MGBlair blog

February 6, 2019

Three tips outdoor furniture manufacturers can use to train retail partners
by Dan Roberts

According to a report by Salesforce Training, over 50% of sales managers are too busy to train their sales teams. And if you’re an outdoor furnishings manufacturer seeking to train a retailer’s salesforce, that presents an opportunity to not only jump in and help, but also to guide them on the less-tangible aspects of sales that could close the deal.

1) Without Managerial Buy-In, There’s No Point.  

The No. 1 aspect to consider if you want to train a retail salesforce is managerial buy-in. If the retail management does not believe in your product or technique, then the sales team will not buy in, period.

If you don’t initially receive interest from management, consider their perspective. More than likely, they have a wide variety of manufacturers that contact them frequently, making over-zealous claims about their products and asking to provide lengthy training that will take their sales staff off the floor.

Consider these barriers to entry and express to the manager (in person if possible) the value the training would present. Offer basic sales training during a visit to their store that goes beyond simply educating the team on products. This approach takes an often-neglected aspect of a manager’s duties off of their plate and allows you to gain more face time with the sales team.

2) Remember that Technology is Vital, But It Will Never Replace Human Connection.

In the age of innovation, it’s easy to fall into the trap that forfeits in-person training for videos and conversations for social media posts. While technology supports in-person interactions in a variety of ways, it cannot replace them. When a sales team only receives the product, a training video and a brochure, a huge opportunity is lost—primarily, an open channel of direct communication.

When you personally connect with a sales team at the store level, topics will come up in the discussion that likely would not surface in an email or training video session. The staff can communicate hurdles they’ve experienced or issues they’ve heard customers link to your products.

At the recent ICFA (International Casual Furniture Association) roundtable discussion during Casual Market Chicago, retail owners told me repeatedly that dishonest or inaccurate lead times are the most frustrating problem they face with manufacturers. This is no doubt causing pain to the sales teams that feel the sting of cancelled or discounted orders impacting their paycheck. But this is a detail that I would have been unaware of if I hadn’t had that in-person conversation.

Once you’ve made the in-person connection, use technology as a supporting tool to keep these lines of communication open. Consider creating closed social media groups, a blog, email chain or group chat that includes all the salespeople of the retailers you’re working with. Oftentimes if a positive environment is promoted, members with more success in the process will naturally mentor and answer the questions of those who are not yet as successful or newer to the process.  Encourage an open forum where they can ask questions about your products and a response will be provided quickly.

3) Foster an Environment that Champions Successful Sales Staff.

Beyond open lines of communication, consider reinforcing a positive environment through incentive programs. Excited salespeople learn more about your product and push it harder if there is a bonus incentive attached. But remember, you can’t institute an incentive program and then just forget about it.

Be consistent with your promises. Overall, the attentiveness that you show to the retailer’s management and sales team over time will allow you to foster a positive relationship with them. And, after all, their success determines your success. By closely attending to their needs, you will create a lasting relationship that is mutually beneficial.

When it comes to outdoor furniture sales training, you need to go beyond sales training 101 and dive deeper into important aspects of the training that can help close the deal. And when you do, you will find that the opportunities are endless.