How To Improve Sales Training
Imagine you’re the founder of a startup software company that just received its first round of venture capital funding. When the champagne is gone and the party is over, you’re faced with a very real challenge – how the heck are you going to live up to the promises you made to your investors?
In order to meet or exceed expectations, you’re going to have to build a 50-person salesforce from scratch within the next year. As an added wrinkle, these people will be brought on at different times and most will work remotely from locations all around the world. Up until now, you’ve been the sole salesperson for the company, because who knows the product better than the founder, right? Well, now you’re faced with the challenge of developing and scaling a new hire sales training process that will meet the demands of a modern, distributed sales organization.
In this example, it would be nearly impossible to achieve your goal by hosting one or more live sales training sessions. Sure, you could batch new hires into small cohorts, but what are they supposed to do while they wait for the company to hit “critical mass” for another training session? You could try to pair each new salesperson with a more seasoned mentor, but that comes with its own risks…
What if all of your salespeople aren’t great teachers?
What if they don’t commit enough of their time to training new hires?
What if they teach new hires “their way” instead of the “company way”?
You can see how this could quickly spiral into a “wild west” sales organization where everyone has their own approach to the same problem.
In this situation and many others like it, conventional sales training just won’t do. Bringing a salesforce together for an in-person event, even when the timing is practical, is expensive and rife with logistical demands that eat up time and mindshare of internal resources. Sure, live training events don’t necessarily have to be large, but like a bad game of telephone, scaling training efforts across a decentralized sales team can be a major challenge.
How do you consistently model the targeted behaviors and messages?
How can learners practice applying concepts in a consistent manner?
How can trainers provide structured feedback to ensure everyone is on the same page?
Thankfully, technology has developed to the point where we have an alternative to traditional sales training events. One that is less expensive, improves the level of retention of training material, and empowers participants to see positive results faster than ever. It’s called video-based practice, and it’s going to help our fretful startup founder hit all of his numbers. It's the ultimate key to improving sales training efficiency.
Satisfying the Need for Speed
In today’s sales organization, time to productivity is the name of the game when it comes to new hires. Every day that a sales position is vacant or occupied by someone who isn’t equipped to talk to customers results in forgone revenue and a step lost to the competition. Video-based practice and training technology can help by removing the time and logistical barriers of the live event training model and enabling companies to get their latest sales hires up to speed faster than ever before.
Because most companies already have all of the hardware they need, both large sales organizations and start-up teams can design and deploy a new video practice-based training program as little as 10 days. Transitioning your sales training program to an online delivery model isn’t just easy to do, it also comes with a host of additional benefits for new sales hires:
- Self-driven training sequences allow reps to complete training on their own time, at their own pace
- Bite-sized lessons improve retention of training concepts
- Training can be completed at their home of record, giving them more time in the office and with their family
- Sales processes are taught consistently across the organization, meaning everyone is using very similar methods and language when they talk to customers
- Reps don’t have to wait to attend the next live training event; they can learn new concepts now and start applying them immediately
What’s more, the burden of resource-constrained sales training and enablement teams is being lightened through more rapid and responsive program execution. Video technology is being used to transform the effectiveness and efficiency of some of the toughest training challenges, including:
- Deploying a sales message for a new product feature
- Equipping reps with the skills to handle a new competitive threat
- Helping senior salespeople brush up on basic, but often forgotten sales skills
- Supporting teams in tailoring messages to a new industry vertical
- Sharing best practices about new product delivery processes
- Onboarding a new hire in a virtual or remote staffing environment
Our example focused on a founder who needed to solve for new hire onboarding, but you can see how video-based sales training can be used to help every sales organization move faster. Whether you’re focused on professional development, new product rollout, or best practice identification, video training can help you achieve your organizational goals for less time, money and resources than traditional sales training.
A Darwinian Approach to Sales Training
We all know the story of Charles Darwin and his concept of “survival of the fittest,” but the real learning point is that those who fail to adapt to changes in their environment will always lose to those who do. Today’s selling environment is characterized by constant change. Whether we’re talking about new competitors entering the market, shifting buying behaviors, or accelerated product cycles, today’s sales leaders are trying to steer a rocket ship moving at breakneck speed.
So, how do we make sure that we don’t get left behind? How do we create a truly adaptive sales force? The key for today’s managers, trainers and sales enablement professionals is building a professional development system to combine both foundational selling skills with dynamic content that equips reps to be more agile in a constantly changing environment.
Video practice technology provides the basis of a truly adaptive training strategy, because it supports a learning culture that is responsive to today’s reality. This new approach means companies don’t have to wait until the annual kick-off meeting or next live training event to deliver a year’s worth of new messages and content. Timelines for creating a new training program have gone from months to weeks, enabling companies to deploy more effective training interventions that deliver easily digestible content at more frequent intervals.
Consider the example of a new competitor entering your space. In the past, sales ops or enablement teams may have worked to understand the situation by interviewing reps to uncover effective responses and strategies. Marketing professional would craft new messages for reps to deliver. Instructional designers would likely identify underlying competencies or skills in need of brushing up. Finally, administrative staff would work to identify possible training dates and venues or the agenda for the annual kick off meeting would be adjusted to include time to discuss the issue. By the time you actually communicate what everyone worked so hard to put together, a second competitor could have entered the market or the existing competitor could have changed their tactics.
Powered by video practice technology, the new fast-track learning model has changed the game. Companies can now identify and instantly share best practice video examples across the entire sales force. Sales trainers can craft and deploy new training exercises in minutes. Feedback on what’s working and what isn’t can be nearly instantaneous as trainers and managers review videos generated by reps. In a short period of time, complete libraries of “best in class” examples can be built and shared.
This new sense-and-respond model of training elevates trainers to be true performance improvement professionals rather than event managers mired in the planning details of live event sessions. By viewing videos of actual selling behaviors, corporate sales support staff have immediate access to the insight they need to further refine individual coaching plans. Training assessments go from subjective to objective and near-real time. New interventions can be developed, tested, and further deployed or scrapped depending on how reps perform in the practice videos.
In a sentence, video-based training technology enables us to make the aspirational promise of sales training a reality.
We are in the midst of an exciting evolution in sales training speed and efficiency. However, those who fail to use technology to support a more adaptive approach to sales training run the risk of falling behind their competitors who do. Much like the founder in our opening story, sales leaders who use video-based training to more quickly ramp-up new hires or rapidly deploy new training messages will have a leg up on those who don’t.
To learn more about how to improve sales training and our sales training methodology, find out what it takes to make sales training effective.
About The Author
Researcher, consultant, and sales leader, Brian uses a data-driven approach to drive sales effectiveness. His clients include leading sales organizations in financial services, technology, healthcare, and professional services. Using insight from academics and change management, Brian helps senior leaders and sales enablement teams understand and succeed in today’s more demanding market. His research has been published in Harvard Business Review and other outlets.