When you approach the subject of “training” with your dealers, how do they respond? Do they react as if you've just said, “Say, why don't you take a break from making money this afternoon and sit in a boring training session that tells you things you already know?”

Perhaps that's why dealers rank “business training” only slightly ahead of root canals in their preferences for how to spend an afternoon.

But you've got a different view; you look at it from another perspective. You're the farsighted distributor, and you know that strong business training is the path to profitability.

Through adequate and recurring training, dealers learn how to employ good people and good practices — and learn to let go of bad habits that keep them only a step or two ahead of the bankruptcy boogeyman.

So, how do you overcome the mind-set that asks, “Can't I just do it the way I've always done it?”

It begins with marketing. The same principles used to get customers to call your dealers are the principles you'll use to get dealers to call you to register for the hottest business training topics of 2006. But first …

Time Your Topic

Offer your dealers what they need when they need it. To get your thinking in gear, here are several “can't miss” ideas for the upcoming months:

February — Is basing business solely on emergency service calls starting to lose its charm this month? Offer your exhausted dealers light at the end of the tunnel with such topics as “Creating Multiple Revenue Streams in Your Business.” Highlight upselling, maintenance agreements, IAQ and other ways to enhance the revenues every call, every time.

March — Remind dealers that if they want to prosper, they've got to keep the customers they've worked so hard to gain. Try topics such as “Customer Retention as the Path to Prosperity, and/or Maintenance Agreements for Predictable Profits That Build Bankable Value in Your Business.”

April — No matter how well your marketing brings in leads, you can't survive if you can't close. Why not offer “How to Maximize Your Closing Ratio or The Top 10 Sales Closes in the HVAC Industry”? Your dealers will benefit from this insight.

OK, now you've got four months' worth of topics — pick one or all of them — and you've done it in less than seven minutes, just like my editor prefers! Now it's time to package them for maximum attraction.

What's in a Name?

A great training program must have a great name. Forget the yawners like “Tax- Planning Basics.” Don't so much think “topic” but instead focus on “benefits” and think like this: “4 Ways to Legally Pocket Up to 18 percent More Profit” or “How to Get an 18 percent Pay Raise… Courtesy of the IRS!” Both are more fun, more entertaining and eminently more worthy of attending in time and dollars.

The name of your training program is like a headline in an ad. Don't waste the space with dry, boring phrases. Let dealers realize right away that better training is better for their bottom line.

As your seminar marketing moves into full swing, keep pushing the benefits. Tell attendees what they'll learn, what they'll get out of it, how it will improve their bottom line.

You're always telling dealers to “sell value” to customers, aren't you? Here's your chance to practice your own preaching. Sell the value of the seminar to your dealers. Make them an offer they can't refuse by presenting it in a way that prompts them to rush to sign up.

Ways to Boost Attendance by 54 Percent

As you seek to help dealers improve their businesses — despite themselves — you're competing against every pressure of modern life, including a work overload that keeps them from being “too busy” to build lasting success. So you've got to persuade them in the same way you tell them to convince their customers: marketing.

We've modified a marketing approach — greatly simplified below — that we've done about 40 times in a row to boost attendance far beyond the norm. Some of the methods that help are…

  • Send out a series of letters at regularly scheduled dates. For instance, over a 40-day period, send three letters — the first making the announcement about the best training they'll ever receive; the second including testimonials of others who've benefited; and the third giving them final notice and urging them not to miss this opportunity. Also, help them help you by including a sign-up form in all three letters. Don't expect them to keep up with that themselves.

  • Create demand by limiting quantity. If you've got 54 seats in a room and are inviting 200 people, tell them, for crying out loud. In subsequent letters or contacts, tell them how many seats remain. You want a sense of urgency and desire based on popularity.

  • To generate even more response, follow up the letters with a phone call. That really shows you want them there and that you believe this is important. The call doesn't have to be elaborate. Just tell them you were checking to see if they'd received the information you sent about a very important seminar. The dealer put a letter aside, but if he's actually on the phone, he'll often commit.

  • Keep your registration fee at a reasonable price for both members/nonmembers or customers/prospects. Oh, sure, we know you've got to spend money to make money, but don't risk letting your dealers think this valuable seminar is not worth their time or money. Our seminars have ranged from $59 to $195 a person, but the “price point” has proven to be $97 and $129. (Many of our hosts have actually profited on the event, generally putting that toward other training or programs. Hard to beat that.)

  • Send follow-up letter to those who attended and those who didn't. Reinforce the value of their training and thank the attendees for being there. Tell the nonattendees you're sorry they missed this opportunity to improve their profitability, along with any positive quotes from attendees. Let them know the date of the next training — and that you'll be contacting them again soon with more details. They probably won't put you aside. Often these “rebound” attendees are the first to register at the next event.

During your training event, you'll have an opportunity to give a “commercial” about your group's benefits. This not only encourages prospects but reinforces your value to current customers and members. By offering quality training for your dealers, you help them become stronger companies that serve customers better. It's a win-win-win situation.

Hard to argue with that. And did I mention they were fun, too?

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. His company creates ads, newsletters, Yellow Page ads, turn-key marketing programs and marketing seminars. Distributors and other training event hosts can call, fax or e-mail for available schedule. Dealers and distributors can get a free subscription to his “Sales & Marketing Insider” by faxing the request on letterhead to 334/262-1115. Call 800/489-9099 for a free marketing calendar or check out other free marketing tips at www.hudsonink.com.