An agile, competent sales team is essential to company success. Right? But in today’s chaotic business climate, traditional training often falls short—putting that success at risk. Here are some reasons why online video (properly used) is essential to making sales training effective.
Let’s be honest. Effective sales training is hard to realize—and harder still to justify financially. Salespeople are overwhelmed by scores of digital distractions and time constraints. Increasingly, traditional classroom training is seen as a costly interruption. (By one Forbes estimate, a company with 25 sales reps holding 2 live training events per year would spend over $120,000 per year. That does not count the resulting lost sales opportunity costs, however, which could push that figure to over $1 million!) The lower-cost alternative is an online or hybrid approach, but how can we be certain it will be effective?
|“Best-in-Class sales teams are more than twice as likely as underperformers (36% to 15%) to have adopted video solutions on behalf of their front-line sellers.”
—Aberdeen Group, Best-In-Class Sales Enablement Via Video-Based Learning, February 2016
A recent Aberdeen Group research report cited video-based learning as a significant factor in effective sales training. Among other findings, the report found that video-enabled sellers achieve 9% better customer retention and 8% more reps achieving quota. It also said that “Best-in-Class sales teams are more than twice as likely as underperformers (36% to 15%) to have adopted video solutions on behalf of their front-line sellers.”
The Nature of Video Itself
The Aberdeen report cited demographic and technology shifts as keys to the movement away from “whiteboard-delivered” training and towards a more collaborative approach. Younger staff are more used to learning from ad hoc, self-curated information sources, and doing so on their personal, portable devices. This means a greater acceptance of informal, user-generated video content by the workforce. “The most successful contemporary B2B sales leaders understand that on-demand, just-in-time knowledge transfer is now the norm.”
While cautioning against over-reliance on the YouTube model, the report asserted that “the instantaneous gratification, on-demand platform, and real-time learning elements of video are simultaneously intrusive and effective.”
The report noted the value of video in the sales coaching process—especially when live, one-on-one coaching is problematic. “Sales coaching can be far more effective when reps have the opportunity to film their own pitch, rehearse and repeat it as necessary, and deliver the
to their manager for review.”
Sales teams in Aberdeen’s Best-in-Class category are more likely than all others to have adopted two-way video collaboration. This is yet another affirmation that there is increased interest for creating video practice assignments, which are evaluated and commented on by managers and/or other team members.
Further Reinforced Learning
Simply capturing a live sales training course on video is not always effective. Even if the training system can track individual user compliance (who watched what, and for how long), passively viewing a screen does not guarantee learning. One reason for this problem, the Aberdeen report notes, is the tendency to forget material that has not been reinforced, also known as the Forgetting Curve.
Although experts dispute the exact shape of the Forgetting Curve (first proposed in 1885), most agree that without reinforcement of some kind, a significant portion of information will be lost in a very short time.
Unfortunately, typical online video is a passive viewing experience, with little or no opportunity for the learner to interact with the content—or with instructors or other team members experiencing the same content. Such interaction is key to knowledge retention.
Reinforcement in a video-enabled sales training can take many forms. In-video questions are a good start, as are timeline-based comments, discussions, and links. However, one of the most powerful reinforcers is the ability of trainees to easily create and share their own video (and audio) as a means of discussing and developing good sales technique.
As I’ve noted earlier, there are many ways to easily create video. It’s no longer an expensive luxury. With a secure learning portal, all sorts of video content can be used—not just to lecture trainees but to help them express what they’ve learned, get feedback from the team, and “burn” that knowledge into their long-term memory.
Of equal importance to training content is the sense of satisfaction, teamwork, and camaraderie that good sales training generates. This is especially true when the trainer is an experienced sales manager mentoring his team—or a fellow team member helping a colleague.
This type of team building suffers in a distributed workforce. However, digital tools are rapidly evolving that can increase the “bond” factor in a sales group. In a real-time context, video calling (e.g., Skype) and messaging (e.g., Slack) are rapidly filling in the relational gaps of email and phone calls. However, they can also be unduly distracting.
To achieve a high level of personal, team-building connection, with minimal distraction, a video training environment must be asynchronous. Instructors and trainees must be able to experience and interact with each other’s recordings on their own schedule. Real-time events like webinars are not excluded, but should never be the sole means of video-based sales enablement.
The 21st Century Ride-Along
Finding, connecting with, and influencing sales prospects requires new skills, practice, collaboration with teammates, practice, strategic thinking, constructive feedback, and (you guessed it) more practice. One of the classic means of combining these has been the “ride-along,” involving a veteran sales manager and each of his or her team members.
Of course this is highly problematic for the modern, distributed, and budget-constrained sales force. The Aberdeen report points out the digital alternatives to physically accompanying each salesperson (or even to joining a live sales call). With the right system, a salesperson can record actual calls (with permission, depending on your State’s law), upload them to a secure location, for review, contextual comments, and evaluation by the sales manager.
On-demand video (or audio) should never be limited to marketing or entertainment use. For mission-critical knowledge transfer—like sales enablement—it is the medium of the future.