Operations

Master Of All: Why You Need To Cross Train Your Employees

Lexi Tucker
Posted on April 6, 2019

Your staff should be able to handle anything that comes their way...no "that's not my job" sayers here.

Your staff should be able to handle anything that comes their way...no "that's not my job" sayers here.

When a candidate accepts a job offer at your company, they should want to work there. They must believe in the services you offer and want to help your clients.

This means the new hire should be willing to do anything to help your business succeed…even if it’s not in their job description. Cross-training them to handle multiple duties will not only benefit your company, but also provide them with useable skills for the future.

Nina Parson, director of sales for Company Car & Limousine in Cleveland, Ohio

Nina Parson, director of sales for Company Car & Limousine in Cleveland, Ohio

Benefits Of Cross Training

Nina Parson, director of sales for Company Car & Limousine in Cleveland, Ohio, says for a company to succeed, managers can’t be in the office all the time. That means someone has to take the sales reigns when she’s out securing new clients.

“If one person is responsible for all sales, it hinders the company from growing,” she says. If your staff isn’t cross trained, they’ll have to send potential clients to a sales persons’ voicemail — and that doesn’t fly these days. It’s even worse now because anyone can go onto a company’s website with chat capabilities and get an answer immediately. “If you’re putting all of your clients in the hands of one person, what happens if they leave your company?”

Christina Zanone, director of affiliate relations for Beau Wine Tours in Napa, Calif., says her company usually has a sales team available from 7a.m. to 8 p.m., and then dispatchers handle after hours calls. “We felt having our dispatchers be able to operate as salespeople by upselling and finalizing sales instead of just being ‘order takers’ would help us maximize the possible bookings we were getting,” she says.

Diane Forgy, president of Overland Chauffeured Services in Kansas City, Mo., says most sales opportunities for her company still come through phone calls, followed by emails. Reservationists and dispatchers handle most of them. “In reality, reservationists in our operation handle these more often, but dispatchers still get sales opportunity calls and emails they must at least start after hours, on weekends, and on holidays when they are often alone in the office. A dedicated salesperson or manager cannot handle all of these calls in most operations. In reality, every call and email, whether it is with an existing or potential client, is a sales opportunity. We realized years ago, but especially in recent years, that everyone in our office had to be salespeople to maximize our results.”

Nancy Vargas, CEO of DH2 Chauffeured Transportation in Whitestone, N.Y., believes everyone in the company should wear a sales hat. “Our reservationists answer calls, and dispatchers to a large degree are also on the phone. So having them develop sales skills helps increase rides when there’s an opportunity to upsell. What they are initially hired to do may not have the sales title, but having that direct contact is valuable.”

Training For Maximum Results

Having employees shadow salespeople is one way to help train them. Zanone has them sit next to her throughout one of her shifts so they can listen to her handle calls. She also shows them how to properly work the quoting system, and points out the buzzwords she uses to entice potential clients. “There’s so much more involved than just transportation. I copy them on all the quotes and send them phone recordings so they can hear the other side of the call.”

Nancy Vargas, CEO of DH2 Chauffeured Transportation in Whitestone, N.Y.

Nancy Vargas, CEO of DH2 Chauffeured Transportation in Whitestone, N.Y.

Vargas has her team mention the company’s ability to provide global service. “I’ve been building on our affiliate partnerships, and have taken the time to go visit them so when I come back I can relate my experiences with them to my team. As a growing company, nationwide presence is important to reiterate.”

Forgy has honed in on crafting basic email templates and reinforcing proper phone and email skills. “We stress the importance of elevated customer service and engagement expectations. We also had numerous meetings to review technique, how to track and follow up, and compare results,” she says. Some of the most difficult tasks to get executed consistently are asking for the sale, closing fast when able to, and doing regular follow ups. It often takes from four to eight follow ups to close a sale.

Diane Forgy, president of Overland Chauffeured Services in Kansas City, Mo.

Diane Forgy, president of Overland Chauffeured Services in Kansas City, Mo.

Parson does a PowerPoint session with her employees where she sits down and talks them through tactics. “Everyone in the world is sold to at one point or another,” she explains. She has them write down traits of good and bad salespeople they’ve encountered.

Employees must know details about your vehicles, the area, and other topics that may come up in a conversation. “You want them to come across as an expert rather than just a reservation agent.” Her company sends their staff through the Cleveland Travelbackers workshop to help improve their knowledge of the city.

Beating Reluctance

When Vargas first screens candidates, she looks at their backgrounds for sales and/or customer service skills. “We want them to come in understanding those skills will be put to use. Most of our staff understands sales are the overarching priority in addition to safety and compliance. Even our chauffeurs understand they are the face of the company. We haven’t faced any issues of people not wanting to help us grow.”

In reality, some employees will always be better and more willing than others, Forgy says. “You just try to continually raise the bar and expectations. We even had some of our front office staff do client visits before the holidays and they loved it. If someone is adamant about not doing sales, they may not be the right fit. These days, you can’t afford order taker mentality.”

The first comment Parson often hears is “But how are we supposed to do both?” She suggests looking at an individual’s personality, which will help you mold them and use it to sell. “A lot of times people are reluctant because when they hear the word ‘sell,’ they think of people asking you to change your insurance company. You aren’t doing that; these people have called you because they want your service.”

She says allowing and comping staff to experience a ride in one of your vehicles themselves helps enable them to sell the vehicle better. “This way they can speak from experience. You can hear a difference from the way they talk to people on the phone; it makes them more confident in what they sell.”

Christina Zanone, director of affiliate relations for Beau Wine Tours in Napa, Calif.

Christina Zanone, director of affiliate relations for Beau Wine Tours in Napa, Calif.

There are some people who will be a little more shy, or come into the industry a little shocked at what the prices are like, Zanone says. “They might not be used to selling higher dollar services. It’s not that they don’t want to do it, it just takes getting used to because they don’t come from a traditional sales background.”

Cross Training Advice

Writing down your best practices and moving your trainees to an environment of learning away from their desks can make a big difference, Parson says. Take time to walk around the facilities, show them the vehicles they are selling, and tell them how you do it. Also, don’t be afraid to retrain them to ensure they are staying consistent. If you hear bad practices, zap them immediately or they’ll become routine.

Establishing goals and considering a small incentive plan for the go-getters helps motivate sellers, Forgy says. “There are so many sales training programs, books, and DVDs. I would also invest in a good, user-friendly CRM.”

Zanone advises patience. “Dispatchers don’t always think like salespeople; they aren’t always outgoing, but everyone can sell if they like what they are doing and believe in the product. Make sure the people who are working for you are passionate about what they are selling. You don’t want people who are just there to collect a paycheck and do one specific thing. Look to hire employees you believe could be cross trainable.”   

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Related Topics: customer service, dispatching, reservations, Sales & Marketing, staff management, staff training

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
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