The problem with most sales training is that it often lasts for an intense two or three days, then it's over. There's no guarantee that what's learned will be put into practice. That's why Ian Davison, CEO of Octocom Systems, sends his salespeople to a training program that's spread out over several months and includes specific tasks for homework assignments.

Why add tension when salespeople are already under the gun to meet their quotas? Davison believes his salespeople get more out of the training. "Their senses are sharpened, and they retain more," professes the head of the $37-million data-communications-systems manufacturer in Chelmsford, Mass. Perhaps more important, "what they learn is put to immediate use."

Under a system known as K Training (so named for its founder, Gustav Kaser) participants act out sales scenarios and work on certain approaches (closing techniques, for example) through role playing and one-on-one coaching. Homework might mean trying out, say, a new way to "turn complaints around" during actual sales calls, then reporting back to the class. The program also includes instruction on time management, etiquette, and communication skills (such as writing better letters).

About 12 of the 15 salespeople at Octocom have been through K Training, which consists of five one-day sessions over a period of three months. And the payoff has been evident. One junior salesman improved his performance dramatically by using silence and counter-objection techniques he had learned. The beauty of the approach, says Davison, is that "it's continual and self-checking." -- Susan Greco

K Training is offered to companies on-site ($11,875 for a group of 12) or through a public class ($1,125 per person). For more information, contact president Dennis Nemeth, K Training International, at 609-737-1166.