The Trials of Training
Training the trainer has its operational and instructional efficiencies. Most of these are obvious—less interruption to workflow, fewer employees off the floor to gather offsite or in the break room to maximize a third-party trainer's precious and pricey time, the advantages of having someone train an employee who already knows the sales associate, and at what pace they learn sales technique.
There's another, less apparent reason to train the trainer—the ability of re-tailers to impart their own sales technique. "Since a lot of training is performed by external resources that share their knowledge across a wide base, how can a retailer be competitive if everyone shares the exact knowledge? This is where internal factors play a major part in an organization's success factor," says Phil Wilkerson, who, while director of information services at Home Depot directed the chain's eLearning program. "Third-party trainers are very good at general selling principles, but on-the-job training best relates to the specific approach a company wants to use. Here, the retailer can take those general selling prin-ciples and modify or adjust them."
Although technical knowledge on particular products involves different knowledge and skill sets than salesmanship does, the intersection between the two is obvious. Technology retailers may have hundreds or even thousands of SKUs, all with their own operational intricacies. One PC printer may not work the same as another, and may not represent the ideal solution for different customers. Some customers might want Macs, others Windows-based PCs, and so on. Faced with that reality, the best retail salespeople not only know how to sell, but have a pretty good familiarity with the products they are selling.