“In a rapidly changing, highly competitive marketplace, what worked well yesterday will be
less effective today, inappropriate tomorrow, and obsolete the day after that.”
(Stephen C. Harper)
I have been asked a gazillion times why I am so passionate about professional training
especially for sales and customer care personnel. My answer has always been simple.
Professional training for those who are constantly in touch with a firm’s customers is a sure way
of maintaining a competitive edge.
After being in the sales and customer care coaching business for some years now, I have come
to realise that only a few Ghanaian firms do a sufficient amount of training. The reasons range
from the always-to-be expected lack of funds to bring in professional trainers to lack of time to
organise any training.
However any company that values the quality of its product-service offerings and sees
customer service as an important requirement for increased market share will place a high
priority on training. Such companies would definitely find the time and funding to organise the
much-needed training for its sales and customer care staff.
In researching for this article, I came across one of the most disturbing reasons why some staff
feel training is not encouraged. According to some staff I interviewed, management is afraid of
losing their jobs therefore they prefer to keep subordinate staff ‘minimally’ or just adequately
trained. This is amazing and it shows how far we have to go as a people. I sincerely hope those
are isolated cases. How can a 21st century manager prefer to keep his or her staff ignorant just
to keep them under check?
Management succession is so vital that I am of the firm belief that every manager should have a
highly-trained potential successor in case of any eventualities. No wonder most companies go
into a free fall when top management members are no more. I read about an Ohio-based
company that is so serious about successor training that it has a policy that “Any manager who
does not have at least one employee who is able to serve in the manager’s absence……will be
I am aware that most companies have some form of training regime, i.e. on-the-job training.
However, this type of training is merely a trial-and-error mode of transferring knowledge. On-
the-job training merely teaches people how things were done. Is there something wrong with
that? Not at all, I would say. It keeps the organisation moving forward, albeit only at its present
rate. Nevertheless, what professional training does is to teach people how things ought to be
done. Go back to the opening quote from Stephen Harper. Professional sales and customer care
coaching teaches staff how to learn and apply avant-garde ideas and techniques.
Serious companies take training seriously. For example, it is reported that Starbucks, the
international coffee giant, gives each retail staff not less than 25 hours of professional training
before placing them behind the retail counter. 25 hours of training just to retail coffee behind a
counter, that is serious! I wonder how many hours of training some retail staff I have come
across get before they are unleashed on us.
Training can come in various forms, ‘shapes’ and ‘sizes’. Some companies have their own
‘universities’ where training is held for key executives. Others hold monthly training sessions
where specialists are brought in to speak on relevant topics. Some firms have sent key sales
staff to seminars to have these people come back to share what they have learnt with their
colleagues. Some also have their own libraries full of training materials such as tapes, books,
videos, etc. Whatever method of training a firm decides to go for must however be in line with
the firm’s goals.
I have found out that proper training of sales and customer care personnel has so many merits
1. Professional sales training primarily increases sales figures, improves quality and
2. Training gets sales personnel to do more. They tend to give more after a training period
since they are made to fell that the firm cares about their wellbeing to spend money on
making them better at what they do.
3. Training enhances teamwork in the firm’s salespeople. As salespeople are brought
together and trained, they tend to develop a sense of oneness that translates into a
more efficient and united workforce.
4. Training helps to establish the priorities of the company. It indicates the area of
management concern the company wants to spend time and money on.
5. Sales training is a more cost-effective way of improving sales. It is cheaper than
recruiting and hiring of new sales and customer care staff.
6. Good sales training helps the business keep pace with a changing business. Companies
need to be abreast with changes in the business environment in order to stay
7. Training pays for itself over and over in numerous ways by raising morale, boosting
efficiency and maintaining high standards.
With these few reasons, I hope I have been able to provide more ammunition for my ‘good
friends’ out there who always have to ‘fight’ with management before budget for one training
programme is approved. Truly, training pays!
J. N. HALM
P. O. Box DS 2134