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How to Create an Optimal Learning Experience for Sales Reps

Tuesday, February 3, 2015
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What’s the best way to learn how to sell? Practice, practice, and more practice. 

Yet, many sales organizations are not creating an optimal environment for salespeople to practice and perfect their selling skills. This creates at least five problems: 

  1. Lost revenue. When salespeople aren’t ready to have conversations with customers, they’re more likely to lose deals. You also risk creating a poor impression of your company when you send unprepared sales reps into the field.
     
  2. High levels of stress. Yes, salespeople need a tough skin to succeed. But what manager wants to contribute to extra stress and anxiety by exposing salespeople to trial-by-fire experiences or failing to help them properly prepare for selling situations? The sink-or-swim approach forces salespeople to learn, but it’s not very enjoyable or efficient.
     
  3. Onboarding drag. The faster you can get new hires up and running, the faster you can see revenue gains. A lack of proper coaching and training only adds to the amount of time it takes for your new reps to ramp up.
     
  4. Hiring difficulties. A great learning culture is a point of differentiation that can make or break your hiring efforts. If your company becomes known for its poor learning environment, new hires might decide to take jobs at companies that invest in providing better training, coaching, and support.
     
  5. Slow response times. The traditional weekly or monthly coaching model is slow compared to the pace of business. When a competitor undercuts your price, you want a well-trained team that can respond swiftly. 

This last point is especially important. A poor learning environment is not just a front-end issue that affects new hires; it is a pervasive problem that affects the sales organization at all levels. Why? Because selling is a continual learning process. Think of all the instances that create new learning curves, even for veteran and top-performing salespeople, including: 

  • You launch a new product.
  • You change your pricing structure.
  • You open a new sales channel.
  • You re-engineer your selling territories.
  • You move into a new market segment.
  • You adopt a new sales methodology/sales process.
  • You shift your marketing approach.
  • You adopt a new tool (for example, a new CRM system).
  • Your competitor does any of the above. 

Enter Video Role Play 

So what’s going to change the game for sales teams? I believe the answer is video role-play scenarios that help sales teams practice and perfect their selling and communication skills. The process is simple and requires only a web cam and an Internet connection. 

How does it work? 

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  • Salespeople watch a short video and then record a response to the question or role-play prompt from their sales manager. (For example, sales managers could ask reps to respond to prospect’s price objection or a question about how your offering differs from that of the competition.)  

  • Salespeople then submit the recording to their manager or mentor for review. The person who reviews the recording then provides video feedback as well as a numerical score.  

  • The numerical scores are tallied and the top-ranked responses are added to a Leaderboard. This allows an organization to build a library of “Best Selling Practices” that everyone can view and learn from.

Video role-play software poses a number of advantages. First, sales managers are able to scale the learning environment quickly. For instance,  when a competitor comes out with a new product, managers can disseminate a role-play solution quickly to salespeople so they can start crafting a successful response to use during conversations with customers.
In addition, salespeople have a safe space to practice their skills. They can record themselves as much as they need to before sending their video for review. I’ve found that salespeople gain more confidence when they’re able to practice a skill on their own as opposed to being put on the spot in front of a group.

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Finally, the Leaderboard allows salespeople to learn from the best possible responses to your organization’s particular selling challenges.

The use of video role-play software has been reported to help organizations get better ROI on their existing sales training investments. One sales leader at Clorox has reported saving $1,500 per week in travel and expenses. Similarly, among a survey of 27 salespeople at AbbVie who are using video role-play software, 78 percent agree or strongly agree that it is helping them effectively understand and practice the Challenger Selling model. 

Today, there’s no reason to let your reps sink or swim. Click here to chat with us live or sign up to take Rehearsal for a test drive and see how you can start creating an optimal learning experience. 

How did you develop your selling skills? What tools and techniques are you using to create a supportive learning environment? 

About the Author

Darik Volpa is a passionate entrepreneur and founder of Understand.com and Rehearsal. Prior to starting these companies, Darik spent 9 years at Stryker Corporate where he held various sales, sales training, and marketing roles.  

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