Invest in employees with proper tools, training and techniques
By Seraine Page
In the spa industry, ongoing sales training is a must for your business to keep turning a profit.
Steve Sharp, sales manager of six-year-old South East Spas in Fort Myers, Florida, says everything in his business comes down to the sales techniques. Among its three locations, South East Spas bring in about $10 million in revenue yearly. The company sells and delivers hot tubs from the Florida Keys all the way up to the Carolinas.
Sharp attributes most of his stores’ success to sales training. He says having sales staff fine-tune their pitches and sales processes from start to finish is paramount. “Sales is important, and is what keeps the lights on and pays the bills,” he says. “If you aren’t focused on sales, you won’t be in business very long.”
Training for Success
Jessica Miller-Merrell, chief innovation officer of Workology, a global firm that provides resources to the HR community, says that, during the first six months, employees “have the potential to be the most productive for your organization,” she says. “They are trying to understand your place of business and where they fit.”
That means actually providing engaging training opportunities, Miller-Merrell says. Shadowing is one of the most effective ways to do that, especially in the hot tub industry where sales aren’t always natural for new hires.
Al Eckert, regional manager of Litehouse Pools and Spas, puts his brand-new employees through a boot camp of sorts. New hires receive training from a store manager to get a firm grasp of store operations while taking in new product knowledge. Newbies also learn how to respond to customer concerns via role-playing, an effective technique of acting out how a particular customer may react during the sales process.
“A new employee doesn’t know much more about the hot tub than a customer,” Eckert says. “They have the same preconceived notion, as our customer does.”
Eckert pries into his employees’ mindsets by asking why they think people would or would not buy a hot tub. This training exercise forces employees to put themselves in a customer’s shoes.
While sales training is sometimes uncomfortable, those opportunities help his staff get more comfortable in the moment with customers. It preps them in advance for objections and the potentially awkward pricing questions that inevitably follow.
Regularly giving sales staff valuable resources and tools to sell hot tubs is a must, he says. There are plenty of other “help wanted” signs around his town, Eckert notes. To keep commission-based employees, it’s in his best interest to get sales staff trained quickly and well.
Eckert says employees will only push themselves as far as they want to go, although a little competition never hurts.
“If people want to be successful, they will be self-motivated,” Eckert says. “We do post monthly and weekly goals in the stores. We do constant coaching at the store level to help them continuously improve. When they see we want to help them, they usually want to improve, too.”
Regional managers, sales managers, and top sales staff can benefit greatly from the sales knowledge imparted at annual industry conventions like The Pool & Spa Show. Before sending employees to trade shows and conventions, however, let them know they’ll be expected to bring knowledge back and share it. It can be as informal as a meeting briefing or as elaborate as a daylong workshop.
Find the Right Training Tools for Your Company
Eckert finds hosting manufacturer representatives for in-store training works well for keeping all employees up-to-date on upgrades and product changes that will demonstrate expertise to customers during a sales pitch.
Eckert says his sales team receives the most training of all staffers. Throughout the year, Eckert also has his employees training through The Friedman Group, an online sales training system. “Our sales staff is our most valuable resource,” he remarks. “If they are not successful, our company is not successful. It is the most important thing we do, and we give a lot of attention to it because of that.”
Sharp echoes Eckert’s statements; he’s so keen on developing sales techniques that he encourages his staff to work on it daily. He’s also a huge fan of Grant Cardone, world-renowned bestselling author and sales trainer known for his passion and intensity when it comes to sales — something Sharp loves for his own sales staff to absorb.
Sharp encourages sales staff to spend a minimum of 30 minutes on Grant Cardone’s sales training offered through Master Spas. The program is comprehensive and helps sales team members learn to work through customer objections and other selling techniques.
“The whole key is you’re working on your craft, and you’re going to come out on top,” says Sharp, who is certified in the Master Spas training university.
Sharp keeps a close eye on his employees going through the Master Spas training, and he follows up with them. If a salesperson repeatedly fails a section, Sharp walks through the material with the employee.
“If you’re in sales and you’re not working on your craft on a daily basis and you’re not reading the books and watching the free stuff that’s available on YouTube, you’re not going to be successful in your craft,” he says.
4 Tips to Better Sales Training
Identify Training Needs
Before revamping your current training program, look at what’s working. Get employee feedback. If you have exit surveys from previous employees, see where they wanted more feedback, resources and sales training opportunities.
Make Continuing Education a Priority
Look at programs that are available for the hot tub industry. Offer weekly, monthly or quarterly training for sales, along with computer-based self-study programs.
After a major sales training, take pause. Ask employees for key takeaways. See if they have any follow-up questions or need clarifications. Have employees write down their next action steps to solidify game plans.
Implement and Get Feedback
The hardest part of building new sales training programs is getting them going. It won’t be perfect the first time around, but making tweaks after trial and error will make it better with time. Ask employees how it’s going, and get feedback on a regular basis.