Everything Sales Leaders Need to Know About Virtual Sales Training Before Booking It
In 2020, the corporate training landscape changed dramatically. The trend away from physical classrooms and towards virtual-only training accelerated due to the worldwide work from home mandates. Consequently, sales leaders needed to quickly adopt virtual sales training.
And that’s a very good thing. Let me explain why.
First, digital selling skills are vital for your team to reach the modern buyer. In the COVID era buyers and sellers are more accustomed to engaging through digital channels. Practices such as personalized sales video messages and online meetings are rapidly becoming the norm rather than in-person meetings.
This leaves a lot of sales reps at a disadvantage — unless you train them to become modern sellers who create sales conversations through digital channels. And now, that training MUST be delivered virtually.
Traditional Sales Training (aka In-Person) vs. Virtual Sales Training
As the work environment has changed over the last couple of months, I’ve been speaking and writing about the benefits of Virtual, Instructor-Led Sales Training (VILT) versus traditional sales training, also called in-person sales training. Yet there is still some confusion about the differences.
For instance, some sales leaders envision that virtual training is simply a traditional, in-person sales training converted to an online format. I want you to know that is absolutely not the case.
Virtual sales training encompasses so much more, including a structure that better aligns with how people learn.#Virtual #SalesTraining is more than simply converting a traditional, in-person sales training to an online format. Learn what a successful virtual sales program looks like with @M_3Jr Click To Tweet
Before moving forward, let’s define the terms.
Traditional Sales Training
During a traditional sales training event, a speaker delivers a half-day, one-day or two-day session on site. Typically, sellers gather in a hotel or conference room for this event. The expert recites a ton of information. The learners take notes, complete workbooks, practice, and/or do white board or flip-it chart sessions. Sometimes they break out in groups for role-play activities or discussions. Usually, at the completion of this training event, sales reps are enthusiastic about what they learned.
Unfortunately, research shows that this approach is not effective: 70% of B2B sales reps forget what they learned in a traditional sales training event after only ONE week. Within ONE MONTH, that percentage jumps to 87%.
As a sales leader, this means that traditional training doesn’t move the needle in changing a sales rep’s behavior because they forget most of what they learned. That’s because in many of these traditional sales training programs, salespeople are passive learners without an opportunity to apply what they learn, other than a few breakout exercises. This is not enough to change behavior because they are forced to learn a lot in a collapsed period of time and that’s NOT how our brains work.
Virtual, Instructor-Led Sales Training
VILT is delivered through a digital platform where the instructor and the learners are engaged in the course curriculum virtually. This training format uses video and other interactive tools, music, vibrant visuals, online discussion forums, live virtual coaching calls, online assessments, leaderboards, timed messaging to focus sellers on behavior change and even a virtual graduation ceremony, to create an effective interactive learning experience.
VILT is designed from the outset to leverage the ways in which our brain processes and learns new information. These elements have scientifically-proven benefits to increase the impact of training, such as:
- Small chunks of instruction delivered over a period of time to increase retention.
- The ability to practice new skills to ensure sellers apply what they’ve learned.
- Regular assessments that prove sellers completely grasp the concepts.
- Gamification to motivate learners, track progress, and reward top students.
Sales leaders should not expect their teams to be able to learn, retain, and apply new techniques when delivered through traditional training methods.
The graphic below shows that with the right techniques and tools, sellers can retain more information with virtual sales training than with most traditional one/two-day sales training events because traditional training does not incorporate many aspects of how people learn.
An analogy I like to use to explain the supremacy of virtual sales training over traditional sales training is how you and I learned in our own college experience.
The collegiate calendar and course structure are designed to result in long-term retention because they incorporate different elements that align with the process of learning, such as:
- Courses are long enough to change behavior.
- Supports different learning styles.
- Provides elements of self-paced learning.
- Delivers hands-on, practical training.
- Offers personalized coaching.
Let’s look at these characteristics of university-style learning and how they relate to virtual sales training.
Impact of Duration on Retention
First, a typical university term or semester is 15 weeks (or 3.5 months) long. Humans are creatures of habit and it takes 66 days on average to change a habit. That’s why a one or two-day sales training event doesn’t change your sellers’ behavior even if followed by coaching and they’re likely to return to their old habits within a week after a traditional training experience.
Sales training should last for at least eight weeks to be effective, that’s the bare minimum. Research shows that the spacing effect, or spreading learning out over time, increases retention. In fact, with the spacing effect, people can remember about 80% of information after 60 days.#SalesTraining should last for at least eight weeks to be effective and information should be spread over time for long term retention. @M_3Jr Click To Tweet
Support Different Styles of Learning
Second, university courses implement different elements to facilitate various types of learning. For example, courses usually include a combination of:
- Self-paced learning where each student studies with a textbook or other resources.
- Live classes (Lecture) where they interact with the instructor and other classmates.
- One-on-one personal instruction during open office hours.
This method of learning has proven very effective throughout the years. Through VILT, these same benefits can apply to sales training.
For example, Selling with LinkedIn® and Selling with Sales Navigator are two of Vengreso’s virtual sales training programs. Each training program is delivered over three months through a combination of live virtual and on demand micro-learning sessions to keep sales reps engaged throughout the entire program.
This method also allows time for sellers to practice new techniques they learn during the training program. Additionally, key concepts are reinforced through live virtual coaching sessions.
This is how our virtual sales training resembles university-style learning for each of the six phases of the course:
Before showing up to class, college students read their textbook to prepare for the topics that will be covered in class and to gain some understanding of the key elements. (You always did that, didn’t you? 😉)
Our on demand modules are grouped together in six phases and accessible to sellers so they can learn at their own pace, similar to college students reading the textbook before class. The nine modules of Selling with LinkedIn® are:
Phase 1: Mindset
Module 1: Why You Need to Change Your Digital Sales Mindset
Module 2: Get Off to a Fast Start by Building a Strong Foundation
Phase 2: Brand
Module 3: Be More “Attractive” – Your LinkedIn® Profile Makeover
Phase 3: Find and Engage
Module 4: Learning to Engage by Finding the Right People
Phase 4: Connect
Module 5: Best Practices for Learning to Connect (Inbound)
Module 6: Best Practices for Learning to Connect (Outbound)
Phase 5: Feed
Module 7: Feeding your Network with Curated Content
Module 8: Feeding your Network with Created Content
Phase 6: Cadence
Module 9: Developing a Digital Prospecting Cadence
University courses come in all shapes and sizes, from formal lectures to practical hands-on classroom activities. For a sales training program to be effective it must include both practical and interactive elements so sellers gain the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned during or post on demand sessions.
In our Selling with LinkedIn® program for instance, we have hands-on activities where sellers create buyer personas, scripts, and messages based on examples. Then, we showcase the work to create an open dialogue about strengths and weaknesses of each so that every sales rep feels comfortable completing the exercise.
These hands-on training sessions are virtual, of course. And while some people say there’s no substitute for a face-to-face class, VILT makes use of video, visuals, and music to create that personal connection between the instructor and the learners.
In fact, neuroscience shows that thanks to mirror neurons, the brain can feel empathy with the person on a screen to the same extent as an in-person conversation.Effective #SalesTraining programs must include both practical and interactive elements so #sellers gain the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned during on demand sessions. @M_3Jr Click To Tweet
This not only applies to VILT but to selling as well. For example, in our eight-week Selling with Video Virtual Bootcamp, we teach the skills sellers need to differentiate themselves using video including how to be irresistible on camera and how to leverage verbal and non-verbal cues, to name a few.
Between classes, college students have the option to meet with their professors during office hours to ask questions and gain feedback on their assignments.
To maximize the impact of sales training, the same opportunities should be available for sellers. There should be live virtual office hours or a weekly coaching session where they can ask questions and address any issues they’re facing.
Sales teams who attend our virtual training programs have both live virtual training (required for everyone) and live virtual coaching sessions (optional). This combination provides sellers the opportunity to practice lessons from the on demand platform, ask questions about best practices, and gain feedback on completed assignments, such as using a messaging template for prospects who have visited their profile.
This approach to sales training helps reps understand how to leverage digital selling techniques, why it’s important, how it applies to their specific role, and how to develop a consistent cadence.
How Do You Evaluate Virtual Sales Training Programs?
Most sales leaders want fast results from their sales training, but unfortunately, this is an unrealistic expectation. As we’ve seen, traditional sales training collapsed into a few days doesn’t stick. Sales reps cannot practice what they can’t remember.
At the end of the day, what you want from a sales training program is behavior change. You want your team to implement new strategies, tactics or better leverage various sales tools available to them. To track the success of a training experience, you must set specific goals or key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess whether the behavior change has occurred.
For our digital selling training programs, we have very specific metrics to determine the impact of the training, which include increased:
- LinkedIn® acumen.
- Social Selling Index (SSI) score.
- LinkedIn® profile views.
- LinkedIn® connections with prospects.
- Number of sales conversations created.
- Introductions or referrals.
- Pipeline growth.
- Number of closed-won and closed-lost deals.
There are many factors involved in the measurement of the ROI of any sales training program, but for me it comes down to tracking the sales tools and techniques to measure the sellers’ results.
In many cases we witness results from sellers that reveal they’re applying the techniques during the three months of the training program. For instance, the sales reps at an IT consulting company increased the number of opportunities that leveraged LinkedIn® at some point of the sales process by 600% before completing the training program.Are your #SalesTraining programs creating behavior change or does your team forget the information after a few weeks? Learn how to make your training programs stick with @M_3Jr. Click To Tweet
How do you measure the ROI of your sales tools and training? The answer is simpler than it may appear…By adding a simple, required multi-select dropdown question in your CRM at three specific points.
For example, let’s say your team goes through our training program Selling with Sales Navigator. To measure the ROI of the training, I recommend adding a field in your CRM where sellers are required to identify which tools (including LinkedIn® Sales Navigator) they use when scheduling a meeting, creating an opportunity, and closing an opportunity.
That way you will know which tools are contributing to revenue and if these tools are worth the cost. For instance, if six months after the training, the data shows that sellers are leveraging Sales Navigator at different stages of the sales funnel, then you know that Sales Navigator (in this example) is a good investment. Conversely, if successful sellers are using Sales Navigator and under-performing sellers are not, you’ve identified a coaching opportunity for the under-performing sellers.
Start a Virtual Sales Training Program
As I stated earlier with science to back it up, successful sales training programs should be a minimum of eight weeks. They should use testing and repetition to reinforce learning, divide materials into chunks (like our Phases and Modules listed above) spaced throughout the program, and use video, high-impact visual aids and music as a central delivery tool in combination with live training sessions, on demand modules, and live coaching sessions.
The global pandemic has forced all of us into remote work. Your potential buyers are still out there, searching for solutions to their business challenges. The question I want you to ask yourself is this….Do your sellers have the modern selling skills to find, engage, and connect with the buyer in this new normal?
Watch my webinar playback, Sales Training in the Age of COVID to discover how virtual sales training is scientifically-proven to deliver higher retention rates than traditional training programs. Register to watch the on demand webinar packed with insights on how to build a program that will create lasting results. I know, because we invested 3,932 hours into just one of our courses and 95% of our graduates report our training program met, exceeded or far exceeded their expectations!