Wieland Inc., based in Grabill, Ind., sells furniture to hospitals and other venues in the healthcare industry. Stan Schneider, Wieland’s national sales manager, acts as a sales trainer and sales coach in the ongoing rollout of Action Selling ® training for the company’s sales force. He finds that hands-on involvement pays big dividends. Here is an update we recently received from Schneider: “Our weekly Action Selling ® Skill Drills reinforcement sessions with the team have been going very well. Everyone is working hard to apply the concepts from sales training in the field. We have a special focus on Action Selling ®’s Act 1, pre-call planning and establishing Commitment Objectives. “One of my reps sent me this note last week: ‘Thanks to your sales training and sales coaching, I now have four new quotes in hospitals that Wieland has never done business with before!’ “From a management perspective, this is exactly what we had hoped for.” Should sales leaders actually become skilled sales trainers, conducting sales training programs and follow-up sales coaching activities personally? You bet they should. In fact, I would argue that they must. I recently wrote a white paper on the topic, which you can download here: “The New Role that Drives Sales Leader Value” Here is an abridged version of my reasoning: It is self-evident that if you want customers to buy from you instead of the competition, you need to distinguish yourself somehow. But, in every industry, we are seeing the end of meaningful differentiation in products and services. No matter what you sell, you probably have competitors who offer something very much like it. Almost any new feature or method your company might introduce to distinguish itself from the pack will be copied quickly. Without a lasting differentiator, you fall into the commodity-selling trap, where price is the only major buying factor—a race to the bargain basement. How can you escape that trap? You need to end the focus on what you sell. It’s all about how you sell.

Never mind what you sell. Focus on how you sell.

There is one way to create a lasting advantage that the competition will find extremely difficult to copy: Build a team of the most competent salespeople in your industry through continuous sales training and sales coaching. In other words, don’t try to compete on product features or service add-ons. Compete instead on the basis of sales skills. If you want to make significant, lasting improvements in sales skills, what is the best way to handle sales training and sales coaching? I believe that the best answer, by far, is for sales leaders themselves to serve as sales coaches and as instructors for sales trainingcourses. Why? Several reasons are spelled out in the white paper. For now, I’ll just ask this: If your goal is to conduct sales training programs and sales coaching in such a way that the sales skills you’re trying to teach get accepted, learned, and then actually used on the job until they are thoroughly mastered, who is in the best position to make all of that happen? As Stan Schneider and Wieland’s sales force have discovered, the answer is, the sales leader. So if you are the sales leader, who is the best sales trainer and sales coach you could possibly hire? YOU are. For information about how to develop sales training skills so you can improve sales skills and make sales training pay huge dividends, contact Action Selling ® at (800) 232-3485.

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