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Real-World Sales Training

2015/3/9      view:

Sales training often is a trying experience. There are many roadblocks to interest, availability, and engagement. Timing always is a factor because salespeople are in various deal stages at any given point. Geography plays havoc with live or online event scheduling. And materials may not be relevant to all participants.

So, how does a training department interest and engage salespeople, coordinate various geographic locations and schedules, and accommodate different experience levels?

Training needs

Marketwired—a provider of news release distribution—worked on blended classroom, webinar, and self-guided e-learning approaches to combat training challenges, but was left looking for something to complete the experience. With more than 75 sales representatives and a growing team, effective training and onboarding is critical.

Typical classroom training programs allow for relationship building, story sharing, and crowdsourcing of valuable information. All of this, however, comes at a price. Hard costs include travel, meals, location, and materials. Up to 40 percent of total training costs are spent on travel and lodging alone.

Role play was consistently suggested as the solution to improve training, but how it could be executed in a scalable and cost-effective way was undetermined.

Selling is a profession, not just a skill

We decided to search for a solution that would use the benefits of role play, without the live public display. We wanted a solution that would feel personal and allow the unfiltered salesperson to shine through.

The desired goal was for reps to run through scenarios that dealt with a variety of verticals, business sizes, and personalities to transform them into professionals who could follow a sales process and adjust their delivery on the fly. Representatives would be able to learn from one another, cultivate solid answers, and share best practices.

The front-runner of the search was an audio solution whereby prerecorded statements were delivered via phone and trainee responses were captured and shared in a common web repository for all to review and rate. However, it didn't allow for one-on-one mentoring by managers, inclusion of contextual information, or an ability to export a sound file. We realized that most effective learning occurs when classroom role plays are captured by video for evaluation, so video became a new requirement. We continued our search.

A solution to meet the needs

Rehearsal Video Role-Play (VRP) was the top Google hit when searching for "video role play." The training team watched the company's demo videos and was impressed with the functionality, modern interface, and easy user experience. Furthermore, we did not need to physically capture video with extensive camera equipment. The only piece of equipment that was needed was a webcam. It was an all-in-one solution.

After an initial evaluation, we determined that Rehearsal VRP met most, but not all, of what we desired. The product was still young, and had several additions scheduled for release. We were assured that the lacking features we sought either were already scheduled for release in the coming weeks or would be added to the product roadmap. The company guaranteed that, by the time we were looking to implement the training program, our needs would be met.

Rehearsal VRP initiated a partner approach, which solidified the business relationship and enabled us to advise on product development. The company made good on its word, and all of the expected features were delivered on time.

Preparing for game day

Our management team decided to conduct a pilot with 10 sales reps to gather data on how learners would interact with the system. Representatives participated, and the experience was positive. The reps even suggested scenarios for the upcoming rollout.

Soon, additional client scenario recordings were created using both the capture feature and the import function. It was an all-in-one, painless solution, with the Rehearsal VRP team on standby to assist.

Results, challenges, and changes

Rehearsal VRP was a success. It provided a complete solution for our training needs. The product offered a platform where the team could provide contextual information, record and respond using video, give one-on-one feedback, and share top responses.

Approximately 95 percent of the reps performed their assigned role plays on time. The role plays were completed on laptops 80 percent of the time, on tablets 15 percent of the time, and on smartphones 5 percent of the time, with the recording location split 50/50 between home and office.

At first, many representatives were apprehensive, but after using it, the majority expressed positive feedback. Playful banter began as reps uncovered bad visual and oral habits, such as playing with their hair and saying "um." It was eye-opening and drove reps toward self-improvement.

Sales managers and team leads noticed immediate improvement in live responses and increased confidence levels. Additionally, managers observed heightened conviction in responses. Sales representatives who were required to redo their initial submissions tackled the task with determination rather than disappointment. And they began recording responses at their desks and reviewed them with peers. The process became fun, competitive, and educational.

Unlike a traditional classroom setting, every person was provided constructive feedback. Rehearsal VRP encouraged knowledge sharing and provided a platform where role plays could be completed during off-hours, which gave managers more time to manage people during business hours. Sales managers began highlighting specific responses at team meetings. The training team then used the leaderboard feature, where exemplary responses were posted for everyone to view. We were extremely happy with the results, and managers were pleased with the solution.

The complete training experience

Rehearsal VRP has become a complementary piece of our training tool set. It enables the sales team to practice and refine its skills, and provides a platform where role plays and lessons can be added and tailored to the ever-changing sales market.

The engagement and learning opportunity that Rehearsal VRP provides has been invaluable. The team anticipates incorporating many of the upcoming features into its training program to take training to the next level.