Last summer, training seminars were a regular part of my current job as a consumer electronics salesperson. They were mandatory, and required me to dress up in work attire (aka a shirt and tie). In November and December, however, we were left alone to focus on sales—this is the “busy season” in the consumer electronics world. Since I was recently informed by my boss that corporate training seminars are resuming next month, I thought I’d share my thoughts on these interesting events and provide some insight for anyone considering a job in sales.
The first and most common type of training seminar I’ve attended for my job is hosted by a prolific electronics manufacturer such as Panasonic, Yamaha or Denon, just to name a few. At each event, we get to learn about all kinds of new products, including some that haven’t been released on the market yet. The company representative will usually demonstrate a product after talking about the key features that make it so appealing. Participation is a big part of these seminars; the rep will often ask for volunteers to try out a feature that’s being discussed, or will ask questions to ensure that everyone is paying attention. After the presentation is over, the rep usually provides salespeople with statistic sheets and, if you’re lucky, some free “swag” for attending—I’ve gotten everything from t-shirts to a set of rather expensive headphones.
The second type of seminar I’m required to attend is hosted by someone from our own company, such as an experienced manager or district manager. The purpose of these is to provide training on how to perform better on the job (the most recent one I attended was entitled “Maximizing Sales During the Busy Season”). Some of the mantras recited during this type of training session are redundant and overly obvious (for example, “Always be closing” is the same as saying “SELL MORE THINGS!”), but most of the tips provided are actually quite helpful. A few that stand out in my mind are: don’t turn your back on a customer, because it’s disrespectful; if a customer complains about price, always explain the features and benefits of a product before diving into a tedious bout of haggling; avoid asking open-ended questions (e.g. “Can I help you find anything?”) because the answer most often be “No thanks!”
The length of a training seminar varies depending on the number of companies presenting and the material being presented. Some are only a couple of hours long, but I attended one that was seven hours long because representatives from five different companies had to take turns presenting. The food provided varies as well. Typically, a shorter training seminar means cookies and coffee, whereas more elaborate lunches (e.g. pizza and sub sandwiches) are provided at more lengthy events.
Attending these events can sometimes feel like a tedious jumping-through-hoops exercise, especially when they are unpaid (as mine are), but be patient! Most of them are totally worthwhile; you’ll learn a lot of useful stuff, and you just may get some free perks thrown in as well.