Often the difference between a modestly successful and a very successful plumbing company is the amount of training. Training makes the difference. The name of the game is train, train and train some more.
1. Train with frequency. How frequently will you train? The bulk of plumbing companies train once a week as an afterthought of the service manager. Some train daily. That’s right; they start each day with a training class.
You might wonder if this is expensive. If so, you’re looking at it wrong. It’s a small investment that will yield a big return on sales. The motivational impact alone is worth it. Not every plumber can stay pumped when working on his own.
2. Keep it short. Training sessions should not be long. Keep them short, like the attention spans of most field service professionals. Limit them to no more than 30 min.
3. Use multimedia. We live in a world of sound bites, Tweets and short attention. Training classes will feature a certain amount of lecture, but it’s important to mix in some video to make them entertaining and fun. Fortunately, the Internet is filled with videos that can support whatever message or point you are making. You just have to look for them.
4. Don’t fear repetition. Some contractors have a one-and-done attitude about training. Yet training is all about repetition. Football teams practice the same play over and over again. Musicians play the same piece again and again. With repetition comes perfection. Do not be afraid to repeat your training.
5. Make use of role-playing. One of the best training techniques available (and easiest for you) is role-playing. Create a situation, pick out two of your plumbers, let one be a customer and the other plays plumber. It’s rehearsal for the real thing and, done right, can be a lot of fun.
6. Prepare handouts. Take the time to prepare handouts to reinforce the training. Give your plumbers training notebooks to keep the handout material. Some will never look at it, but others will open it during the day and use it to help improve performance.
7. Use an agenda. Prepare an agenda in advance of the class. It should include a title for the training class and an objective. State what you want to accomplish. Some classes may be totally focused on technical issues. Some may be sales-related.
Include a motivational quote, as well as the company mission and vision. Open the training with the motivational quote, and then have everyone read the mission and vision together.
The agenda should note who is responsible for leading that day’s training class. Do not always use the same training leader. Mix it up. Let your plumbers take turns leading the class. When you teach material, you learn it better.
List any necessary materials — videos, handouts, flip charts and markers, etc.
Outline the training in bullet-point format. The first or last bullet point should be company news your plumbers need to be informed about (e.g., marketing, advertising, new products, etc.). Add timing. Keep things flowing according to the timetable.
Finally, list a few questions to ask. You may or may not need these, based on the natural discussion that occurs. The questions should reinforce the training objective.
8. Resources abound. Coming up with training material may seem challenging. Don’t worry. Once you get started, you can find lots of material. YouTube alone can supply your video requirements and there are other, similar sites. On Amazon, you can find all sorts of books on plumbing, on sales and on training.
Do not overlook PMmag.com. The magazine’s website is filled with columns that could be turned into training classes. Browse the site, print off articles that look promising and keep them in a training file. If you plan to reproduce any articles in a training manual, be sure to check with the editor and/or publisher for permission to avoid any copyright issues.
Ask your supply house personnel for help. See if they will loan you a trainer from time to time. Find out if they have training videos or other material you can borrow. Manufacturers also have good resources. Visit their websites and look around.
Some of your training should be company-specific — the proper way to fill out an invoice, company procedures, how to use and present company literature, and so on. Company marketing material and promotions should work their way into your training so your plumbers are never caught off guard by a consumer presenting a coupon or asking about a special offer.
Finally, anytime you send a plumber to an outside educational event, such as at a supply house class or industry trade show, require him to discuss what he learned at the next company class. This helps spread the knowledge and forces the plumber to pay more attention during off-site education classes.