Rethinking Virtual Sales Training Delivery–6 Lessons From the Field
Training has gone through an incredible upheaval over the past two years. When the pandemic started, companies had to adjust quickly and adopt new ways of engaging learners due to travel restrictions and online meeting fatigue.
Unfortunately, many organizations really struggled to respond to this challenge. They quickly discovered that you can’t just repurpose two days of Instructor-Led Training (ILT) and present it in four-to-eight-hour virtual sales training sessions. People quickly experienced “virtual meeting fatigue. They began multi-tasking, and it became incredibly challenging to hold their attention.
Organizations need to rethink how their training is being delivered
Even thoughtfully designed Virtual, Instructor-Led Training (VILT) has its challenges and is difficult to scale. Regardless of the design and facilitation techniques, it becomes much more difficult to replicate the social interactions and hands-on skill application experienced in the live classroom
So, organizations have had to adopt new practices and approaches to make virtual sales training effective.
Getting this right means improved training outcomes, better engagement, and continuing to deploy programs despite the ongoing challenges of not being able to meet in person.
We’ve helped numerous organizations implement blended, collaborative learning programs over the past two years. In a recent webinar, we asked two of our enterprise clients (one global tech company and one industrial services company) to share their experiences going through this journey with us.
Below are six lessons to building a collaborative learning experience
Lesson 1: Define the outcomes
All good training starts with a discussion about what it is trying to accomplish and what will be different after it’s completed. This is even more important in a blended environment. Organizations need to carefully define what sales problem they are solving, what skills or knowledge they are expecting the participants to demonstrate upon completion, and how they will measure whether the training has been successful.
Lesson 2: Chunk up the content
As mentioned above, asking participants to spend more than an hour or two in a virtual sales training classroom can create engagement and attention issues. Chunking up the curriculum into short videos and one-to-two-hour live sessions allows the trainers to space out the learning, include real-life skill application between sessions, and encourage reinforcement of key concepts over time.
Lesson 3: Define real-world missions and activities
Retention and behavior change is encouraged when participants have time to reflect on key concepts and then apply them to real-life situations while in the flow of the regular workday. Seeing how concepts work in “the wild” and then coming back together to discuss lessons learned can dramatically impact the success of a program.
Lesson 4: Create completion criteria
Knowing the “graduation requirements” is important in a blended training environment. In the past, completing a program may have simply meant the participant made it through two days of classroom learning. But when the group is distributed and the learners are completing synchronous and asynchronous activities, it’s important for them to understand exactly what is necessary to finish and “pass” the course. Many platforms facilitate this by providing points and badges along the learning journey.
Lesson 5: Enable social collaboration and peer-to-peer learning
To accommodate the loss of in-person interactions in the classroom, many Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs) now provide for social interaction and peer-to-peer interactions within the program. Allowing for robust discussion boards, peer coaching and feedback on assignments, and the ability to showcase examples of good work can be an incredibly valuable way to expand the learning and provide additional insights.
Lesson 6: Engage the managers to coach the new skills
Enlisting the managers in the experience can have significant benefits. By having the managers see their team’s work, provide input, and be able to coach and reinforce the skills over time can dramatically improve retention and behavior change. Since the managers will be responsible for the ongoing performance of the participants after the virtual sales training, they should be provided with the tools and coaching skills to reinforce the program.
Many programs had to pivot overnight when the pandemic began, and many of these organizations rose to this challenge. They responded in ways that not only accommodated the remote requirements but improved collaboration, engagement, and learner outcomes at the same time.
About Ray Makela
Ray Makela is the General Manager of the Sales Readiness Group, A Part of SBI. He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation, and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.
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