by Cory Schnieder, LC
Six years ago, my business, Lighting Unlimited in Arizona, ran into a problem: We were growing quickly and hiring like crazy to keep up, but we didn’t have a training program in place. Our staff didn’t know enough about our offerings to sell confidently and it was frustrating for everyone.
The issue wasn’t going to be solved with a new workforce—my staff was already rock-solid.
At first, I thought they just needed more education, so I asked my staff to take the Lighting Specialist-I (LS-I) training from the National Association of Innovative Lighting Distributors (NAILD). The course’s curriculum helped, but it wasn’t completely fixing the problem.
I reached out to my industry colleagues at NAILD and explained my predicament. They explained that the self-paced online LS-I course is only part of the ideal learning process. Training programs work best when the knowledge modules are complemented with ongoing workplace coaching elements.
Instead of thinking about selling lightbulbs, I had a different kind of lightbulb moment in my head: creating an employer-driven training model, where we would provide onsite instruction and mentoring while our employees also studied the online modules. I started teaching a weekly class on Tuesday mornings. It began an hour before business started and I brought breakfast. We leveraged our showroom and used all the different light sources as course examples.
The results were astounding. Within three months, one of our least knowledgeable employees rocketed up to the top and became one of our best salesmen. He came to Lighting Unlimited with no industry experience and started with us as a delivery driver. He knows the material so well now, that he became our counter sales supervisor and lead trainer for our in-house LS-I classes. With his knowledge, he’s managed to save our customers thousands of dollars by pointing them to solutions that will fix their problems.
My staff is getting more sales because they know what they are talking about and can sell solutions confidently. Our customers have noticed the increase in lighting aptitude and regularly come in to capitalize on our expertise. Building these relationships with customers has had a significant impact on our sales and bottom line.
Now I serve as president of NAILD and am thrilled to share this training program with the electrical industry and spread the wealth. Besides LS-I, NAILD offers two other comprehensive training programs—Lighting Specialist-II and Lighting Specialist-Controls—for lighting professionals:
Lighting Specialist-I (LS-I) – Consists of 10 modules on lighting fundamentals, including light and color, light sources and controls. Designed for new and mid-level employees in lighting, especially salespeople, counter and customer service staff.
Lighting Specialist-II (LS-II) – Provides nine modules on practical lighting practice, including creating value for customers and applied lighting for retail, industrial, office and education facilities. Designed for sales professionals, LS-II delivers a detailed knowledge base to strengthen sales.
Lighting Specialist-Controls (LS-C) – Includes four modules of control-specific content, including how controls work, equipment, compatibility with different light sources and system application. Designed for lighting professionals who have already completed LS-I and want a deeper understanding of controls.
Served in an on-demand online format, the Lighting Specialist training courses are supported by mentorship, workbooks, hands-on activities, online quizzes and final exams. Competively priced, enrollment is discounted further for NAILD, IMARK and NEMRA members. Register for any of the LS courses at naild.org/training.
Cory Schneider is the president of the National Association of Innovative Lighting Distributors (NAILD) and leads distribution company Lighting Unlimited as its CEO. NAILD is a nonprofit trade association that helps its members grow their businesses with cutting-edge education, conferences, awards and sharing of best practices. Its timely Lighting Specialist certificate programs serve as a pillar in the lighting industry. For more information, visit NAILD.org.