Low-Cost or No-Cost Training Opportunities

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 therearesome 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:


Even 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 towww.asa.netand 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
  • The value that wholesalers provide to vendors and customers
  • Each team member’s important role in the company’s success
When the video is over, your session leader can provide company-specific examples (that s/he has prepared in advance) to illustrate the specific areas that have been addressed, which will help to bring the lesson home. Your team members can then have the opportunity to ask questions, which will give you an excellent platform for gauging how well they understand their own roles and your overall business environment. Even some of your more seasoned people will find this exercise to be stimulus for some good discussion.Total cost:  $0- unless you decide to spring for lunch.


Your 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 theEssentials of Profitable Inside Salescourse* 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 correspondingLeader’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.


If 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:
  • Profitable 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 emailingec@asa.net.

Meanwhile, visitwww.asa.netto 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. Visitwww.asa.netfor more information, or call 312-464-0090.
** ASA member price; non-member price for these two items is $378.