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Cinde W. Ingram

Tropitone University training retail sales forces

Mike Echolds

Mike Echolds

Now in its fourth year, Tropitone University continues to provide professional sales training for thousands of people who sell casual furniture.

The overall focus of Tropitone University is today's customers, what they think and what they want. Since it is not primarily product-centered, the individuals who participate in Tropitone University become better at selling everything, including the outdoor lifestyle, Tropitone CEO Mike Echolds said.

Tropitone's reps have trained approximately 7,000 floor sales people since the inception of the Tropitone University program in 2004, Marketing Director Cindy Andera said.

“In addition, our professional sales trainer Greg Welsh travels to about 25 key territories each year and has trained approximately 1,600 sales people on sales techniques that may be applied to all sales situations, regardless of brand, thereby providing a more educated and valuable staff for the dealer,” Andera said.

Welsh, a sales consultant who brought nearly 20 years of retail experience when he began working with Tropitone's education program, recognized a key challenge for sales professionals today is the “discount mentality” created in part by the Wal-Mart experience. Often customers go to retail stores looking for the lowest price rather than the best overall value. Knowledgeable sales associates can help change that mindset by reminding shoppers value is not just about price, but a combination of factors including product, quality and service.

The evolving retail marketplace and today's savvy consumers call for salespeople to be more knowledgeable and able to answer questions. “Just as professional athletes who want to remain competitive can never stop training – no matter how successful they are – neither can other professionals, including sales professionals,” Welsh said.

Tropitone's dealer partners can expect their sales personnel to become experts on Tropitone products, features and benefits, as well as experts on the Tropitone brand.

“They will learn how our products are manufactured, and will see the quality materials that are used to create a frame that can endure for 15 years,” Andera said. “Additionally, they will visually see how a quality manufactured product looks next to lesser mass-produced product, enabling them to expertly answer any 'price' question that comes up in most sales situations. Additionally, they can expect to learn about Tropitone product service training, as well as general sales techniques that can be used for any brand. We've created all of this to ensure that Tropitone becomes the easiest product in the offering to sell.”

Salespeople can complete the training program by devoting only an hour of their time. Resource materials collected during that short session can be reviewed later in the year by both existing salespeople and new employees.

“This first 20 minutes is spent viewing a completely revised and professionally produced Trop-U video,” Andera said. “We realize Tropitone University audiences are 'guests' rather than 'captive audiences,' and should be treated as such. To that end, we have created a video that is both informative and entertaining. The remaining time is spent going over what was learned and answering questions that sales personnel may have from viewing the video.”

The training experience elevates the Tropitone brand in its dealers' minds from “just another vendor to a business partner who is interested in training their sales associates to be exceptional at the sale of all brands,” Andera said. “The floor sales staff will walk away entertained, and with a complete understanding of the quality of the Tropitone Brand as well as some very helpful sales techniques that should enhance their selling experience with any customer, for any brand.”

After the training session, retailers can expect to keep the DVD, a leave-behind sales training binder with a manual of the materials covered, as well as additional general sales training techniques that expounds on what they've already learned from the video, Andera said.

“The leave-behind Tropitone University Training Manual is for new hires and seasoned sales personnel alike,” Andera said. “The video can be used as part of a new hire orientation, or as a refresher for all sales personnel just prior to the selling season. The Trop-U video is broken into segments so a viewer can view the entire video, or review just a small portion at a time. For example, how to replace a sling or touch up a paint scratch is available for individual viewing, as is Tropitone manufacturing techniques and general sales techniques. In fact, we suggest that all floor sales personnel review all of the material at least every other month after the initial training.”

Part of the training materials Tropitone offers.

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