Training in any field is an on-going process. Just as an athlete does not master his sport and then stop, it's continual practice, a constant search for improvement, and the learning process that separates the true professional from the dilettante.
Did you know that the top sales people like top athletes have personal trainers? Think of it, top sales people, who know more than anyone about how to make sales, feel the need to be counseled on a regular basis. And the counseling they get? It is simply to be reminded of the basics. Study. Plan. Rehearse. Empathize. Focus. Rededicate.
Training in your gallery can take many different forms. You should be training yourself and your staffers regarding the technical functions of running the gallery, art/artist education, sales techniques, and customer service, to name a few areas.
- Technology A trap that many small businesses fall into, but can ill afford, is having only one person know one particular function. If only one person has mastered the cash register, the intricacies of FedEx vs. UPS, or how to identify a blown fuse (it's 9 p.m. - do you know where your fuse box is?), valuable time can be lost waiting for that person to do that job. People should be cross-trained to have at least a working knowledge responsibilities that are outside of their daily norm. Another technology trap is computers - even today, many people are intimidated by them and don't understand their usefulness and potential. Computers are not a new-fangled contraption, and they're not going away; they can simplify many aspects of running a business and are an incredibly useful source of information and communication. (Once again, we're probably preaching to the choir here, since you're reading this email newsletter, but if you have an employee who needs help downloading files, emailing customers, or navigating the internet, it's worth the time to educate them and help them get over their hesitation).
- Art/Artist education Knowing your product is absolutely essential to achieving higher sales. Artwork very rarely sells itself, and conveying interesting information which enhances the customer's perception of the art is key. Your clients will expect you to be more knowledgeable about the artwork than they are, and that comes with study and preparation. Publishers and distributors should be able to help you with information about the art and the artists, and you should share this information with your staff on a regular basis. Pick one artist per month, and share books, bios, slicks, and magazine articles, and have discussions about the artist's style and technique.
- Sales techniques this is a year's series in and of itself, but in this context, let's just say that the best salespeople of all trades get to the top and achieve results by constantly refining their game and examining the way they do business. There are tons of useful resources out there, but some that we like here are Art Sobczak's weekly email "column", TelE-Sales Hot Tips of the Week, which you can check out for free at www.businessbyphone.com, and Jim Meisenheimer's Sales Strategist Newsletter, at firstname.lastname@example.org. You're most likely familiar with Todd Bingham's articles, and each trade magazine seems to have some sales tips in each issue. The point is that you can learn better sales techniques, and that salespeople are made, not born. You can know all about art and have a wonderful, outgoing personality, but still have a lot to learn about the art of selling. Make it a part of your regular agenda. (Do you have any resources that you'd like to share with us? We'd love to hear about them!)
- Customer service We have talked about customer service in the past, but it always bears repeating. If, for example, you discuss it at length with your staff in May, but subsequently notice a decline in service and an increase in customer problems, you can't say "People! We talked about this before!" You can expect staffers to learn from mistakes, but you must keep giving them the tools to handle situations the way you want them handled. Don't forget that the staffer that's lowest on the totem pole is still part of your customer service team, and has the power to keep or lose a customer forever. One employee who is having a bad day and doesn't have the presence of mind to deal professionally with your customers and their requests can turn those people into someone else's customers.
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit"