May  2002

Offering Training Programs Empowers Employees

                         by Tom Bychinski                              


At The Peachtree Companies Inc. (TPC), headquartered in Norcross, Ga., training equals empowerment. Whether it's empowering our customers to achieve success for their own business or empowering our employees to reach and utilize their potential, we strive “to inspire, educate, motivate and develop both internal and external customers.“ 

TPC manufactures three brands: Peachtree® Doors and Windows, Crestline® Windows and Doors and Vetter® Windows and Doors. Each brand has its own identity, marketing strategy and product line; therefore, each requires its own training program. Throughout the year, each brand offers five/six three-day introductory programs for both customers and employees. There are also advanced programs available, as well as a field service seminar. 

Who is Trained?
Customers who sell TPC products and employees in service-related areas are encouraged to attend the introductory program, regardless of selling experience or years in the millwork industry. Both customers and employees benefit from learning new ways to communicate to potential customers about the products and services they offer. We want to enable them to present themselves as experts who sell superior windows and doors. And, we want to guarantee that their potential customers receive a clear message and understand the benefits they will receive from our training. 

Training sessions for all three brands feature common elements. In every training session, we separate 35-50 participants into small groups to form teams that will work together for the duration of the program. This allows participants to foster relationships and network with other professionals from across the country. Also, interactive participation is a must for all attendees. Participants are encouraged to ask questions and share their experiences and offer advice. 

Key Elements
Sales skills and product knowledge are the key elements for each training program. Everyday participants learn and review sales techniques that will enable them to sell windows and doors to builders, architects, contractors, homeowners, etc. They learn a variety of tactics that coincide with their personal style as well as review communication skills and etiquette essential in sales. 

Product Knowledge
Without sufficient product knowledge, participants will not reap the benefits of their sales skills. Since participants in the program are at a variety of levels, ranging from those who have been selling our products 25 years to those who just entered the sales field, the introductory program moves at a steady pace. Because the brands are continuously improving and making additions and innovations, there is something new for everyone to learn. 

As a motivational technique, we combine product knowledge and training with fun. In order for any training program to be successful, participants must have fun because adults tend to learn at a faster pace when they enjoy themselves. Infused with the program are games and activities designed to help participants learn and retain the information easily. For example after presentations and lessons, teams play “Jeopardy“ or “Who Wants to be a Millionaire“ for prizes and other rewards. 

Left: The companies’ trainees always have something to learn, since products are always changing. Right: Trainers strive to have fun in presentations.

Facility Tours
On the second day of training, participants have the opportunity to visit our manufacturing facilities. Crestline and Vetter classes, which are held in Mosinee, Wis., visit the 660,000 square-foot, Central Wisconsin location. Peachtree classes tour the 500,000-square-foot, Georgia location. For most of our customers, this is their first time in a state-of-the-art window and door manufacturing facility. At the plants they observe the precision, innovation and craftsmanship necessary for creating high-quality products. In addition, they view our specialized manufacturing and quality methods such as demand-flow technology. Plant tours provide customers with a broader perception about the manufacturing process, allowing them to develop even more appreciation for the actual product. Participants also have the chance to visit customer-service representatives. 

Product Enhancements
In addition to sales and product knowledge, participants learn of product enhancements and innovations designed to make their job easier. For example, customers watch a demonstration of SmartQuote™, TPC's estimating program. With SmartQuote, TPC customers can specify, estimate and enter orders. This advanced estimating software also allows customers to organize and track projects easily by project name, sales representative or customer. 

Each program also includes in-depth competitor analysis. Participants review a breakdown of competitor product information and they inspect the actual product. This increases their selling power, allowing them to decipher the differences between the brands and their competition. In addition, participants learn about brand strategies, including the future of the brands and marketing services, where they learn of new promotional materials, literature and other resources available to them and their customers.

Test Time
Before participants graduate from the introductory program, the teams use the sales skills they learned to develop sales presentations. Each team receives a product that was not covered in the class. Here participants demonstrate what they will actually do when they're in the field. The other teams learn about the products as if they are the customers. After each presentation, the other teams critique the information providing suggestions and general feedback. After each presentation is complete, participants graduate and receive plaques. 

At TPC, we evaluate the success of the training program by the immediate response we receive from surveys and the increase in sales. Customer responses following participation have been tremendous, with many advising associates and co-workers to attend future classes.

Advanced Programs
After completion of the introductory course, our customers are invited to attend our advanced programs. The advanced training program consists of a product review, in which customers test data with the engineering team, advanced counselor sales skills and role-playing. 

In the near future, additional training classes will be available for TPC customers. As we continue to develop new methods to empower our employees, we are certain that active involvement and fun is the atmosphere required for learning, and mandatory for both TPC and customer training success.  


Tom Bychinski is corporate training and development manager for The Peachtree Companies of Norcross, Ga.


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