BOB HEIDENREICH: Manufacturer Training

What type of training is most effective for employees?


During my last column, I explained some of the tactics manufacturers can use to effectively educate dealers on their product. I also touched on some of the strategies salespeople have done in the past that can automatically kill the sale— along with the relationship between the manufacturer and dealer.

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For this column, I reached out to some of my top employees at The Deck Store to see what kind of manufacturer training has had the most impact in their ability to sell product.

While most dealers might agree timeliness is everything in training, Andy Carruth, products manager at The Deck Store, says that the strongest relationships are forged when the manufacturer makes an effort to connect with the dealer.

“I think the best ones are where the manufacturers take us offsite to their facility, because it shows their commitment and interest of how they are making their product,” Carruth says. “It creates less of a distraction and we’re able to see the hands-on aspect of the product. It also creates a tie with the people who actually participate in the manufacturing process—it’s huge.”

Carruth went on to explain how it’s not just about traveling offsite to the manufacturer’s facility, it’s about learning about the product visually and building a relationship. “We have a lot of suppliers that we never hear from,” he says. “Their idea of training is to come in with a box of donuts and spend five minutes with us, and that’s it. The ones that consistently stay with us year after year are the ones that make the effort. It’s not just about going to their facility, it’s about learning all we can about the product.”

Lisha Mathews, office manager at The Deck Store, also agrees. She explains how it’s imperative to learn everything she can about the products manufacturers are offering to successfully educate customers and convince them to buy.

In fact, she says that the best educational experience for her was when a manufacturer brought in a contractor to build a display using the product. Since this was done during the winter season, the team was able to learn about the product hands-on and uninterrupted, helping her to learn everything she could.

“It was nice because I could ask questions along the way,” she explains. “I try and think of preemptive questions that I think customers are going to ask, because inevitably I’ll be asked that question. Nothing is worse than not having the answer.”

Both Mathews and Carruth have experienced the salesperson who comes in and is not prepared. As Mathews mentions, the customers are bound to ask an array of questions—especially with the Internet at their fingertips. Our reputability is sacrificed when we lack good information about the products we sell. Mathews also goes into detail about a situation where the salesperson was trying to educate her on a product without any samples and with the wrong information. Not an effective strategy. Just like everyone in this industry, time is a valuable thing and when an appointment goes south, time that could be spent on growing the business is wasted.

On the other hand, there are salespeople who focus on their relationship with the dealer rather than just strictly selling. Some of our strongest business relationships are due to the fact that salespeople reach out and make an effort to get to know everyone in our business instead of just selling a product. Those are the people we want to help, and those are the products that come to mind when we’re introducing a customer to our inventory.

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