One of the biggest struggles I hear from fellow contractors relates to making their tech training “stick.” You know the scenario: You provide a great training meeting or have a consultant come to your business, you see a spike in your sales numbers and then after awhile those numbers flatten out again. This is a relatively common scenario, but also an issue that can be avoided.
First of all, why don’t these great results continue after your techs are all fired up and start using effective new training tools? Here are a few reasons:
1. Habit creation. It takes a while to replace an old habit and form a new one. Different schools of thought surround the amount of time it takes to replace a habit, ranging from as little as 21 days all the way to the amount of time the old habit was in existence. It’s easy to try something new (such as a sales technique) for a week or two, but techs have to maintain the motivation and incorporate a new skill into a routine in order for it to last.
It’s far easier to fall back into an old habit than it is to create a new behavior, especially if techs aren’t seeing the immediate benefit. It’s kind of like the concept of a New Year’s resolution; you get excited about trying something new, but if it’s too much work or the results aren’t immediate, you retreat back into your old ways. The same concept applies to why techs don’t easily adopt the new sales habits and techniques you’ve provided them during training sessions.
2. Comfort zone. Most humans simply don’t want to leave their comfort zone; it’s a safe, familiar place. You’ve probably heard the Robert Allen quote, “Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.” You have to want those things badly enough to take the risk to try something new. People tend to resist change, and many techs perceive training as your attempt to change who they are and how they do things. Techs need to find what truly motivates them enough to remove actions that don’t serve them and move past their fear of failure.
3. Lack of self-confidence. Techs, leaving their comfort zone by implementing new skills is scary enough, but think about all the unconscious fears that come with the prospect of higher sales numbers and newfound success. They might say they want a fancy vehicle, a nicer house, and a big savings account, but their self-confidence level is too low to think they really deserve all those things. Multiple studies have shown the majority of people never leave the social class they were born into, much less significantly move up in socioeconomic status.
Retention and use
So, now that you understand some of the psychology behind why training isn’t always executed consistently, let’s talk about what to do to combat these things. Here are some ways to help your techs retain and actually use the training you invest in:
1. Consistent reinforcement. I’m sure you already know consistency and follow-through are two of the keys to effective training. So why do we ignore what we know works? The most common excuse I hear is, “I don’t have time to train consistently,” which makes no sense whatsoever. Make the time, period. Pick a day, a time, and a training method (such as online videos), and then stick to it. It really is that simple.
2. Talk about self-confidence and motivators. In my Service Sales Success School course, I go into great detail about self-confidence because it’s the foundation of growth and success. When techs believe in themselves, believe in the company they work for and can recognize their personal motivator(s) for being successful, you have a recipe for higher sales numbers. This might not be a traditional sales training tactic, but I’ve had great results when you can get your techs to talk about why they want to be successful (family is usually the main reason) and how low self-confidence keeps them from being as prosperous as they want to be. Create a safe environment for this conversation, whether in a group meeting or one-on-one coaching.
3. Give technicians the reason behind training. Explaining the why behind training is just as important as techs explaining the reason behind clients needing a product or service. Sometimes your techs need to be sold a little bit about why the training is so important. This isn’t just about making another dollar for the company. Sales training is about delivering the best possible experience for clients, which then provides opportunities for techs to increase their annual income and make the company more profitable.
Explain that effective training creates a win-win-win situation, and that you aren’t trying to change who they are at the core. The intention behind training is to help techs become the best version of themselves, not a completely different version of themselves. A problem I often witness is: Company training meetings are held without a clear goal in mind, and the desired outcome is poorly communicated. Owners and managers complain their techs resist the training they provide, but that’s usually because techs perceive it as tedious and obligatory. Answer the “What’s in it for me?” question for your techs, and make your training interactive and immediately applicable. They will become much more responsive to your message, and the training will more likely stick.
4. Provide incentives. The occasional contest or goal-based bonus provides some friendly competition and camaraderie among the technicians, which can help boost sales. It’s helpful to tie a reward to accomplishments based on training you’ve done. For example, if you are training about getting more reviews, offer a bonus if they reach an overall number of reviews as a team, or create a contest for whoever gets the most reviews personally.
Keep in mind: The best way to find out what your team wants for their incentive or reward is to ask them. It doesn’t do any good to have a contest with a prize nobody cares about winning. Some people are motivated by a gift card or bonus, while others will work harder for a day off. When they tell you what they want, they also become more personally and emotionally involved in the end result. Ask everyone at a team meeting to agree on a few top options, and then decide on your incentive from those.
Understanding why technician sales training doesn’t always stick, as well as what to do about it, will make a big difference in the growth of your company. Now, go implement some sales training that really works over the long term!
This article was originally titled “How to make sales training stick” in the October 2016 print edition of Plumbing & Mechanical.