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Nicola Plinston

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How the world of training can develop online


Nicole Plinston takes a look at the sales industry and the impact of the world of sales moving online.

As we have seen in recent years, the way that businesses adapt to the internet is the biggest challenge in the 21st century. We can now buy cars online, get a degree from a university in another country and access a huge range of data. It is therefore inevitable that this will impact many sectors, making training increasingly important.

The world of sales is no different in making this transition online. This is particularly evident from a product sales perspective, with the likes of online retail specialists Asos and becoming ever more popular. This shift online has also been seen from a service perspective, with many providers, such as Virgin Media, offering entertainment packages over the internet.

This shift has meant that the training requirements for the sales industry have changed rapidly. With access to almost unlimited information, people have an increased understanding of what they need, meaning they no longer want to be sold to. The job of a salesperson has changed. People in sales have now had to adopt more of a consultant role, offering advice to potential clients rather than core selling. Training people to adapt to this role has therefore taken on added significance to change the way sales is perceived by the customer.  

Rapport has always been the big thing for the industry, particularly on the service side of selling. However, this has become increasingly significant when it comes to the internet. The rise in social media has been a key trend, particularly for the recruitment sector. If we look at LinkedIn alone there are over 187m users, with around 40% checking their profile on a daily basis. In order to take advantage of this growing market, a recruiter must be trained to develop a rapport with potential clients over social platforms. However, whilst recruiting online offers a much broader range of potential clients to target, it also causes problems with communication.

"With access to almost unlimited information, people have an increased understanding of what they need, meaning they no longer want to be sold to. The job of a salesperson has changed."

Typical communication is made up of 55% body language, 38% tone of language, meaning that just 7% of how we communicate is what we say. With as much as 93% of communication only being relevant when face to face, recruiting on an online platform presents problems. However, the industry is beginning to take note of this. Programmes are now helping recruiters build rapport with their client base through the content that they post on social platforms, helping them to build their own ‘personal brand’. This personal brand, provided the content is strong enough, entices clients that would otherwise shop around on social media platforms, communicating their expertise in an effective manner.

However, with training still being seen as a luxury rather than a necessity, sales businesses often neglect to develop their staff. This is primarily related to the economy. During the economic crisis, training programmes were often the first to be cut as spending had to be reigned in. Despite the recent economic upturn, businesses are still acting in a recession-like manner, with very few companies looking at adopting training programmes. The implications of this are huge. With sales already having a bad reputation for turnover of staff, the short-term gain of cutting spending on training will have long-lasting negative effects on the industry. This could include poor motivation of staff, loss of productivity and losing further employees to other businesses. There is also the financial issue, with the average cost of replacing a salesperson around nine months’ worth of salary.

In contrast, developing current staff will help with retention rates for any business. By investing in the current staff, firms are likely to see an increased understanding in terms of the strategy of the company, as well as creating a strong sense of community among staff members. Businesses are now beginning to recognise that alongside attracting employees to the company through tailored programmes, developing current staff allows them to stay ahead of the competition in the saturated market of recruitment.  

The future of the industry is certainly going to be interesting from a training perspective. With more elearning platforms coming into the workplace, emphasising the need to continually develop as a sales person, training is becoming more of a focus for the industry. The use of videos for selling is a big trend for 2015, adding a personal touch to the sale and reintroducing the 93% of communication lost by sales over the internet. This means that ensuring staff are communicating in the most effective manner will be another key demand for sales.

Ultimately, whoever can effectively train their sales force to take advantage of the digital platform is likely to be a success in 2015.

Nicole Plinston is training director at sales recruitment and training specialist Prime 


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