earn back above what they have invested based on the improved results that are gained by them using what was instructed in the training. This will not replace you having to manage the results, but will make it easier for you since they will have an investment of time and money on the line as well.
In closing, if after reading these suggestions you still feel it seems like a daunting task to get training started, consider the following. If your training simply revolved around you and your team reading, training and holding discussions on one book a month for 12 straight months, you both would be in the top 25 percentile of all the intellectuals in the world! If you and your team read just five books on one subject, you both would be one of the world’s foremost leading authorities on that subject! If you and your team read for just 15 minutes a day – everyday, for one year – you can complete 20 books!
All things that are worthwhile in business take time, effort and investment. Even though training often seems like just a necessary evil, you can’t expect your staff to deliver the results you desire if you don’t show them how.
About the author: Jeff, in his 28th year of training, is recognized as the creator of the modern-day, walk-around and selling processes for service departments. Currently partnered with NADA, EasyCare, NCM, and other vendors and manufacturers, Jeff is the nation’s authority when it comes to training service advisors and service support staff. Visit his website at AutomotiveServiceTraining.com and sign up for free, weekly training. Follow Jeff on Twitter at @JCowansProTalk. He’s also on Facebook, and Google+.