Press Release: Geberit and the Institute of Sales Management Announce Key Partnership
Over the last two years, ISM Corporate Partner Geberit has invigorated its sales training approach to the point where, today, it meets the requirements of ISM qualifications and of the national training standards of which they form a part. As a result, ISM has endorsed Geberit’s internal sales training program, and made the company an ISM-approved centre authorised to deliver and assess Level 3 qualifications.
The Geberit Group operates worldwide and is the market leader in Europe for sanitary products, with more than 12,000 employees in over 40 countries. The Group comprises 35 production plants, of which six are overseas, along with its headquarters in Switzerland.
With an established local presence and backed up by a strong product range, Geberit’s sales teams are always at the heart of the action in the construction industry. They don’t just take and process orders, but work closely with diverse groups of customers – wholesalers, craftsmen, sanitary engineers, architects, end-users and OEM partners – providing extensive advice and support.
Much of the work of the customer care offered by Geberit’s salespeople is informal, such as a quick call to clarify unresolved issues or a spontaneous flying visit. In 41% of cases where Geberit know-how is passed on, the interaction takes place face-to-face at customers’ or partners’ premises.
While customer contact can sometimes be unscheduled, salesperson preparation is now far from ad hoc, with professional sales training planned in good time and carefully formulated.
The architect of the company’s UK sales training is Matthew Hotten, people and organisational development manager, UK and Ireland, at Geberit. When Hotten joined in October 2015, the company was still a relatively small business in the UK. But it was on the cusp of major expansion following the acquisition of ceramics manufacturer Sanitec.
Up until that point it had had a salesforce of around 80 and, in common with many small and medium-sized businesses, it had no formal sales training programme. “Historically, we had been doing some rather patchy, sporadic sales training,” explains Hotten. “As a result, our salespeople were working to various standards and all doing the job in a slightly different way. Some were doing the job really well, and some not so well.”
The Geberit Way
In the wake of the Sanitec acquisition, Hotten was faced with a rapidly expanding salesforce and a brief to sell a wider range of products in a greatly enlarged marketplace. This made him keener than ever to instill a ‘Geberit Way’ – an effective, reputable and repeatable way in which all the company’s salespeople would sell to customers. To this end, he introduced a six-step sales process. “It wasn’t revolutionary by any stretch of the imagination, but it was good solid sales best practice,” he says. “I wanted it to be an established requirement, and that is what it has now become.”
Hotten continues, “I wasn’t looking for a robotic approach, with everyone repeating, but I felt we could benefit from greater consistency, and by sharing a common sales language. Now, for example, if I talk to a sales manager about ‘building rapport and creating positive influence’, everyone on the team knows what I am talking about because that’s one of the steps in our sales process.”
“I was keen that this process was properly benchmarked – I didn’t want it to seem like it was just the ‘Matthew Hotten School of Sales Training’. I wanted it to be professionally accredited, so I approached the ISM (or ISMM as it was then) and asked it to look at our sales training methods and materials and, if it met the required standard, to endorse it.”
Following a thorough examination, ISM was duly convinced. It not only endorsed Geberit’s sales training programme, but also made the company an ISM-approved centre, enabling it to deliver ISM qualifications to suitably trained staff on an ongoing basis.
In terms of implementing the sales training, Hotten personally runs the programme in-house at Geberit’s UK head office in Warwick, with additional external verification and assessment conducted by the ISM. The company’s first phase was to deliver foundation sales training and ISM qualifications to existing sales staff. The second phase was to embed the training and qualifications into the induction process for new recruits, so that all salespeople now receive the same initial sales training.
“Today, every new and existing salesperson within the business has been through the three-month Geberit Way sales programme,” says Hotten. “There’s a lot for new recruits to get their head around, but we don’t believe in just giving people a car and a CRM system and throwing them out into their territory. That’s an outdated ‘sink or swim’ approach and I think we owe people more than that. We want them to have the very best possible start we can give them in their sales career with Geberit.”
While Geberit’s sales training is mandatory, the ISM Level 3 qualification that it can lead to is not. That’s because Level 3 is a challenging standard, requiring a minimum of five days of intensive classroom training, as well as the completion of assignments and a variety of other tasks to broaden and deepen sales knowledge. Even so, Hotten reckons that by mid-2018 about 25% of salespeople will have achieved ISM Level 3, including representatives from all the major parts of the business, including retail, commercial and specifications
“These guys will have letters after their name,” says Hotten. “That may sound a bit shallow, but a lot of salespeople haven’t done much educationally since leaving school, so it really means something to them to be able to study for, and achieve, a very worthwhile qualification. With that comes some real kudos and considerable potential benefit to them as professionals pursuing a sales career – whether that’s in our industry or in any other.”
He continues, “I think sales is too rarely something that people consider as a legitimate career option when they leave school. They consider so many other occupations, but don’t often say, ‘I’d really like to get into sales’. When they do end up in sales, it’s usually because they’ve fallen into it almost by accident. I wanted our salespeople to be regarded as professional and, as such, different from those of our competitors.”
He adds, “I am absolutely passionate about sales being a profession. It is much maligned and people have some very negative stereotypical ideas of what sales is all about.”
“I love the idea that people who probably never thought they’d pursue a recognised profession now have the opportunity to achieve a professional sales qualification and become a member of the ISM – a body that truly represents them as sales professionals.”
Dave Millichap, ISM Corporate Account Director adds:
“Matthew’s enthusiasm for developing and recognising Geberit’s Sales force has been key to our partnership over the last two years. This has resulted in a significant proportion of the team gaining ISM level 3 qualifications which are recognised globally. Sales is the life blood of any organisation and providing Sales professionals with the opportunity to develop their skill set and ethical approach to selling only has a positive impact on customer relationships and the service levels they receive.”
The Geberit Group, which operates worldwide, is the European market leader for sanitary products. As an integrated Group, Geberit has a very strong local presence in most European countries and is therefore able to offer unique added value in both the sanitary technology and bathroom ceramics sectors.
The production capacity comprises more than 30 production plants, 6 of which are overseas. The Group has its company headquarters in Rapperswil-Jona in Switzerland. With about 12,000 employees in around 50 countries, Geberit generates net sales of CHF 2.8 billion. The Geberit shares are listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange. The Geberit stock has been listed on the SMI (Swiss Market Index) since 2012.
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About the Institute of Sales Management
Now rebranded as the Institute of Sales Management, it exists to promote the professionalism and integrity of sales by providing internationally recognised learning opportunities, thought leadership, peer to peer guidance and advice and industry related news and information. The ISM will continue to concentrate its efforts on being the leading body for the sales industry, its people and organisations responsible for providing training and learning opportunities.
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