Why You Should Educate and Train Your Non-Technical Personnel
By: David Hoffman, Director of the AIM Institute
Before we get too far along, we need to define what we mean by non-technical personnel. For the purpose of this article, we will define them as those who have not had some level of formal education, training, or experience in engineering, designing, or manufacturing of plastic parts or injection molds. In most companies, that leaves your sales and marketing teams, but could also include various other roles/job titles depending on their specific function within your organization.
Let’s start off talking specifically about sales teams. I remember early in my career when we were evaluating which molding machine we were going to purchase, I became frustrated by a sales professional who did not understand the injection molding process and how their machine options could improve our operations. The typical response to our technical questions was “I will have to ask our technical expert and get back to you on that one.” My thought at the time was “why isn’t that person here now? Is this person here only to write a quote for the machine and collect a PO?”
Granted, I don’t expect my sales person to know everything about plastics or be able to make a molding machine dance. But if my sales person understands some aspects of plastics, design, and injection molding, I at least knew they care enough about the industry they are working in to take the time to learn something about it. And if I knew I could speak technically with them, and perhaps even rely on them to help solve a problem or point me to a resource, then that person was the one I would call when deciding on future purchases.
This same sentiment was echoed by Alex Benoit, Senior Program Manager at Century Mold and a recent attendee in our Plastic Materials class. “Technical knowledge in the sales arena is invaluable for me at Century Mold because our customers expect a single point of contact for both the Commercial and Engineering side of the business. Having a solid technical foundation to back up my quotes allows me to quote with greater precision (win more business) and provide the customer with quicker feedback on their plastic product design.”
So how can non-technical sales personnel become “technical”? Sometimes, the sales person transitioned from a previous technical role, but most others require some class time. Yes, that means they had to spend some time out of their typical sales role, but that time out of the office will pay off many times over.
The primary counter argument to providing technical training to your sales team is… “if I have my sales team sitting in a classroom that means they are not out selling!” However, that argument is short-sighted about the impact education and training can have on long term sales. Also, we have to give a little more credit to the work ethic of sales people. Just because they aren’t involved in direct sales meetings at a potential client’s building doesn’t mean that they aren’t making sales calls or sending emails during break or in the evenings during the training sessions. I have seen it time and time again here at AIM. Most sales people are motivated folks and appreciate the opportunity to learn. They work very hard to make up the lost time on the road and return those missed phone calls or emails at the first chance they get. I have also seen many sales people from other companies come through our doors and form relationships with their fellow classmates, leading to new business relationships (and sales!) directly as a result of being in the same class.
The second argument we hear about training non-technical folks is… “why does anyone involved in sales and marketing need to know anything about plastics or injection molding?”
The answer to this one is quite simple when looking at it from a sales and marketing standpoint. The answer was recently echoed by a president of an injection molding company in Ohio when we asked him why he was sending his sales and marketing team to our courses. He stated, “You can’t sell or market that which you do not understand.”
I am a firm believer in that statement, and we here at AIM have our sales and marketing teams attend our Development Courses on Plastic Materials, Mold Design, Injection Molding, and Part Design. This gives them a chance to learn the technical jargon so they can better understand our industry, which is helping them hone our messaging and communicate better with those searching for education and training about the plastics injection molding industry.
To close, I will leave you with this thought… “Your employees are your most valuable resource. If you don’t educate & train them, your competition will.”