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Ian Portsmouth:           Welcome to the Business Coach Podcast, an advice-oriented series that tackles the top issues and opportunities facing Canada’s small businesses.  I’m your host, Ian Portsmouth, the Editor of PROFIT Magazine.  And we’ve developed this podcast in cooperation with BMO Bank of Montreal.

How much do businesses invest on training annually? Their employees will probably tell you not enough. They might even tell you the training on offer is not the training they need to meet the demands of today or equip them to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Sales is one of the most crucial areas within a business. So, how do you determine your sales training requirements and how do you develop a cost effective approach to keeping your sales people in the game? Joining me to answer those questions is Harvey Copeman, President and CEO of the Canadian Professional Sales Association. He is on the line from his office in Toronto. Harvey, welcome back to the Business Coach Podcast.

Harvey Copeman:            A pleasure to be with you.

Ian:            So Harvey, in your estimation, does the average salesperson get as much training as he needs?

Harvey: Absolutely not, but, Ian, I agree with your previous statement. Most employees would agree that their companies probably don’t do enough training. So it isn’t peculiar to sales people, I think it goes across the board.

Ian: Now some entrepreneurs might think that only rookie salespeople need training, or they might think that their most experienced salespeople either know it all or are just past the point of being interested in learning anything new. Who in your experience actually can benefit from sales training?

Harvey: I think everyone can benefit from some sales training regardless of your experience level. And CPSA promotes the philosophy of continuous training and most sales professionals, most people who really value their career are doing that anyway. They are continuously in the process of upgrading their skills. The other thing I can say is that if you are a sales manager and you are trying to bridge the gap between the least experienced and the most experienced and get the most experienced on board with maybe a fundamental sales course, you can conscript them to be mentors to the process and acknowledge their seniority in the process. Of course, you only do that if those mentors were actually good sales pros following the process that you want to teach.

Ian:  Now is there a rule of thumb governing what percentage of a sales person time should be spent in training?

Harvey: I prefer to approach this in a different way. Someone who is interested in maintaining and improving their skills should invest at least in one training course per year and that training course should be of a 3-day duration or more. And in our certification process, we require our graduates to maintain at least 20 hours of annual continuous education in order to maintain their certification.

Ian:  Now some businesses are likely to have a mix of experience levels and skill sets on their team which implies that they will have a wide array of training needs. That makes a one size fits all approach a little bit problematic. How do smart companies approach this challenge?

Harvey: Well, first of all, skill training is an expectation of today’s younger generation. The requirement to provide any employees with training is actually more of an expectation of your employee rather than a privilege. Now, in terms of your question, everybody can always brush up on the fundamentals. You know, I would say, don’t shy away from putting everybody on a basic sales selling skills course everybody can benefit. However the best idea is to customize to where a person is on a sales proficiency continuum, judging their potential relative to the company’s long term plans for them and gearing a program for them specifically.

Ian: So that means you should really try to tailor an individual training program to each individual salesperson and I guess that means that you want to outsource a lot of their training, send them on specific courses and you might even use online training tools. Is that right?

Harvey: That’s right, all of those.

Ian: So what in your opinion are the training responsibilities of a sales manager? That’s the person who has the closest contact with individual salespeople.

Harvey: Their role is to diagnose but not deliver. Probably any sales manager if he’s good in their job is a good coach leader and cheer leader but not everybody has the time or the aptitude to train. And training is an intensive process, at least that’s the way we define it in a concentrated timeframe. So there is no doubt that the manager can certainly mentor their people using their best practices and we would expect them to do that. As a matter of fact, I think a lot of people think they can send their people to a three-day training course whether it would be ours or somebody else’s, and feel good about the fact that they are coming back fully trained. But that’s not the case. They need an on-going support program in constant reinforcement. Knowledge does not necessarily guarantee practice.

Ian: So it sounds like a sales manager would be involved in developing the plan and then monitoring the progress.

Harvey: Yes exactly. You know, while there are sales manager out there that certainly could add a little training function and probably do, it’s not usual because they typically don’t provide the skills. Their head isn’t in it on a day to day basis.

Ian:  Can you offer some money saving tips for delivering good training on a tight budget?

Harvey:  Well, the first thing is web-based training, either it’s online self-paced or it could be a webinar situation. Now, we feel, at least we hear that it is never as good as face-to-face because it is not as intensive and you don’t get the quality of feedback and discussion that you will get in a classroom situation. You’re most likely though to pay pretty much the same price for the training program. What you will save would be on the travel expenses.

Ian: Now finally Harvey, how can the Canadian Professional Sales Association help companies address their sales training needs?

Harvey: In this discussion Ian, as you know, I am not completely unbiased. We have a full slate of sales training products both online and offline. We serve them in both French and English. One of the unique things for CPSA is we hold public courses coast to coast, that’s where anybody from any industry can attend. But we also do custom work for larger clients. And lastly, for individuals or companies who want to raise their standards as sales professionals, we have a certification program where graduates earn a certified sales professional certificate upon graduation. So it is basically a benchmark that they can carry behind their name and give them credibility in the marketplace.

Ian: It’s great to know that these resources are available Harvey. I want to thank you for joining the Business Coach Podcast.

Harvey: Thanks very much Ian for having me.

Ian: Harvey Coleman is President and CEO of the Canadian Professional Sales Association.

That’s it for this episode of the Business Coach Podcast.  Be sure to check out other episodes, which you can download from BMO.com/coach, profitguide.com and iTunes.  For other tools to help you build your business, visit the BMO Smart Steps for Business Community at BMO.com/smartbusinessowners.  Until next time, I am Ian Portsmouth, the Editor of PROFIT Magazine, wishing you continued success.

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