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What to Do When Sales Leadership Is Not Sold on Virtual Training

Thursday, June 18, 2020
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About a month ago, a good friend of mine who runs the sales enablement department of a SaaS company reached out to me for some help.

She shared that during a recent meeting with the leadership team, the vice president of sales told her he was not convinced that he wanted to shift all training for his team to virtual. As she listened to his tirade, he raised some valid concerns:

  • He would still be pulling his team out of the field and away from customers with the potential for less impact than classroom training.
  • Sessions were typically a few days; now they would be a few hours across days, lowering productivity.
  • How would they collaborate on activities, share knowledge, and feel the culture of the company?
  • Keeping a rep used to being out in the field in front of a computer for an extended period of time would be extremely challenging.
  • Distractions are difficult to ignore, minimizing learning.

This vice president had been in position for almost 10 years. He saw huge value in getting together the whole team, including bringing new hires to headquarters to meet, observe, and introduce company culture. The meeting ended with a challenge for her to show him an ROI that proved virtual training would deliver the same or better results.

While there were many ways to answer or address these concerns, we agreed that he was looking for an ROI justification. So, we went to work to see how we could build an ROI for virtual training. Here is what we came up with:

Travel and Expenses: This was the easiest one because the ROI was the budgeted dollars in the annual operations budget.

Flexible Training Times: Staggering the training to avoid peak selling times would keep sellers in the field with customers and prospects. Conducting a quick survey identified best days for selling. Pre-COVID, training travel days were typically Mondays and Thursdays and classroom sessions were typically Tuesday through Thursday. With virtual training, they could be in the field on peak selling days.

Comparing the change in new opportunities in the pipeline and progression of opportunities to close against previous data would measure the ROI.

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Activity Pods: Creating peer-to-peer pod groups that meet regularly to coach, discuss, strategize, and share best practices would reteach and reinforce training. In each pod session, a sales rep presents a key opportunity to the group to work on, deepening training retention with real-life application. The mix of new employees with seasoned ones fostered collaboration and culture.

The ROI could be measured by progressing an opportunity forward in the pipeline and shortening sell cycle.

Expand the Learning: Expanding the training to ancillary departments not typically included due to cost or budget constraints increased cohesiveness. Including marketing, sales support, and product specialists gave the power of a team approach to selling.

This makes a compelling ROI with potential to increase in win rates.

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Time Management: Remote workers who have a daily schedule increase productivity. While the studies vary, at a minimum a remote worker increases productivity 20 percent with a schedule.

Finding times that could work for training and activity pods meant scheduling these at the beginning of the month so participants could fill in open space by preference and job responsibility. The survey results identified the best times as early morning and after lunch for training and end of the day or early morning for pod meetings. The best days were Mondays and Fridays. The training sessions were used as bookends in their calendars, helping them better manage their days.

The ROI would deliver an increase in revenue and productivity for the teams.

The first series of training launched the first week in May. Feedback from the frequency, time of the day and content were positive by the participants. As of the writing of this post, two of the pod groups have completed actionable next steps on key accounts where slight activity is beginning.

While I don’t believe virtual training is the new end-all to the world we now live in, it is an awesome bridge to get us to wherever that new normal is. However . . . it is not the only bridge we can build to get there.

Wondering what else to consider in building your virtual training? Check out “6 Things to Consider When Transitioning to Virtual Training.”

About the Author

Mary Kay (MK) is a Principal Consultant in sales and marketing for MKH Associates. Over the last 27+ years, she has been involved in more than 200 sales and marketing transformation initiatives, working with her clients’ executive leadership teams, Board of Directors, and private equity stakeholders.

She has helped grow sales organization's productivity and revenue (including several members of the Inc.100) as well as aligned and strengthened their marketing efforts to increase market share collaboratively with sales efforts. Prior to her experience at MKH, MK worked in sales and management carrying individual and team quotas and was consistently recognized as a top performer.

Connect with Mary Kay on LinkedIn or at [email protected]

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