Throughout your career, it is important to update your skills and knowledge, in sales in particular, because consumption habits are continually changing, as are the products themselves. Training is designed to overcome this. Interview with Roger St-Hilaire, who has 35 years’ experience in training, sales and customer relations.
Interview with Roger St-Hilaire, sales trainer
How are your training sessions conducted?
The strategic selling seminars usually last two days. All publics are covered: manufacturers, stores, institutions. . . I only take four to five people from the same company, so we are 30 to 35 people altogether.
We discuss things around the table. I ask them to describe situations they’ve experienced. We work through them together and everyone has their say. I’m not there to make speeches!
95% of clients are already professionals in sales, and I use specific examples from their experience, so that they have something to relate to. Our discussions are stimulating, fruitful and hands-on. I then explain the questions they should ask themselves and we assess their methods together.
At what point in their careers should salespeople take a course?
I would say every two years, in order to regularly review their sales arguments and develop their techniques. Markets change, so you have to adapt to find new customers, and manage them, services and even the competition differently.
After following one of your courses, does one become an invincible salesperson?
You become better, but not invincible. I have 29,000 hours of training behind me, and continue to learn something every day, because every situation is different.
Selling is like working out—if you don’t use it, you lose it. Everyone can become better; you just have to work at it and reorganize yourself.
Have sales techniques changed over these past few years?
Everything changes! Our habits as consumers are changing, so we also have to change them as salespeople.
Nowadays, the product lifecycle is shorter and advertising is more present. Consumers receive 4,000 advertising messages a day on average. They are subjected to temptation all the time, everywhere, without even considering the rise in online business.
Even as they are more solicited, buyers have become better informed. In 1992, we did 140 hours of shopping a year, while we only do 40 now. During this time, we have also seen the advent of consumer protection shows. We must continually adapt to new consumption habits.
Is there a single best way to sell?
No, there is not just one method. You can’t be a robot; you have to keep your personality.
The bases are the same: being accepted by customers, evaluating their needs and choosing an appropriate product. But trust has to be established, which is quite personal. There are many ways to please and displease people, and everyone has their own method.
What do you think of the job outlook in sales?
I think the job market in sales doing very well, even better than ever. Good salespeople are hard to find. Let’s not forget that salespeople are key people: they create some 30 to 40 jobs around them.
Bing in sales allows you to write your own ticket; you can change industry, field, city, or country, and there will always be a place for you. This is not the case for notaries or miners, for example.
Are some sectors hiring more salespeople than others?
Real estate, banking and insurance, finance, manufacturing, construction, computers, retail businesses, tourism, wholesaling (regardless of sector of activity), as well as all professional services. There are also growing services like event organization or advertising that are increasingly looking to hire salespeople.