Page 4: Communication
Selling is a two-way process of personal communication between a seller and a buyer. In highly competitive markets such as those for financial services, personal communication is a critical part of the sales process. Selling involves matching the needs of customers with services designed to meet those needs. Customers want someone they can trust, someone with the maximum information and who will balance alternative strategies and discuss confidential matters such as their needs for financial services. The better the relationship and appropriate match, the more lasting the relationship becomes between the seller and the buyer.
It has been said that sales people are born and not made, but the role of training is a crucial part of the selling process. Training helps to build selling skills and to make use of their personal abilities through the various phases of the sales process.The aims and objectives of the STAR programme involved managers in implementing the process of training as well as helping other members of staff at Northern Rock to develop their sales skills. Aims for Managers:
- to pass on the content of the programme their staff will undertake and at the same time to refresh the managers on the basic sales process;
- to manage their staff as a sales unit and to manage the training process on an ongoing basis at the branches before and after staff have attended training course.
Aims and objectives for Staff:
- to impart the basic service and selling skills to staff and help them to recognise the opportunities for using these skills;
- to help the staff understand they should sell both the products and the Society.
The STAR programme of training recognised that all individuals have different learning needs and that some individuals might need more support than others. The programme itself involved 14 different elements or key training objectives. Training for sales as part of a programme designed to increase pro-activity is not an overnight process. Initially, staff attended a two day delegate course where they were presented with the objectives of the STAR programme and worked together in workshops comprising groups of staff numbering between 10 and 12. The training process was then taken back to the branches using open learning. Open learning involves developing a training programme which meets the needs of an individual by allowing them:
- Flexibility of place - means that learning is not confined to a classroom. It can just as easily take place in a work area or in a living room.
- Flexibility of time – enables learning to take place at the most convenient times of the day or week.
- Flexibility of pace - allows people to work as quickly or as slowly as they wish because people learn at different rates.
Though the STAR programme involved staff in training themselves, for the initiative to succeed, staff required encouragement and support from their managers. This was undertaken through a process of coaching. Coaching was used by managers to provide personal help and encouragement for staff to develop their skills. Managers had to:
- allow time both for themselves and their staff. This involved holding an initial coaching meeting to discuss action plans, activities and the process of open learning;
- provide a place for staff to use which would be conducive to the learning process;
- make sure that staff were provided with learning materials.
It was important for managers to identify any learning problems and to provide support for their staff, particularly motivation and ongoing support which ensured objectives were being met and staff were provided with constructive feedback.