Jeff Radke

May 24, 2023 I Feature

4 Sweetwater University Takeaways All Dealers Should Use in Sales Training

By Katie Kailus

One key feature online MI retailer Sweetwater prides itself on is its customer service. To help foster a positive customer service experience every time, Sweetwater founded Sweetwater University — an immersive, 13-week training program where the company trains its new sales associates, or as Sweetwater calls them, sales engineers.

Founded initially in the 1990s, the Sweetwater U training program builds a foundation of knowledge for sales staff on not only gear but also the fundamentals they need to be successful in business. At this point in the company’s history more than 1,500 individuals have graduated from Sweetwater University.

Music Inc. exclusively sat down with Jeff Radke, Sweetwater’s chief sales officer, to learn how fellow MI retailers can train their own sales staff better. Radke’s first piece of advice? Don’t just teach employees, ensure they understand your store’s unique story and philosophy.

“Culture matters and having a healthy and well-defined culture has a huge impact on retention and job satisfaction,” Radke explained. “Your employees should be proud to represent your store. As for training, be consistent and set aside a specific time or times each week. Think through your goals and have at least a loose curriculum to ensure you aren’t missing key elements. Reinforce and revisit the important KPIs, concepts and philosophies. The key to retained knowledge is repetition. Finally, as an owner or leader, you must walk the walk. How you treat your employees and talk about your customers will be directly reflected in how they treat your customers.”

Radke also shared four key facts of Sweetwater U’s coursework, which makes for an ideal baseline for any MI retailer’s sales training program. They are:

1. Make sure staff understand your company. We ensure sales engineers take away a deep understanding of Sweetwater’s culture and how that impacts how we serve our customers and how they conduct themselves as professionals. I really want each sales engineer to be the face of Sweetwater for each of their customers. To that point, with every interaction with a customer or co-worker, they’re either adding to or taking from their credibility and reputation. They need to understand the power of perspective and having a positive attitude.

2. Ensure a broad and deep level of product knowledge across all categories. Sweetwater’s customers expect sales engineers to be true content experts. This is incredibly challenging, but it provides a great customer experience when they come to trust “their” sales engineer knowing they will get great advice. Importantly, this goes beyond the literal product knowledge to understanding the concepts behind the gear to help the customer be more successful in their musical endeavors.

3. Teach them what to do when they don’t have an answer. That could be product related, process related or system related. We sell a lot of very complicated products. It’s OK not to know everything, they just need to know how to get the answers. In the occasions where they need to research information off the phone to find answers, follow up is key. Taking responsibility and following through with a solution builds long-lasting relationships.

4. Make sure they have a high level of comfort with the sales profession. Sales engineers need to have great organizational skills and self-discipline so they can run a successful business. It’s important that they take full responsibility for running their business with a longterm perspective and to erase the negative stigma associated with “salespeople” in their minds. Unfortunately, there’s a reason for the negative stigma associated with salespeople, but understanding that that’s not how we operate and helping to educate our customers about the tremendous benefits of working with a Sweetwater salesperson will help turn that stigma around. MI

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