Mar 30, 2017

A Culture of Education

Leveraging manufacturer training to improve your organization from top to bottom

It can be frustrating to encounter a professional who lacks the answers you need to make an informed decision. You expect the person stocking shelves in the grocery store to know where the kidney beans are, and you assume car salespeople have a basic understanding of cars.

Knowledge and experience become even more important in an industry like water treatment, where customers have complicated questions and perplexing problems.

Without a foundation of education in water science, proper system applications and effective sales strategies, your organization will lack the credibility and creativity to be successful. Poorly trained employees will tarnish your company’s reputation. Whether you are a manufacturer, wholesaler, dealer or contractor, making ongoing education part of your company’s culture will help generate more business, retain customers and instill confidence in your staff.

Start With the Right Partners

To begin, you need a manufacturer that is willing to invest time in water treatment education and distributors with teachable employees. Identify fitting partners will help your company build strong relationships.

Developing a culture of education involves finding people in your organization and distribution network who learn quickly and can train others.

From a manufacturer’s perspective, these people can include individuals in a wholesale operation who can guide others at the branch and train top-performing customers. Dealers should look for sales representatives and technicians who are willing to mentor others at the dealership.

Find, recruit and hire people who make everyone else better at their jobs, and empower those individuals with knowledge. They are your secret weapons.

Training in the Trenches

There is a place for manuals, brochures and product spec sheets; however, hands-on, in-the-field training is the best way to learn. This training should include real-world sales experience and the application of water treatment solutions.

For example, when Water-Right brings on a new wholesale partner, regional sales managers (RSMs) work with them. The RSM provides one-on-one guidance, offering training in sales, service, installation and customer retention.

Once the RSM gets partners in the distribution network up to speed, the next step is to educate their customers—the plumbers, well drillers and contractors who will be selling and installing products. It is trickle-down training.

Joining these tradespeople in the field allows for active, applied coaching. It leads to knowledge of water treatment in practice, not just in theory. Everyone in the sales cycle gains an understanding of how things work. When you train people “in the trenches,” they will discover how to identify water problems and deliver solutions—an education they cannot get from a textbook or manual.

In-Depth Education

Once a business relationship is established and key contacts are trained, the learning needs to move to the next level. You can offer this sort of teaching and training through special events or “schools” that provide more comprehensive information to people who will be in the field.

Learning in a group environment offers some advantages. Attendees will hear answers to questions they may not have thought to ask, network with leaders from your organization and pick up on their passion, and share ideas with peers from around the country.

Educational events also allow for cross training. Sales representatives can learn about technical subjects and technicians can learn how to sell. This is crucial, because everyone is in sales to some extent. The more sales staff knows about water problems, the easier it is to make recommendations.

It is not only about teaching people technical topics and sales strategies. Ongoing education should reveal upcoming opportunities in water treatment. For example, unveil product upgrades and innovations while updating your network on industry changes and trends.

Why Knowledge Sells

The old sales adage is, “Always be closing.” However, if you want your distribution and sales network to be closing more often, “Always be teaching,” and “Always be learning,” also should be mottos. Water treatment knowledge gives employees confidence while boosting creativity and problem-solving. When they feel confident in their understanding of water quality, they will be trustworthy and persuasive. Water quality issues can be mysterious, but the more knowledge they have, the more likely they are to solve the mystery and close the deal.

They are no longer pushy salespeople or technicians talking over a customer’s head; they are the helpful experts. Instead of struggling to overcome objections, they provide beneficial solutions to an end user’s problems. It is a more comfortable sales experience for everyone involved.

Committing to this takes hard work and dedication, but emphasizing ongoing education in your company’s culture will set it apart from the competition. 

About the author

Luke Java is director of sales for Water-Right. Java can be reached at [email protected] or 920.739.9401.

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