A Conversation With the ASA Education Foundation…
Many of today’s wholesale distributors at least pay lip service to the importance of training, and a growing number of them do a good job of incorporating a formal training program into their company’s business strategies. Yet in today’s economy, when everyone is faced with the need to cut back on expenses, training and employee development are often among the first areas to be eliminated.
It’s difficult to justify the expense of sending some of your employees to outside training programs, for example, while cutting back on hours for others, or even having to implement layoffs. But there are some ways you can cost-effectively maintain a culture of learning in your organization even in the face of these challenges. Indeed, employees who may be experiencing slow periods throughout their normal workdays will probably welcome the opportunity to use their time productively. And showing them your commitment to their ongoing development can be a definite morale booster.
Here are just a few ways in which, with a minimum investment in training materials, you can maintain, or begin to build, a training environment in your company:
1. TEACH TEAM MEMBERS THE BUSINESS BASICSEven though your number of new hires is likely down, there are probably folks on your team that could benefit from a short lesson about distribution basics, and still others that could use a refresher.
Appoint someone from your sales team to organize a “Lunch and Learn” session and invite a handful of team members into your conference room or other convenient area. You can provide lunch or invite them to bring their own. Set it up so that you have internet access and a projection screen. Then go to www.asa.net and click on the free “Essentials Sampler.” It’s a 15-minute audiovisual presentation that covers:
- What a wholesale distributor does
- How a
wholesaler makes money
value that wholesalers provide to vendors and customers
- Each team member’s important role in the company’s success
2. INSIDE SALES/CUSTOMER SERVICE REFRESHERYour sales manager or branch managers typically wear a number of hats anyway, so they probably won’t be surprised when you ask them to play the role of classroom instructor. Using the Essentials of Profitable Inside Sales course* as a guide, have your sales or branch manager make an in-depth study of one of the book’s twelve chapters. Then, using the corresponding Leader’s Guide, s/he can incorporate the use of key PowerPoint slides and Excel spreadsheets (where appropriate). This will allow the members of your sales team to not only brush up on their sales techniques and customer service skills, but also gain a new appreciation for how their pricing decisions affect your bottom line.
This kind of session can be done over a lunch hour, or during a dedicated hour during a predictably slow day. It shouldn’t take more than 90 minutes altogether, and giving your team members the chance to ask questions and talk to one another about what they’ve learned will infuse them with some new enthusiasm for the job. Over time, you can accomplish a review of the full course. And by using real-life situations and company-specific examples in the training sessions, you’ll keep your team members interested and wanting to learn more. Total cost: $268** (includes the cost of one course book and the Leader’s Guide).
Note: You can decide whether or not to purchase additional books for each of your attendees, who may wish to then use them as reference material, or pursue their own Certificates of Completion at a later date. Quantity pricing is available.
3. HIGH-IMPACT, PERSONALIZED IN-HOUSE SEMINARIf you’d like to have your team members experience the benefit of a full day’s formal training, but don’t want to spend $1,000 or $1,500 each for travel, hotel and registration expenses to send them out of town for the event, consider playing host to your own, in-house seminar. Granted, this kind of approach isn’t for everyone, but more and more wholesalers are finding the benefit of this kind of training to be well worth the relatively small, per-person investment.
By taking advantage of one of three turn-key packages available through the ASA Education Foundation, you can bring some of the industry’s most experienced trainers to your company to teach as many as 40 of your employees at one time. Based on the “Essentials” brand of certificate training courses, consider the following:
Wholesale Distribution – by Dr.
Kathryne Newton of Purdue University
- Inside Sales – by sales pro and University of
Industrial Distribution faculty member Joe Ellers
- Showroom Sales – by recognized showrooms expert Hank Darlington
The turn-key package includes the instructor’s fee and expenses, copies of the full course book for 25 attendees, customized promotional materials, post-course examinations and grading, and customized, co-branded Certificates of Completion. All you have to do is provide the physical location for the seminars, and lunch for the attendees. It’s an excellent way to bring quality training into your company, without the hassle of setting all the details up yourself. A very detailed “How To” guide and checklist is also provided with this package. This is a great option for companies who don’t have a designated training manager on board. Total cost: Packages start at $6,500, which translates to a full-day’s training and course book/materials for just $260 per person.
So you see, there are a number of ways and price points at which you can begin to cultivate a culture of learning in your company. Your employees will learn more about how their performance affects the overall profitability of the company while also gaining a new appreciation for your commitment to their personal and professional development.
If you would like more information about any of the programs mentioned in this article, or want to discuss the topic of training in general, we would love to hear from you. Please call Inge Calderon at 312-464-0090, ext. 202 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, visit www.asa.net to take a “tour” of all of the product knowledge, customer service, sales training and business skills courses that are available.
* A book-based training program offered by the ASA Education Foundation. Visit www.asa.net for more information, or call 312-464-0090.
** ASA member price; non-member price for these two items is $378.