“Teach Your Salesmen Well”
Why Manufacturers Need Product Training Programs
It has been a few months since I’ve posted a blog but Friday night, during a two-hour conversation with Richard Vandersteen, I was inspired. (Richard has a way of inspiring people!) We were talking about the fact that finally, after eight miserable years, 2-channel business seems to be making a comeback. Problem is, most of the old-time salesmen with a deep understanding of sound and equipment have either retired or uhhmmm… died. And since the audio business has been on life support for the past few years, dealers haven’t exactly been offering vast sums of money to entice a new generation of qualified HiFi salesmen.
As a result, we’re now confronted with a situation whereby consumers once again want to buy high end audio but there aren’t many individuals qualified to sell it. As the remaining “Old Guard” retailers (…and hopefully a few new ones!) gear up to court a new crop of stereo customers, they’re going to have to staff their showrooms with salespeople. But, since HiFi is, at best, an “Esoteric” discipline, the salespeople with which we’re likely to wind up might be experienced at selling Luxury Goods—cars, watches, pens—but know as much about High End Audio as I do about brevity.
It’s too late for us to do much about it: the industry didn’t incentivize educated young men and women to become professional High End salesmen, so we just don’t have any. Instead, we can draw from a pool of well-groomed, well-spoken luxury goods hawkers, most of whom have never owned a great HiFi and even fewer of whom know what makes a HiFi great. The challenge becomes training these newbies so that their audio knowledge approaches their sales ability.
So, who’s going to train these guys? Dealers will have to provide some instruction, magazines will be helpful and the customers themselves will offer guidance but it won’t be enough. And then, it occurred to me: this is the ideal opportunity for manufacturers to offer training as a means of gaining an advantage on their dealers’ sales floors!
In terms of audio knowledge, these “New Recruits” are a blank sheet upon which manufacturers can write their stories…and boost their sales. Let’s say a dealer offers three brands of loudspeakers. If only one of those three vendors offers sales training, you can bet that—all things being equal—the brand that trains will sell best. Dealers will welcome this service, as their training resources have always been marginal (dealers have historically hired enthusiasts who came to the industry with strong product knowledge). Problem is, very few manufacturers have developed comprehensive training programs. This should be easy enough to remedy and the benefits, as described, are obvious.
The lesson here is simple: product training is good business. The first vendors to develop training programs will be the most successful. Let’s get to work!