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How COVID Helped Create a Better Learning Experience for Sellers

Selling Skills | Sales Training | Virtual Training

With in-person, instructor-led training off the table for over a year, companies had to innovate and leverage technology to deliver sales training to their remote sales teams.

Initially, the onset of the COVID pandemic sidelined most training initiatives. However, companies quickly realized that sales training was an even higher priority since it was suddenly more difficult to connect with customers, and sales reps were limited to remote selling.

As a starting point, many companies adopted virtual instructor-led training sessions (VILT) to replace in-person training sessions. This transition was supported by learners who had become increasingly comfortable with virtual technology (Zoom, Teams, …).

Unfortunately, in many cases, the content wasn’t optimized for virtual delivery, which led to too much facilitator-led learning and lower learner engagement (i.e., it felt more like a webinar than an interactive training session). To address this issue, courses needed to be optimized to increase engagement opportunities (polls, chats, discussions) and leverage breakout rooms for smaller group exercises and role plays.

While this was a good short-term fix to replace traditional classroom learning, it wasn’t until I experienced the power of collaborative learning that I realized we could create a significantly better learning experience leveraging technology.

My personal experience involved working directly with a global industrial client to create a Collaborative Learning Experience that includes:

  • Micro video lessons: Bite-sized video lessons on a 24/7 accessible platform.
  • Real-world application: Completion of online missions and exercises focused on skill application.
  • Peer-to-peer interaction: Participants’ feedback and comments on missions and exercises, plus sharing of their own techniques and best practices.
  • Weekly live online cohort sessions: Facilitated sessions focused on skill application leveraging participant-generated examples from the online platform.
  • Gamification: Real-time leaderboards with badges awarded for each skill area.
  • Certification: Receipt of Credly badge upon course completion.

While we previously had great success with this approach with one of our leading technology clients who had already adopted this Collaborative Learning Experience, I was less certain this would transfer to other industries. What I quickly discovered is that participants embraced this change and did a better job of applying the skills than in a traditional classroom setting.

My sense is that the improvement in skill application was because the self-paced learning allowed participants to think through how they would apply the skills they were learning in real-world selling situations through the missions and exercises. As an example, participants learned new skills on managing objections and then applied the techniques to objections they encounter in real-world selling situations. This not only resulted in an insightful peer-to-peer discussion board but also provided great examples that we could build on in the weekly live online cohort sessions.

While we are seeing a migration back to traditional classroom as the COVID pandemic eases, I am a firm believer that leveraging collaborative learning can create a better, and more cost effective, way to train sales professionals.

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About Norman Behar

Norman Behar is Chairman and Managing Director of the Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He has over 25 years of senior sales management experience, and is recognized as a thought leader in the sales training industry. His blog posts and whitepapers are frequently featured in leading sales enablement publications including ATD, TrainingIndustry.com, and Selling Power.