It wasn’t until she tried to ask a question that Myra realized she was on mute.
She’d taken a difficult call just days before the ‘Argumentative Customer’ online training. And she had lots to say about the points being raised by the course presenter. But she couldn’t share her thoughts because the settings on the video conferencing app had blocked her. No one seemed to be responding to her request to “raise hand.” It was almost as if she’d been forgotten. And, given the silence from her colleagues also on the call, it seems they were in the same situation too.
Stuck at home, and feeling isolated from the rest of her team and the presenter, she lost interest and zoned out.
Compared to the ‘Understanding the Customer’ workshop the team had attended in the office some weeks ago, this course just wasn’t worth her time. She could remember pretty much everything she’d learned from the in-person workshop. Taking part in the role-plays, group discussions, and Q&A sessions really helped consolidate her knowledge. Being with the other sales reps was fun, too.
It was only a few minutes since she’d signed out of the online training, and she’d already forgotten most of what was on the PowerPoint slides. In the future, she’d opt out of the online training courses. It’s a shame, because she knew she had a lot to learn. And was keen to progress in her role. But sales training just doesn’t work unless you’re all in the same room, right?
Myra’s experience isn’t uncommon. But, it’s not the format that’s to blame here. It’s the approach. And the content.
The truth is, an engaging sales training program has digital technology at its heart. But it needs the right approach and the right commitment to make it work.
Don’t blame the messenger
We opened this piece by citing one scenario. But it’s just as common for employees to have the opposite experience. For example, a boring PowerPoint presentation delivered in-person vs. a dynamic and interactive workshop delivered online.
At first view, in-person training appears more suited to interactivity (a key aspect of sales training). And seems to be more inclusive. But, in practice, the opposite is often the case.
If your sales reps are dispersed or working remotely, attendance rates for in-person sessions will be lower than digital alternatives. And, yes, if you’ve got people physically present in a room together, they can interact with each other. But they can’t interact with the content. Or, use alternative non-verbal forms of communication that might suit them better.
Similarly, in-person training sessions, which take time and resources to organize, are usually longer in length because they have to meet a tighter ROI. And are, thus, less likely to keep your sales-hungry participants engaged throughout.
Digital technology provides an answer to many of these limitations. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t equate to “training in isolation” (far from it). There are plenty of ways for it to be interactive and impactful. And it can be particularly effective in addressing some of the challenges unique to sales training. But, as we’ve seen, good online learning doesn’t just happen.
So, what does an engaging sales training program look like? Let’s find out.
How to design an engaging sales training program
Ask your sales reps what excites them about their jobs, and “closing a deal” is likely to top the list. Having this focus is an important part of what makes them (and your business) successful. But it can mean that, in their eyes, training comes a poor second. After all, aren’t the 3 hours in a workshop better spent making calls or emailing prospects? How many leads could be lost in that time?
Designing an engaging training program’s always important. But with an engaging sales training program, you have to work extra hard to get your attendees on board and keep them on board. Not only do you have to compete with the buzz that comes with closing a deal, but there’s a specific sales mindset that needs careful handling too.
Goal-oriented and competitive, with typically short attention spans, your sales folks won’t settle for death by PowerPoint. So you need to make their training exciting and purposeful. Which is where your online toolkit comes in. Here are seven ways a digital-first approach can help you do just that:
Short bursts of single-concept content, micro-learning is a sales rep’s training dream. Lasting between 3 to 10 minutes, these small highly-focused sales training modules can work independently or as part of a wider program. Usually available in a digital library, the content is quick and easy to access. And the format’s highly mobile. Both of which mean your busy reps can dip in and out whenever they have some downtime. And pick and choose the topic that’s most relevant for them at the time.
For example, if your rep has a particularly challenging call scheduled in, they can quickly run through the relevant training module beforehand. This in-the-moment approach is the perfect way to engage your goal-orientated reps. The immediate application of knowledge acquired also boosts retention.
Looking for an effective way of engaging its salespeople and service technicians, specialists in UVs and diesel engines, Isuzu UTE Australia, followed this approach.
To make sure that salespeople were engaged in their training, they built courses that lasted no longer than 10 minutes. And an internal survey showed this was just what was wanted.
“Salespeople have a very short attention span,” said Andrew Greene, Isuzu UTE Australia’s senior product analyst.
“We find that they’re doing a lot of things in the dealership at one time. And for them to sit down to an extremely long module, let’s say 15 or 20 minutes, they won’t do that. We asked whether the 10-min modules were too long or too short. 93% [of employees] said that it was about right.”
Whether it’s smashing group targets or exceeding personal goals, most sales reps have a healthy appetite for competition. Replicate this concept in your training program and you’re onto a winner. Online training provides the perfect space for this. If you’re using an LMS to manage and deliver your training, you’ll have a range of in-built gamification features to choose from. Using points, badges, avatars, rewards, levels and leaderboards you can channel your reps’ competitive spirit. The result? A fun and dynamic experience that sales teams can relate to and will be happy to engage with.
At Isuzu UTE Australia, they go one step further by integrating training achievements with their company reward scheme. The idea is that employees who complete a course on time get extra points for their sales excellence program. Good for engagement, good for business too.
3. Tests and quizzes
When it comes to training, your sales reps will want to see a return on their investment. Tests and quizzes are a great way to demonstrate value added. As well as playing on your employees’ competitive spirit, they act as confirmation that knowledge has been acquired. They also keep attention levels high by providing a break in format.
With online learning, you can embed tests as part of your training program. And use interactivity to win over a potentially tough crowd. If you’ve got the budget, why not create simulated test environments based around pain points your sales team will be familiar with.
Another key component of this is something your sales reps will value—feedback. With online learning and interactive tests, you can provide an evaluation pretty much immediately. So your reps can take it away and apply it there and then. Another tick in the engagement box.
4. Video conferencing
Video conferencing has many benefits when it comes to training. But, as we’ve seen, it can be isolating and ineffective without the right planning or supporting features in place. Two-way communication is crucial—particularly with sales training.
The good news here is there are easy-to-use video conferencing tools that support live training sessions. With these, participants can communicate in real-time, making them the perfect channel for soft skill role plays.
Most platforms offer enhanced, interactive features, too, such as live chats and polls. These are useful if you want to run a Q&A session or group discussion following a role-play activity. Screen and file-sharing features mean instructors can respond live to requests for additional resources or extra details.
5. Discussion boards and forums
Sales professionals aren’t known for their reticence. In fact, talking with confidence is what they do best. Part of your digital learning toolkit, online discussion boards and social forums turn passive recipients of information into active participants.
This will be music to the ears of your sales reps. Using these channels, they can share best practice tips, but also ask questions and get help with anything they’re unsure about.
6. Content that captivates
To keep your sales teams engaged in their training, course content should be rich and diverse. An online, engaging sales training program’s ideal for this because it supports a range of media types, from videos, quizzes, and presentations to audio files and an archive of documents they can call on whenever they need.
At Isuzu UTE Australia, the eye-catching nature of videos has resonated well with their sales teams. But rather than simply sharing more videos, they’re experimenting with the format.
“We were also able to embed quizzes behind the videos and it was very well-received,” said Andrew.
7. Mobile learning
Time is money. Or so the saying goes. And your sales team will know this more than any other team in your company. Shift your sales training program online, and your employees can benefit from the flexibility and efficiency that comes with mobile learning.
Whether it’s in between calls or en route to a meeting with a prospect, a mobile learning app means they can maximize their time and maximize your profits. And keep learning too.
Don’t stop there
The good thing about online learning is it’s easy to evaluate. Whether it’s post-course feedback, quiz or test results, attendance or completion rates, or an analysis of discussion board chat, if you want to improve your training, you’ve got all of the data and insights you need.
But if you really want to make your sales teams fall in love with training, it’s all about KPIs. Set some before your sales training program, measure them afterwards, and then share them with your reps so they can understand the impact of your sales training initiatives on their one big motivator—lead conversion.
Ready to get engaged? Chances are they’ll marry you too!
| Tags: Sales Training