The COVID-19 pandemic created an opportunity for technology companies to enter the sales training market as states and countries mandated work-from-home and social distancing guidelines. While these companies may have the technology to create ready-made, state-of-the-art learning platforms, however, they do not necessarily have expertise in training sales professionals in the unique selling skills that improve performance. The most critical element of an online sales training program is a refined, time-tested sales methodology that can be converted to a digital platform.
Think of it this way: Online sales skills training should be more than a digital platform in the same way that some retail goods, like clothing, are often better to purchase in person than online. Online shopping works but often does not compensate for the advice of a retail associate or the ability to try on merchandise.
Many organizations have adapted their sales skills training to be fully online. For some, the results have exceeded their original expectations, tempting them to reconsider whether they will ever return to “normal.” If online sales training remains attractive and competitive once face-to-face training is an option again, we will need to work harder to ensure the experience does not lose efficacy over time. The lack of in-person interaction and increase in hours we will spend on digital platforms and video calls should not lead to complacency or diminish the impact of our training investment.
The key to sales training effectiveness — online or in person, now or after the pandemic — lies in a program’s ability to impart a sales methodology that sales professionals can relate to and that can change their selling behaviors. Digital tools are necessary, but no matter how great a digital tool may be, success in online training requires more.
In addition to a workable digital platform, here is what your online sales training must have to create lasting change in your team’s selling behaviors:
A Proven, Refined Sales Methodology
Your online sales training must include a system of definable and repeatable principles and behaviors. To flourish, it must focus on authentic skill development and allow for flexibility in adaptation. Opportunities for practice using well-designed role-plays and feedback give participants the ability to operationalize the principles delivered in training. Neglect these essential components, and you are simply “checking the box” on easily delivered, off-the-shelf sales training.
Reinforcement is critical to sustaining the performance improvement and financial gains that result from your training investment. Effective training presents principles and practices, but to retain an online training’s content, you must also adapt coaching and reinforcement practices to the digital space.
A Digital Platform
As we have pivoted to remote work, distanced business relationships and virtual learning, digital tools yield necessary connection. Your training participants’ experiences with your online platform should support and build on the excellence you demonstrate in all other aspects of your training initiative.
There are many factors to consider when it comes to successful online training. A strong digital platform is certainly significant; we need digital tools to connect us and to make an online training initiative impactful. But we cannot rely solely on a digital platform to “wow” our training participants, create lasting behavior change or improve sales performance. We must realize that a digital platform, while important, is a smaller part of a bigger picture.