In an article back in 2002, FleetWatch wrote that the total number of qualified truck salespeople – male and female across all truck franchises in southern Africa , was only about 30. The main problem revolved then , as it still does today , around attracting, training and retaining such staff. While much still needs to be done to attract youngsters into this career, on the training side there is some goods news. It’s getting easier with a new on-line training offering.
After yet one more face-to-face training session conducted by Dave Scott & Associates, it was clear that the day had started out with a few ‘˜learners’ , the new standard word for students or delegates , arriving believing that a spark plug was an essential part of a diesel engine. There were also those who had been selling extra-heavy 6×4 units for some time and did not know that a three-axle trailer unit was limited to 24 000kg and not 27 000kg whether on single or dual tyre equipment. These so-called ‘˜extra-heavy’ truck sales people had no clue of what really goes on behind a truck tractor , not a mechanical horse (God rest Jack Webster’s soul). Eieeshh!
How does it happen that people selling trucks don’t even know the basics? There are many reasons but sales managers are not good coaches and usually wait for the next face-to-face training course to be organised where newcomers can be exposed to first trucking principles. The problem is that the ‘˜next course’ could be in three months time. In the meantime, a new truck sales person just ploughs on blindly in the market and damages customer relationships. And now we have the Consumer Protection Act to contend with as well.
Every face-to-face class has a cross section of slow-learners and those who are right up there with fast comprehension. And if you don’t even have the basic knowledge, you are at sea right from the outset even if the facilitator adopts a slow pace. Pre-testing proves this with pre-test outcomes ranging from 20% to 80%. So what pace does one adopt when facing a bunch with such a cross-section of ability?
There’s no substitute for face-to-face learning , but time is the problem. There is always the complaint that training interferes with selling time so what comes first, the cart or the horse?
So what’s the answer to an absolute need for developing intellectual muscle in the face of the challenges listed above? The solution lies in distance learning, at the learner’s own pace, with interactive visual content, an on-line assessment, a wide geographical territory coverage and ability to handle staff turnover. What’s more is that management must be able to monitor learner progress from independent reports , it’s not about learning in secret. And there must be deadlines , taking two years is just not acceptable over what can easily done in three months.
Enter technology , computers, the Internet, innovation, IT experience, networks, hard-drives, help desks and trucking knowledge. The answer is all wrapped up in a service from a Cape Town-based outfit, Fuel Online, a ten year-old service business with an IT product.
Back in 2000, a Cape Town-based vehicle dealer-principal, Mike Goodall, was on the constant lookout for a better way to up-skill his staff than just conventional live training on offer. Craig Reid, a salesman at Goodall’s dealership, left to work for a Johannesburg production house where he was exposed to cutting edge ideas around the communication of information to locations around South Africa. Goodall and Reid saw this as an opportunity not only to communicate but also to train. And a new millennium company , Fuel Online, was born.
Ross Goodall, Fuel Online Chief Operating Officer, looks back: “We started selling to dealerships and small groups with the Orbit Group (now Sandown) being our first client comprising six dealerships. Today we train over 700 dealerships.
“Our IT platform is now used by Toyota SA, Mercedes-Benz SA and their Commercial Vehicle Division, General Motors SA, Hyundai SA and Isuzu Truck SA. In the last year, we have looked to expand into other industries and have just begun an exciting project training Shell Petrol Outlets around the country. We are currently busy with this roll-out and have installed 130 Shell outlets to date.
“The platform was built with the dealership in mind, allowing training to become a habit in the dealership,’ explains Goodall. “It is flexible in the fact that the user can do it at their convenience while the sessions are designed to be short and impactful.” Goodall comments further: “Over the last 10 years, we have built and refined a strategy that works and not only does it support the users in their training efforts but also motivates them. This way we have delivered more than 1-million successfully completed modules into the South African motor industry to date and now deliver close to 25 000 modules a month.’
Truck training now goes online
And now Fuel Online has become a serious training platform for the business of trucks and trucking. Dave Scott & Associates cc and Fuel Online have now partnered to bring concentrated, online training modules to the African sub-continent. 28 modules of around 10 minutes each have been carefully scripted and presented by a professional actor with a local accent.
Fuel Online is the only IT platform under joint agreement with Dave Scott to present this up to date truck training material that can train a novice through to presenting a truck solution with some understanding and insight. What’s more, HTM TransSolve whose software has become a trucking industry standard, is an added value part of the training package.
In Scott’s words: “Personal training interaction can never be removed but now at least a viable tool is at hand to deal with time, cost and distance. Trucking is becoming a complex science that runs well beyond price and customers want to talk to people who at least have a good basic knowledge of the business beyond features and benefits.’
Goodall concludes: “In addition to this, once the truck platforms are installed, we are expecting our customers to produce product knowledge material to add to the platform. We see this as a good start. Once the truck manufacturers have fully embraced our platform and are seeing the real benefit that our passenger clients have seen, we expect the truck OEMs to start producing customised skill material for all designations in their dealer network.’
Going back to 2002, when asked whether he thought the figure of 30 trained truck salesman quoted in FleetWatch was accurate, the dealer principal of a major truck dealership said: “No, you are exaggerating. It’s less than that.’
This new on-line course could well be a break-through in ensuring that the number of qualified truck salesmen rises to the benefit of the entire industry.