“Where’s the beef (um, sales training)?”

Kevin Trokey on August 31, 2020

During college, I took a summer job at the local Wendy’s. I went in on my first day for a breakfast shift, looking forward to what I would learn. The manager took 30 seconds to welcome me, then walked me to the grill, pointed to pictures of the finished products, and announced, “You will need to make these.”

She then went to the register, started taking orders, and yelling them back to me. Game on – ZERO training. I didn’t even know where to find the ingredients, much less how to put them together!! 😳

I somehow made it through the shift, and I remember leaving in complete disbelief as to what had (not) happened. Surely the trainer was just absent that day, right?

I went back the next morning, once again looking forward to someone training me. Like the day before, it was just the manager and me. Within 30 seconds, I confirmed there would be no “additional” training, and my career with Wendy’s was officially over.

Who does that with a new employee?!

Too many agencies in our industry are guilty of the same tragic treatment of new employees. Think about how your new producer feels when you walk them to their desk, point to their $100,000 new business goal, explain how their job is to reduce costs for one of a business’ largest expense items, and announce, “You will need to make this happen.”

Now imagine how they feel when the reality that you are providing them ZERO sales training sets in. What do they think when they realize there isn’t even a sales process in place around which to provide training?!

There is no training without a process

“If you can’t describe what you’re doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”  ~ Edwards Deming

Without a process, not only do you not know what you’re doing, you have no way to consistently train new hires to learn what they need to do.

If there had been some documented process for preparing a breakfast burrito during my short-lived Wendy’s career, I might have had half a chance. But there wasn’t, and, clearly, I didn’t know what I was doing.

What shocks me is how often agencies have no documented sales process in place, either. Often, they have procedures in place for everything else: how to onboard a new client, how to handle claims situations, how to send out an RFP, and how to renew a client.

How is it possible that so many agencies don’t have a process in place for the one thing that makes everything else possible – how they predictably bring on new business? They leave the new producer on their own to figure it out.

There’s too much on the line

Agencies invest tens of thousands of dollars in a new producer. They then disproportionately depend on that producer to bring in new business and even to retain existing business. The way that producer works and behaves in the market impacts the company reputation, the very brand of the agency.

To not have a sales process in place and to not provide sales training around that process is a failure of leadership. It’s not fair to that new producer, who just committed their career to the agency, to not provide every possible tool to be successful. A sales process and training aren’t some luxury items; they are the most basic of growth tools. The producer needs and deserves them.

There’s also too much on the line for the agency. If the agency wants to have any hope of protecting their financial investment, if they’re going to protect and enhance their brand, they must have formal training in place around a consistent sales process.

I don’t get it

This isn’t an occasional agency reality; it’s WAY too common. I find myself continually shaking my head in disbelief as to why there is such a consistent failure of leadership on this issue.

I have come to believe it happens for two fundamental reasons. First, it is mostly a perpetuated behavior. The agency owner never had such a process or training and still made it, right? So, why should they go to the effort of providing it for someone else?

Second, and maybe the most significant reason of all, owners are afraid they will upset their producers by “forcing” them through sales training and to then follow a consistent, agency process.

You couldn’t be more wrong, Skippy

Sure, there are those producers who have convinced themselves they are better off winging it.

  • First of all, they’re wrong.
  • Second, they probably grew up in a much simpler industry.
  • Third, they know without a process and training, they can avoid accountability for their average-at-best performance.

I’m not typically one to buy into the generational generalities we use to describe Millennials and Gen Z, but I believe this one is real. The youngest generations of the workforce want training; they want to work for an employer who is willing to invest in their future success. While this seems to be more widespread among the younger members of the workforce, it’s also true of every high performer, regardless of age.

It would shock agency owners at how often we get inquiries into our sales training program from producers looking for help who say, “I’m looking to improve my sales skills, but my agency doesn’t provide training; they just send us out on our own.” How pathetic.

One operational and one financial reason to train around a process

First, the operational reason. If you are a growing agency, you know how hard it is to recruit a producer successfully. You also know the job of getting them to profitable is an even heavier lift.

When you can promote a predictable path to success (training around a proven sales process) during the recruiting process, you will attract the best, most driven talent. Once you get them on board, your training will give them a competitive advantage and allow them to become productive much sooner. When the market witnesses the consistent success of producers at your agency, guess who you are going to have knocking at your door to see if they can join your team?

Now the financial reason. One of our Q4i agency principles, Donny Woo of Combined, shared the story of their growth at our most recent networking conference. He explained that it took them over 18 years to hit the $1,000,000 mark in revenue. He was proud of that accomplishment but knew they could do better.

Donny went on to explain that, in 2017, he committed to becoming a marketing and sales machine. They embraced a marketing strategy based on inbound principles. But that was just the start. He and the agency also adopted a structured (albeit flexible) sales process, initiated a training program around the process, and then practiced the crap out of it.

Did his commitment pay off? You bet your sweet bippy it did!!

The very next year, they wrote $500,00 in new business, a 50% increase over their first 18 years! But wait, it gets better. In 2019 (less than two years after making his marketing/sales machine commitment), they equaled their first 18 years of production by writing $1,000,000 of new revenue. I know, right?!

How’s that for finding the beef?

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Photo by Sergey Novikov

Topics: Selling + Process, Leadership + Management, Agency Development