What is the role of the company in field training, and how much should I expect from my field leaders?

Field Training In any business, training and management are the keys to success, but in direct selling and network marketing companies, they are more than that. Field training and development, referring to the training and development of field representatives and their customers, comprise the fuel mixture that propels your organization forward.

Training and development systems must be tied to specific needs at each phase of an MLM distributor’s and Party Plan consultant’s lifecycle in your company, beginning with their very first exposure to your company. At the heart of retention is expectations, and therefore at the heart of training must also be expectations-knowing the distributor’s, consultant’s and/or customer’s expectations, what do they need to be able to do (behaviors) to attain their expectations, and what training and development support do they need to be able to perform those behaviors? Effective training is always driven by behavior and performance.

In addition to providing the information and imparting the skills that are vital to field rep success, proper training and development ensure compliance with sensitive legal imperatives. In states that have enacted business opportunity and multilevel distribution statutes, you are obliged to perform a bona fide supervisory role with your sales organization with respect to the sale and distribution of your products and services.

Our goal here is to give you the checklist for creating effective field training and development systems. You must consider the objectives of field training, the foundation for training systems, the essential topics, the most effective vehicles for delivering training and ongoing development, the tools for evaluating what is working, and some of the best practices that we have observed in our quest to understand how great companies succeed.

Foundation for Training Systems

Presented below are the five foundational principles that should guide the successful development of your training systems. We use terminology and illustrations in order to convey our vision and ideas, but not intentionally to promote pre-established systems that we use when designing training systems for clients. The five foundational principles are as follows: Retention, Customers & Field reps, Lifecycle, Structure, and Motivation.

Retention – Education and training should measurably increase attraction and retention of field reps and customers, and should be developed with that goal in mind. Training and education should result in growth, retention, and ultimate profitability for the company. Therefore, these measures determine the true success of an effective training and education program. Over a 15-year period, we studied more than 100 companies in search of the secrets of retention. Out of 112 companies, 16 proactively sought to improve retention of customers and field reps. Of those 16, 4 had mastered retention by achieving retention rates of 70% or better per year. With their help, we identified the powerful principles of retention and the best practices employed by the retention leaders. Five disciplines of the high-retention companies that stood out in the study include the discipline of routine, specific measurements that show the impact and return on investment (ROI) of training, education, recognition, and other retention-focused initiatives.

Customers & Field reps – Customers and Field reps enroll with the company for different reasons. They come with different needs, and training and education must carefully consider the distinctions. Many of their needs overlap, inviting common training elements to serve both. However, where their needs are different and unique, training and education must be distinct and separate. Thus, your training systems will likely possess separate (but related) training programs.

Lifecycle – Customers and field reps have distinct, measurable phases in their lifecycles, naturally occurring in various categories of activity. Training content and delivery methodologies must be matched to specific needs at each phase of a lifecycle, beginning immediately upon enrollment. Additionally, pre-enrollment considerations (prospecting, exposing, presenting, validating, closing) must be woven into the design of the training and education system.

Structure – Training best practices suggest a graded structure for education and training that matches phases / maturity with intensity of curriculum for the direct selling profession.

Pre-Enrollment must identify the role of the company in accommodating prospects that are exploring the company, including business presentations, web-based materials, and brochures. Immediate Essentials encompasses fast-start training for all new customers and field reps, giving them instant and immediate access to training and education that supports their decision to become involved with your company, regardless of the level of intended involvement.

Core Curriculum provides the basic, thorough orientation to products and programs. The core curriculum should be a continuous, periodic structured cycle of training modules, permitting serious customers and business builders to jump into the training cycle at any point.

Success Skills are those proven skills and techniques that enhance a business builder’s success. These are the technical skills associated with crucial communications and business building, drawn from the wide spectrum of skills and tools used by the top builders in your company and around the direct sales industry.

Advanced Success Tools are the tools and skills of leadership and business building at the highest possible level.

Motivation – Motivation to participate cannot be assumed but must be built into the training and education system. This begins with the new customer or field rep and extends through all phases of development and leadership. The training and education system should work hand-in-hand with recognition, rank advancement, special offerings (products and promotions), and company culture in order to breed the proper motivation for all to participate and grow.

Curriculum Attributes

The attributes and features most common in the best training systems consistently appear below. These can-and should-guide the evaluation and development of a company’s training systems:

Best Practices – Best industry practices must flow through from the company to its training (for instance: enrollment processes, customer service systems, Internet tools, corporate communications to the field, and so forth)

Accessible – Training must be easily accessible by participants

Affordable – Training must be affordable for participants

Profitable – Through possible co-development and co-ownership of intellectual property, the education and training program can potentially be a profit center

Effective – Training must be simple to use and easy to understand, retain and apply

In our age of technology, give careful attention to selecting the best media for presentation and skill transfer. Each medium has strengths and weaknesses, pros and cons, depending on what is being communicated, to whom, and by whom. In evaluating the right medium for the message and desired result, also keep in mind the importance of balancing cost and return on investment. To assist you in evaluating your media and your messages, we have devised the table below:

Medium Purpose
Training Systems with Manuals & DVD / CD-Rom / Audio Cassette Orientation (field rep / customer)
Basic training
Advanced training systems
Skills training
Audio news features
Convention highlights
Internet & Website Web-based interactive training
Company references (forms, brochures, catalogs, price lists, testimonials, news)
Conference Call Announcements
Saturday morning orientation
Business leader communications
Live Training Meetings Orientation
Basic Training
Advanced Training
Skills training
Annual Convetions / Regional Conferences Product and program announcements
Inspiration and motivation
Workshops and skills training
Email Information
Periodic news
Postal Service Newsletters
Magazines & publications
Product mailers / catalogs / brochures
Post cards
Video Mail Modern alternative for conveying some of the same kind of information available through email and conference calls

Training Checklist & Key Considerations

  • Have we developed the success cycle for our company?
  • Which mix of training tools will be best for our company?
  • Have we identified the channels we will use for delivering training?
  • As an organization, do we understand the role of the Internet in recruiting, training and supporting the field?
  • Is the distributor manual complete?
  • Do our policies and procedures reflect our unique needs and culture?
  • Have we created the basic training platforms?
    • Manual / guidebook
    • Basic training
    • Advanced and leadership training
    • Product training
    • Manuals, Internet, audio, video / DVD
  • Have we considered the right mix of “home-grown” training combined with existing training systems that work?
  • Do our measures and metrics support an analysis of the effect of training?
  • Are training intervals and “on-ramps” well defined based on anticipated market segments (customers, casual builders, career builders, leaders)?
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