Marston’s has been running pubs and brewing beer in one form or another for over 180 years. Now a FTSE 250 listed company, employing around 14,000 people, the company is one of the nation’s top pub businesses and the leading brewer of premium cask and bottled beers.
Marston’s business development managers play an important role in this success. Spread out across all regions of the UK, it’s their responsibility to sell over 60 of Marston’s best-loved ales into free house pubs. That’s why, in a highly competitive market, the company was keen to ensure its business development managers were working as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Learning Cog was brought in for a three-day sales training programme. The course was designed to introduce new tools and strategies to Marston’s business development managers, helping them in the daily task of delivering new customers.
With a number of highly experienced sales people within the business, many of whom had already received some form of sales training, the challenge was to present the content in a new, engaging way. This was particularly important so that the managers felt that the time away from their business-critical sales roles was valuable, and would enhance their skills and knowledge. Learning Cog quickly overcame these barriers to engage the managers, both individually and in a group setting. This ensured that the information and knowledge gained from the training was retained and easy to apply in the managers’ day-to-day business activities.
Nic Atkinson, Business Development Manager at Marston’s. “Right from the start, I could tell it was different.”
According to Nic, the training was particularly useful to identify people’s different personality traits. This allows you to tailor your sales approach based on what an individual customer wants and needs. Nic explained that there was an important moment in the training when he realised: “We’re not just delivering beer to them… we’re finding out what is really important to them.”
“Even though it was a full three days, the tempo was high all of the time,” Nic added. “After each of the days, everyone was buzzing and discussing what we’d covered that day. By the final day, I was chomping at the bit to put what I’d learned into practice.”
David Glew, another Business Development Manager at Marston’s with 20 years’ experience in the trade, explained that previous sales training had focused on sales techniques, but not looked at sales from a relationship-building point of view. David explained how, in contrast, Learning Cog’s training was focused on building relationships by using body language and questioning to really understand the audience’s position, as well as how to go back and review how you have performed.
“When you’re out there selling, you tend to lose a bit of focus,” said David. “This helped me identify what I was and wasn’t doing, and gave me the insight into how I review each conversation so that I can continue to develop.”
Training a team of experienced sales professionals made up of strong personalities is a challenge for any trainer. Yet, according to David, Learning Cog’s Ric was highly engaging from the word go and ensured that everyone was on-board, and understood the training objectives and benefits quickly. This approach created a great environment for learning, right from the start. When learners are more engaged and entertained, they’re more receptive. Importantly, placing the taught knowledge within a real-life context is vital to ensure that the skills are applied correctly once learners leave the confines of the classroom.
“I can’t believe how quickly the three days flew by,” David said. “It was all relevant. There wasn’t a single part where I could say ‘this wasn’t relevant for me’.”
According to Nic, it was far more entertaining than many had expected, which led to greater interaction and, ultimately, better results.
“Although I was wary about the role play and video elements, by the end of it I volunteered,” Nic said. “We didn’t need to make any notes. By using the stories and using the strategies right then and there, the concepts and ideas stuck in our minds.”
Nic explains that it wasn’t long before he was able to put his new skills into practice. Using the specific skills developed during the training, he was able to successfully put them into action only one week later when he secured a new account.
Long-term, Nic said he’s now better at listening to customers and prospects, and is constantly striving to use the skills. “You almost have to treat each and every time you speak to a customer as if it were your first contact with them,” Nic added.
Besides a sense of all-round professional development, the main benefit of the Learning Cog course for David is that he is now more conscious of how he develops relationships with his customers through being mindful after every interaction. Having the skills to better build a rapport with customers will have a positive impact on his accounts.
Shortly after the training, David explained that he used the tools provided by Learning Cog with other national sales customers who are tied to pub companies. Having experienced success, he adapted this approach to use with his free trade customers on a day-to-day basis He’s now benefiting from these stronger relationships.
David concluded: “It’s only natural for a sales professional to be a bit cynical after 20 years in the business when it comes to sales training. But, without a doubt, I came away from the training having gained much more than I had expected to.”