There are almost as many schools of thought about what makes a great sales person as there are sales pitches. Sympathetic, empathetic, behavioural, and attitude adjusting approaches are all types of sales pitches structured to convince you of their strength as the ultimate training experience to gain that elusive saleEveryone agrees that three hours with Tom Peters or Anthony Robbins and you'll feel like you can walk on water, sell ice to Eskimos, rice to the Chinese . . . or, in short, have enough confidence that no sales opportunity will ever escape you again. The problem is that the warm fuzzies created by these hyped-up, feel-good sales seminars are short lived. Although there is plenty to be gleaned from a session, the effects are rarely long lasting and there is little chance of what organisational psychologists refer to as "behavioural change".
Ron Allen, managing director of Learning Systems International, is a stickler for behavioural change. Therefore, all the courses promoted and delivered by his company focus on changing behaviour. Its customers include most of the large computer companies such as Unisys, Compaq and IBM and its basic sales package has been used to train over 500,000 people worldwide.
According to Allen the key question for people considering investing in training is: "If I'm going to train, how do I know it will work?" The difference, he maintains, between behavioural change and training, and attitude change is the difference between success and failure. As he says: "Fundamental to any sales person is a set of skills they can successfully use in front of a customer to present the case for your product in a persuasive way."
Learning Systems International introduces and reinforces the basic sales skills, along with an account development strategy for bigger sales cycles. Fierce competition in the last five years has forced sales departments to change the way they sell. Telemarketing, catalogues and retail outlets are replacing some of the resources which would have been provided by the traditional sales force.
As a result, Allen admits his clients are asking for different training schedules. For instance, instead of a three-day training program, the demand is now for three days of training over a year because sales managers are less willing to have their people out of the field for too long. Also, because the sales person is now paid more and is classified as an expensive commodity, there are less of them doing more.
As an organisational sales performance com-pany, Learning Systems International's core business is selling the training capability to companies. This includes the material to run the programs or run seminars round the country.
Central to changing behaviour is Learning Systems International's idea of "small group training". The key to its success is keeping the groups to a strict minimum of nine people.
This involves videos, pen and paper activities, role-plays, case studies, feedback and bridging exercises that create the link between the training room and the real life outside.
As Allen explains: "When they come out of training they've changed their behaviour permanently because they've had so much repetition." Training programs from Learning Systems International include Professional Selling Skills, Professional Teleselling Skills, Quality Service Skills, Successful Sales Through Service, Need Satisfaction Selling, and a new program: Winning Sales Conversations. For the more experienced there are courses such as Account Development Strategies, Added Value Selling, Professional Sales Negotiating and Interpersonal Selling Strategies. Most of Learning Systems International's programs cost around $500 per person per day and are constantly reviewed and modified.