Training Salesmen In The New Product Line

The next step was to teach our sales force about the new products we had just added. There were just under 2,000 products in the new line. How did we do it? By making it as easy and painless as possible. The perfect solution? Television!

Cadillac Plastic and “Chemical Company is a manufacturer of products and a distributor of products of other suppliers. When our suppliers were in town for the Safety Products premiere, we asked representatives from each company to make a half-hour product presentation in our videotape studio. These were duplicated and then sent to our district offices throughout the country. Backup in the form of supplier literature was also included.

By watching the product tapes on TV in a relaxed, informal atmosphere, learning about the new products was practically painless for our salesmen. The tapes could be stopped at any time and replayed for greater comprehension. Later, when our salesmen reviewed the supplier literature, they were already familiar with the product so the literature was more meaningful and retention of learning much greater.

Subsequent visits by suppliers rounded out the initial training program and gave the sales force a chance to ask questions’ not covered in either the videotapes or the literature.

Was this approach successful? An informal poll of our suppliers found that they were extremely impressed by how quickly our people had mastered their products. All suppliers have since made additional videotapes to update our sales force.

Motivating our salesmen to sell: a triple purpose catalog

At this point, our people were knowledgeable about the OSHA-Spec line. Now came the big test. Could they sell the products?

To motivate our people, we again decided to make selling the products as easy as possible. First, we made sure that our top-quality products were competitively priced. And, of course, we made sure we had reasonable inventory levels to assure good delivery. But beyond this, which is simply sound business practice, we found aids which were indispensable in making it easy for our salesmen to sell.

Most important of all aids was our safety products catalog. We made this extremely attractive. But even more important than its beautiful appearance, the catalog was a solid selling tool.

Because many of our customers were confused and concerned about the then-newly-passed OSHA laws, we organized our catalog around the most common OSHA requirements that our products fulfilled. Wherever applicable, we quoted right from the OSHA directive. This helped our customers to learn the most common safety requirements. It also helped salesmen in organizing their sales presentations. The customer could clearly see what products were required to protect his workers and plant.

To make the catalog easy to follow, we relied heavily on pictures and illustrations. After all, many of these products were hew to everyone. Where color coding was a factor, according to OSHA, as in certain signs and warning devices, we printed that section in full color. Certainly, it was more expensive. But it made our catalog a reference source as well. We also tried, where possible, to show the products in actual use. Again, it is easier to recognize a need when one can see how the product is used.

To sum up the benefits of an-attractively designed, intelligently organized selling catalog, let me offer this advice. If you have to skimp on a budget, do it anywhere, repeat anywhere, but on your catalog. It is that important to your overall success.