Today, savvy business leaders facing this cost, coupled with new travel restrictions, are changing their thinking.
These leaders are realizing that new technology leveraged the right way can bridge the divide that separates sales professionals and instructors without sacrificing quality. This new approach comes at a time when it is needed most. Organizations are increasingly distributed across the globe, professionals are pressed for time, and limited by logistical challenges.
Put simply, costs and circumstances are prompting leaders to consider virtual sales training solutions.
This transition to virtual, instructor-led training is becoming easier in an environment in which remote work and online meetings are commonplace.
Despite this trend, effective virtual sales training has been conspicuously absent as many solution providers have been unable to coalesce technology with a meaningful and engaging learning experience.
At Richardson and Sales Performance International, we have designed a Virtual Instructor-led Training (VILT) framework that has previously been unavailable in the market. Our new design replicates the classroom experience and even surpasses it in some capabilities.
Here, we explain the four ways our Virtual Workshops are equipped to engage sales professionals and sales managers unlike any other solution.
Our Spaced Learning Format Enhances Recall and On-the-job Application
Our VILT solution is led by an experienced sales facilitator and consists of four 4-hour sessions using Zoom video conferencing.
This cadence is in contrast to our classroom schedule in which participants engage in two 8-hour sessions. This 4 X 4 interval is effective for learning in two ways.
- Spreading the training experience across a greater number of sessions consisting of shorter periods engages a mode of learning called “distributed practice.” According to research in the Association for Psychological Science, this style is characterized by spacing out the instruction. These spaces between instruction are critical for driving retention.
- Spaced learning allows for more immediate practical application. That is, learners have an opportunity to apply what they have learned earlier in the training experience.
Spaced learning is in critical contrast to traditional classroom learning in which concepts are not applied until after the sessions are complete.
On-the-job application means sales professionals can return to the next session with an understanding of how the concepts work in real selling scenarios.
We have leveraged this benefit in our methodology by incorporating “on-the-job assignments” in which learners are tasked with applying the concepts to real-life customer engagements, then reporting on results in the following VILT session.
This speed to market matters in a competitive environment in which top-performing sales professionals spend “four more hours per week than other reps communicating with customers,” according to a study from Bain. Finding these extra four hours is easier when learners can immediately transition from the classroom to the field without delay.
Interactive Features Built into the Program Boost Engagement
Our VILT solution prioritizes interactivity. This feature is critical for the learner’s success in a virtual setting because it avoids the disengagement that pervades traditional “watch-and-learn” instruction.
We have included several interactive tools into our methodology, including polling, chats, and breakout groups. These elements not only expose learners to input from other participants, but they also create a cooperative learning environment.
This cooperation is what makes our VILT solution effective. Learners interact over video rather than exclusively through chat, which, if overused, can in fact dissuade interaction. The chat function is effective but only when used sparingly and thoughtfully.
Cooperative learning seeks to develop the individual’s skills through group engagement. The effectiveness of cooperative learning is that participants share knowledge and work together to make each other’s understanding of the material complete. Students become active participants in the learning process rather than relying entirely on the instructor.
Our VILT program fosters cooperative learning via group discussions, polling, and small group breakouts.
Video Connectivity Replicates the Spontaneity of a Classroom
Our VILT solution uses video to make the participants visible to each other rather than simply acting as a two-way mirror in which learners only view the instructor.
This approach helps replicate the classroom experience. Moreover, learners are encouraged to raise their hands, as they would in a classroom, rather than click a button. Facilitators will periodically stop using the “Screen Share” function so that participants have a view of their colleagues. This approach reminds the group that they are in a cooperative environment and that participation is part of the learning routine.
To further encourage participation, we engage smaller VILT class sizes, compared to in-person training. This environment is conducive to a more fluid exchange of ideas, more focused role play scenarios, and an intensified level of engagement.
Smaller class sizes also keep learners alert because they know there is a greater probability that they will be called upon, a regular practice in VILT. Learners are asked to elaborate on their responses, answer follow-up questions, or offer their thoughts on a colleague’s response to a question.
Our smaller class sizes also provide learners with the opportunity to become more detailed in their discussions of real-world selling challenges. When a participant volunteers an idea or remark, they have the freedom to offer granular details because they are in a setting in which fewer people means each person can talk for a longer period. This dynamic leads to more customized application of the skills learned.
The Immediacy of a Remote Solution Leads to Faster Results
Though mounting travel restrictions have impeded certain aspects of business, they represent an uncommon opportunity for leaders to reaffirm their case for virtual training.
Leaders are discovering that ROI justification is easier when the substantial cost of travel and related non-selling activities can be removed from the equation. A training program yields financial benefits earlier when the required financial outlay drops.
This case for virtual training becomes even stronger when put in the context of competitive advantage. By making the move to virtual training now, a business will outpace competitors who choose to wait for conditions to change. Those who take proactive steps will already be yielding results that remain out of reach for those opting to “wait and see.”
Achieving end-of-year goals means starting sales training efforts now. The reason: learning, adopting, maintaining, and measuring new selling skills require a considerable timeline. Moreover, the sales cycle of today is increasing. As more sales professionals position digitally transformative solutions, the time needed to position these dynamic, intangible products and services increases. The sphere of stakeholders is growing. This fact, coupled with the growing influence of procurement professionals, means that the sales professional has a longer and more circuitous route to the sale.
Reaching the end of this path before year-end means developing the right selling skills now.
The unique circumstances of today present an opportunity for proactive sales organizations to make the overdue leap to virtual instructor-led training.
Our new VILT programs allow sales professionals to enjoy the benefit of our renowned facilitators while embarking on a learning journey that is properly paced, cooperative, interleaved with real selling scenarios, and free from the exhaustion and inefficiencies that are common when traveling.
While others wait and watch, forward-thinking sales leaders can turn seemingly inconvenient events into an immediate competitive advantage.