Assessing training needs - Sales Management

Field training (see Figure) is particularly effective in focusing on:

  • functional activities
  • sales techniques
  • organization
  • personal attitudes.

Using a form such as the model training audit, shown later in this chapter, during field evaluation and training helps identify the specific key result areas the field sales manager might focus on in any field training session.

Functional activities

Quantitative or objective measures can be made of most aspects of a salesperson’functional activities. The field sales manager can observe each activity the salesperson undertakes during the selling day,and form judgments and conclusions on the satisfactoriness of performance in each area,while also making interpersonal comparisons with other team members.


Most functional activities will apply in all selling environments,whether consumer, industrial or business-to-business, but their relative importance in the selling process may vary.

  • Selling activity – working to a structured selling process. Does the salesperson work to a structured selling process?

Observation will quickly show if the salesperson works to an appropriate structure to the selling process, such as the seven-step selling sequence proposed in this text. The manager is likely to want to focus on key stages that impact particularly on sales success and business development and profitability, such as identifying needs, effective presentations,negotiating and closing the sale.

  • Setting call objectives. Does the salesperson establish realistic and achievable (but stretching) sales objectives in advance of commencing sales presentations,recognizing that managing to objectives is essential to growing business?

Sales managers need to be alert to salespersons whose only objective is‘obtaining an order’, and to develop appositive approach to setting quantifiable objectives in terms of volumes and turnover, or even other business-building objectives such as obtaining new listings,or new locations where the product can be displayed or used.

  • Use of time. Does the salesperson manage his/her time effectively to maximize selling time?

Time is a key limiting resource of the sales team, so analysis of use of time might consider the following points:

  • Time of first call
  • Time of leaving last call
  • Amount of time during the day spent driving and parking
  • Pre-call preparation and planning activities
  • Post-call administration
  • Lengths and frequency of inter-call breaks
  • Waiting time at calls
  • Time spent checking stocks
  • Time spent merchandising product
  • Time given to effective selling activities
    (e.g. the presentation)
  • Building relationships. Are relationships wit hall buyers and decision influencers satisfactory and carefully cultivated over time?

Call rate. Does the salesperson achieve satisfactory daily call rate on customers,and how does this compare with the average for the sales team?
Conversion rate. Does the salesperson have a satisfactory ratio between order sand calls (compared with the average for the sales team), and if this varies significantly at times can causes be identified?

  • Administration. Does the salesperson competently and promptly complete all administrative tasks associated with the selling activities?
  • Job description. Does the salesperson comply with all the other responsibilities outlined in the appropriate job description, and with other job requirements established by the sales manager?

Sales techniques

Studying performance records does not give an indication of skill in using sales technique sin the face-to-face selling situation. That only comes through observation when the manager is accompanying members of his or her sales team. Field training can then be focused on areas of weakness or aspects of techniques judged as priorities in obtaining and building business.

Customer approach

  • Is the approach professional, warm,confident and enthusiastic?
  • Does the salesperson have the appearance and bearing to make appositive impression, commanding attention and respect as the buyer’s equal?

Identifying/accessing decision makers

  • Does the salesperson identify and gain access to the decision maker in the buying organization?
  • Does the salesperson identify and recognize all the other decision influencers in the buying organization?
  • Does the salesperson develop aerogramme of regular contact with the various decision influencers?
  • Does the salesperson present product information to the decision influencers in ways that address their particular needs?

Working to call objectives

  • Does the salesperson set overall objectives for the business with each customer account?
  • Does the salesperson break down lagers to specific objectives for each customer contact, and with each person involved in the decision-making process?

Identifying customer needs

  • Does the salesperson establish the buyer’s needs and problems in relation to the products being offered (including addressing the specific needs for each other person involved in the buying process, such as product specifies, testers,users)?
  • Do presentations recognize and satisfy needs, and address any buyer queries or concerns?

Benefit selling

  • Does the salesperson highlight key benefit sin relation to buyer needs, or just present list of product features (leaving the buyer to judge the benefits)?
  • Does the salesperson narrow down the range of features and benefits to focus on within a presentation, or run through the entire menu item by item?
  • Does the salesperson approach each other decision influencer with a range of product benefits addressing their particular concerns and needs?

Objection handling

  • Can the salesperson recognize real objections and clarify them?
  • Can the salesperson respond to objections with appropriate objection handling techniques?

Increasing the sale

  • Does the salesperson recognize and pursue opportunities to increase the sale(in value or volume) through product switching opportunities, selling up to higher value/profit items, or linking to sales of supplementary items (such as accessories, service contracts, etc.)?

Closing techniques

  • Does the salesperson control the closing stage of the presentations?
  • Does the salesperson present a positive request for an order (using the ma inclosing techniques of positive close,assumptive close, concession close, fear
    close, alternative close)?

Use of sales aids

  • Does the salesperson prepare all sales aids ready for sales presentations? (Check the salesperson has all available sales aids in their latest format, e.g. sales presenter and product literature, samples, customer records, order forms, other visual aids?)
  • Does the salesperson make effective use of the range of sales aids to progress the sale and influence the buyer (or other decision influencers)?

Control of the call

  • Does the salesperson control the pace, environment and content of the presentation (or is the buyer in control)?
  • Does he work to influence the buyer’views, opinions and decision making (and similarly work to influence other decision influencers)?

Communication skills

  • Does the salesperson exhibit suitable standards of communication skills (verbal fluency, skills in presenting data and information, questioning techniques,listening skills, responsiveness to voluntary/involuntary signals from the buyer, body language, etc.).

Use of product knowledge

  • Has the salesperson adequate knowledge about the company, its heritage and products, and the markets served by the company and its customers?
  • Can the salesperson effectively answer buyer questions and concerns based on knowledge (e.g. product specifications,performance, pricing, terms, servicing and maintenance, availability)?

Initiative in exploiting opportunities

  • Does the salesperson network within the buying organization and demonstrate initiative in seeking opportunities for additional business?


The field sales manager’s audit of training needs should encompass organizational aspects of the selling job. Any deficiencies can then be the focus of training according to how they are judged as impacting on sales performance.

Call records

  • Does the salesperson keep all customer records completely up to date?
  • Are all customer records carried by the salesperson (physically as record cards, or logged on to a laptop computer)?
  • Does the salesperson make use of customer record information when preparing and planning for sales presentations?

Information retrieval

  • Has the salesperson organized all file sand data in a fashion that aids storage and retrieval of information during the selling day?
  • Is all sales equipment (including record sand sales aids) kept in tidy and accessible fashion in the vehicle? (It may be appropriate from time to time, where salespersons work from a home-based office, for line managers to have access to check storage and management of company equipment and information.)
  • Can all sales aids, paperwork, samples,equipment, etc., carried in any briefcase,be readily accessed by the salesperson during a sales presentation, and are they organized in some systematic fashion for use during sales presentations?

Sales aids

  • Does the salesperson have a complete set of all current sales aids and related product and promotional material available throughout the selling day (i.e. in the car)?
  • Does the salesperson check all necessary sales aids prior to making a call on each customer?
  • Are appropriate sales aids taken into the call (or left in the vehicle)?

Journey planning

  • Does the salesperson schedule sales appointments (where this is considered appropriate for the industry and market sectors)?
  • Are appointments scheduled at intervals that maximize customer coverage during the selling day?
  • Is the journey planning organized in the most cost- and time-effective manner?
  • Are calls on customers made at frequencies that reflect their current sales performance with the supplier, or their potential (are some customers being over visited, and others under-visited)?


  • Is the vehicle kept clean and tidy to reflect a suitable image of the company and the salesperson’s professionalism?
  • Is the vehicle servicing up to date, with all aspects complying with relevant regulations?


  • Are pre-call and post-call administration carried out promptly and efficiently?
  • Are communications and correspondence with customers and other head office service functions and colleagues handled in a timely and efficient manner?
  • Does the salesperson record, follow up, and hon our all commitments made to customers and colleagues?

Personal attitudes

This is perhaps the most subjective area of all in preparing a training audit. Assessments of attitude may be influenced by personal feelings, prejudices and preferences. The field sales manager needs to attempt as best possible to make impartial assessments in this qualitative subject area, if only because it is often harder to train people to change attitudes than to improve performance of technical skills.

For example, some salespersons become skeptical of a company’s ‘indoctrination style’ of making sales presentations, mainly because they lack the confidence and skills to implement the recommended sales sequence and selling systems.

The sales manager may recognize that skills training in the more objective areas of assessment will frequently produce a modification in attitudes, where the salespersons see that they can actually improve their sales performance. The attitude audit typically might cover the following aspects judged as impacting on sales performance.

Personal warmth

  • Does the salesperson exhibit warmth and friendliness to all contacts in customer organizations?


  • Does the salesperson project empathy with the buyers when discussing their problems?


  • Does the salesperson project enthusiasm, for the company, its products, policies and philosophies, and his or her job?


  • Is the salesperson visibly loyal to the company, colleagues and management?

Positive ness

  • Has the salesperson the right positive mental attitude to the job and life in general, and does this come over to customers in his or her contacts with them?

Team spirit

  • Is the salesperson a good team person and participative at meetings and conferences (or is he or she more of a loner)?
  • Will the salesperson voluntarily help colleagues in any practical ways that will help promote the development of the business?

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Sales Management Topics