Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Adobe, SalesLoft, Outreach — this is not a random list of tech companies but just a few of the organizations that have canceled conferences or sales training events through 2021. All are now looking for ways to implement a virtual sales program that will have the same impact on sellers’ behavior and help remote selling teams still grow and close the sales pipeline.
Likewise, the typical in-person sales training event isn’t a possibility anymore and that is why sales enablement strategies are focused on how to develop the best virtual sales training or outsource it. Companies aren’t going to risk their sellers’ becoming ill and frankly many are finding stellar results from their virtual sales programs they have created.
However, sales leaders still have a responsibility to deliver results to executives. To do that, every needs to be trained to improve their techniques. And while the research supporting the benefits of virtual, instructor-led training (VILT), such as better information retention rates, less disruptive to daily activities, and no travel costs, among others, have been around for years, it has unfortunately taken this crisis for many sales leaders to consider this type of training for their virtual sales team.
Continue reading to learn the scientific reasons why one- or two-day live sales training events don’t work and the benefits of putting together the right VILT or virtual sales program.
Live In-Person Traditional Sales Training Events Aren’t Effective
As a , you’re always looking to provide your with the best techniques to improve their performance. For years, sales training has been crammed into one- or two-day events. Then, within a month, sales leaders would complain that most reps had forgotten everything they learned. It turns out, they were right.
In fact, according to Gartner research, B2B sales reps forget 70% of the information they learn within a week of training and 87% will forget it within a month. Yet, businesses still spend so much money on the same training format, expecting different results.
How much do they spend? It is estimated that U.S. companies spend more than $70 billion on training every year (an average of $1,459 per salesperson), but studies show that the ROI is minimum or non-existent.
Why? Because people can’t retain that much information from that delivery style. But deliver your virtual sales program correctly and the impact can be an extremely positive on pipeline development. Take for example our client, Carousel Industries. They were able to add over $1.5M in 9 months to the sales pipeline leveraging our virtual sales training program.U.S. companies spend an average of $1,459 per #sales rep on #training every year. But reps forget 70% of the information within a week. #DigitalSales #VirtualTraining @M_3Jr @Gartner_inc Click To Tweet
The Forgetting Curve
In the late 1800s, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus coined what is known as “The Forgetting Curve.” He found that if new information isn’t applied, people forget about 75% of what they’ve learned after just six days.
The sad fact is that only 12% of employees apply the skills they get from training to their jobs. There simply isn’t enough time in a one- or two-day event for reps to apply the knowledge. Which is unfortunate because many reps leave a training excited and rejuvenated to apply the new techniques.
However, regardless of how excited they leave the training, they return to the field and have to catch up on emails and client calls. Then something else happens and then there’s a surprise client meeting. Suddenly, they’re swamped and return to their comfortable, ineffective techniques.
Humans are creatures of habit and it takes an average of 66 days to make new habits automatic. Learning new information in a one- or two-day event won’t lead to new habits because there isn’t enough time.
How People Learn
Our brains don’t have the capacity to remember large amounts of information all at once. In fact, here are some facts about how our brain works:
- Short-term human memory is limited to about seven items of information.
- Retention rates are even lower when the information is delivered verbally instead of visually.
- It takes time and repetition to turn sales training into new habits.
Our memory works with a dual-process, or two systems as described by Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking Fast and Slow. System 1 is the unconscious, routine thought process that interacts with the more conscious, problem-based thought processes known as System 2.
In terms of learning, System 1 serves for memorization and recall of information, while System 2 serves for analytical or critical thinking. For optimal learning, you need to involve both systems.
First, you activate System 1 by providing the concepts and information. Then you activate System 2 by presenting sales reps with problem-solving tasks and asking them to apply the concepts learned outside the domain in which it was first introduced.
In a traditional one-to-two day sales training, System 2 is on the sidelines the entire time, as System 1 is focused on trying to remember the information. Combined with the time required to develop a new habit, traditional sales training doesn’t provide enough opportunities to change behavior. And to drive success in modern sales we as a leadership team must think about how do we make this sales training sticky!Our #memory has two systems: one to memorize information and another to solve problems. Is your #sales #training engaging both systems? Learn why a #DigitalSales #VirtualTraining is the best way to learn. @M_3Jr Click To Tweet
3 Techniques for Improving Long Term Retention of a Virtual Sales Program
If salespeople can’t remember their training, how can they apply it to their daily work? There are three techniques that educators use to improve the long-term retention of information. These are vital to a virtual sales training program.
- The testing effect. Frequent, small tests are a great way to teach and help students retain new information. When your sales reps regularly have to recall information, it will be ingrained in their long term memory.
- The spacing effect. Spreading learning out over time increases retention. Research shows that with the spacing effect, people can remember about 80% of the information after 60 days.
- The chunking technique. Grouping pieces of information helps retention because the student doesn’t have to recall each piece of content individually but as a group. Dividing sales training material into smaller pieces (less than seven) or categorizing them in chunks helps the brain to encode information faster and more efficiently.
7 Components and Benefits of a Virtual Sales Program
Virtual sales programs, like our Selling with LinkedIn ® and Selling with Sales Navigator curriculum, use the techniques mentioned above to improve retention and ensure that the investment in remote on-demand training is not wasted.
Here are seven benefits of virtual, instructor-led sales training:
Salespeople are competitive by nature, so effective virtual sales training needs to take advantage of that behavior. While live sales training usually incorporates group practice sessions with some rewards for the best performance, there are few that track progress through the entire training.
VILT programs provide more opportunity to track progress and reward the sales preofessional because they span a number of weeks. This gives everyone a chance to apply the techniques in the training to achieve targeted KPIs.
For example, because our training is focused on modern selling techniques, we recognize top performers for gaining the most, new LinkedIn connections, the highest LinkedIn SSI score growth, and the most referrals requests. Then, we have an awards ceremony at the end of the training to provide top performers with an award they can add to their LinkedIn profile.
And while rewards are the motivation for sellers, sales leaders want to see the execution and improved results, such as more sales conversations, converting more prospects to opportunities, and increased win rates.#Gamification is key in any #salestraining to motivate and track the performance of #sellers. #SalesLeadership can learn to use rewards to improve results. @M_3Jr Click To Tweet
#2: Chunking and Spacing
Instead of cramming all of the training into one or two days, VILT programs take advantage of how the brain works and how sellers learn. For example, our training uses short video lessons that can be watched as needed. We’ve also grouped our training into six phases to focus on one specific area of digital selling at a time.
At Vengreso we deliver training in small chunks, delivered over the course of 15 weeks to ensure that the learning sticks and sellers are able to apply the new techniques.
#3: Promotes Deliberate Practice
Deliberate practice is a technique proven to improve long term retention. It’s simply the act of deliberately and actively practicing a skill to get better at it.
In our Selling with LinkedIn® training, for example, we encourage students to practice what they learned after each lesson, such as making particular changes to their LinkedIn profiles or connect with prospects using specific templates. In fact, 95% of end-of-course survey respondents say the training provided an opportunity for them to practice the skills taught during the program.
#4: Applies Repetition
Why do so many sales reps struggle to retain and apply the knowledge they learn during training? Because a one or two-day training event does not provide time for sellers to apply what they learned.
On the other hand, VILT programs reinforce key points and techniques over the course of several weeks. As reps are learning and relearning, the training also incorporates practice so that reps are also applying what they learn.
#5: Incorporates Videos
Videos are important because people remember only 10% of what they hear three days later, but 65% of what they hear and see. Live training may incorporate some videos. However, they normally consist of one or two people lecturing from PowerPoint, live examples, and group exercises.
Just like the other aspects of a virtual sales program, videos allow learners to watch at their pace. For instance, some reps may learn quickly. They can watch the video and move on. Others may need to rewind and take notes during important sections. VILT programs that incorporate videos enable sellers to learn at the pace they are most comfortable with.People remember only 10% of what they hear 3 days later, but 65% of what they hear and see. Incorporate video in your #SalesTraining to improve retention. #DigitalSales @M_3Jr @BrainRulesBooks Click To Tweet
#6: Tests Knowledge
Assessments are key to understanding if learners absorbed the information during training and if they truly comprehend it. During live training events, it is difficult to offer assessments.
On the other hand, even some of the best virtual selling skills training programs, like Selling with LinkedIn® offer an assessment at the end of each module. Incorporated into the program, these assessments ensure that reps completely grasp key concepts before moving on to the next module.
Finally, these assessments enable course producers to continually improve the program. If too many sellers aren’t correctly answering questions about a certain topic, perhaps that wasn’t covered enough during the training.
#7: Personal Coaching
Immediate feedback is essential to effective learning. Vengreso’s students, for instance, receive access to virtual, live coaching sessions to discuss topics covered during that week’s training, how to apply them to their specific needs, and ask any questions to a sales coach.
During a normal, one- or two-day training, there will be some time for Q and A. However, when the training is over, reps can’t call the sales trainer and ask how to apply a certain technique to a specific prospect. That’s why a VILT program that provides on-demand training, reinforced with virtual, live events, the ability to practice the techniques, and reinforced with virtual, live sales coaching sessions, enables reps to learn, practice, and apply new techniques.
Virtual Sales Program vs. Live In-Person Training Work
The training and teaching techniques we’ve shared to this point apply to any setting, live or virtual because they are tailored to how people learn. So far, we’ve focused on a virtual sales program because most traditional sales training is delivered through live, in-person events and therefore don’t take advantage of these techniques.
However, when executed properly, these techniques might also be applied to a live training to produce great results. How?
Let’s consider how people learn new information, according to cognitive psychologists and the information processing theory:
- Attention: we are bombarded with sensory information and can only learn what we pay attention to.
- Encoding: how we process new information and encode it with our existing knowledge.
- Storage: once we’ve encoded the information, it remains in our brain. However, if we don’t think about or apply that knowledge, we forget it.
- Retrieval: how the brain recalls that information.
To ensure that a live in-person training has the same impact as a virtual sales training program spread out over a number of weeks, you must understand these four steps and develop the training around them.
Developing an Effective One-Day Live In-Person Training
Below are some tips on how to develop an effective one-day live in-person training.
Attention: Make the most out of live training by engaging all the learner’s senses to capture their attention. Go way beyond PowerPoint. Instead, have learners get out of their chairs and role play with each other. Make the event hands-on to maximize the learning experience.
Encoding: The mind processes information by associating it with previous knowledge or experiences. So, engage participants in solving real-life problems applicable to their daily experiences and provide immediate feedback. Peer-to-peer interaction is a key element of this technique. The visual cues learners receive contribute greatly to their learning experience.
Storage: Use mnemonic devices (tricks to help retain information in the long-term memory), such as acronyms and acrostics, songs and jingles, images or diagrams, or even color-coding your main points. Then use spaced repetition of concepts during the event to strengthen memory. Gamify it to make it fun.
Retrieval: During the training event you can promote retrieval by conducting short assessments, similar to how virtual training uses the same technique. Every time information is retrieved, it goes through the process of encoding and storage, which makes retrieval and application so important during training. Then, after the event, sales reps will be more likely to retrieve new information taught during the training.
For instance, our Selling with Video training used to be a live, one-day in-person event. During the training, we focus on teaching practical skills needed to make a compelling video for sales activities. These include gesturing, voice modulation, scriptwriting, and recording.
But we don’t stand in front of the room and lecture for four hours in the morning and four in the afternoon. Instead, this hands-on training involves all the senses. Students shoot their own videos and receive immediate feedback from their peers and trainers. This experiential learning allows them to identify their strengths and weaknesses and reinforces good practices.
We also teach how to deploy video content once it’s finished—including how, when, and what to post online including use cases. We tell stories about other sellers succeeding with video and engage in conversation about it. By the end of the day, sellers have learned each step in recording their own videos and applied what they learned. This training would not be nearly as effective if it was delivered virtually.
In summary, live in-person training is most effective when experiential learning of techniques is needed to train very specific skills. Peer reinforcement plays a key role in the effectiveness of this form of training.
What About a Virtual Sales Kickoff?
In the new remote selling normal, you may have to launch a virtual sales kickoff, which lasts one day or two. So how can you make them effective?
Check out this video to learn how to stand out with virtual events and create an experience that your sellers will love. David Meerman Scott has written a great book about Standout Virtual Events, where he talks about the differences and similarities between in-person events and virtual events and tips on how to create a Fanocracy in a socially distant world. His tips will help you launch a virtual sales kickoff that your sellers will love.
So listen to this conversation between David Meerman Scott and Viveka von Rosen.
Ready to Implement a Virtual Sales Program for Your Sales Team?
As the coronavirus continues to spread, we all need to take extra precautions, as those who have made the tough decision of canceling events have done. However, sales leaders still need to teach reps effective techniques for finding, engaging and connecting with the modern buyer, only then can they truly become the modern seller that wins!
While we’re all concerned about the spread of this virus, it is forcing companies and executives to rethink their existing plans. Some are realizing that the traditional sales training format doesn’t produce the results they are hoping to achieve. As virtual, instructor-led training programs teach in a format that is more conducive to how we learn, these executives are realizing that they offer a better alternative.
Are you ready to learn how a VILT program can help your sellers leverage modern selling techniques to find, engage, and connect with prospects?
Learn more about our Selling with LinkedIn® for Teams training program, by clicking the graphic below.