As part of our sales training courses, we’ve been designing and delivering online sales training for over 10 years. So we feel qualified to advise on the question of the effectiveness of online sales training. In order to see if it will be effective for you, we need to look at what outcomes you’re looking for. If your answer to that is, “Improved sales performance,” then we need to break that down into stages. Just like when you set a sales target to be achieved and there’s a process that get’s you from a lead to a sale, in sales performance improvement there’s also a process to follow. When we know that process, we can see where online sales training can be effective.
Effective Online Sales Training
According to the learning process called blooms taxonomy, students go through different stages of learning in order to reach skilled performance. To get to the point where they can apply the skills learned in sales training courses, they need to firstly be able to remember the concepts involved. Once they can remember the concepts they can then develop an understanding of how the concepts work and relate them to real life. Once they understand how the concepts work, they can then start to apply them in real life. Talk to any learning and development professional, and what they will ask for is that the students leave sales training courses being able to apply the skills they’ve learned. And quite rightly so.
Knowledge Transfer Through Online Sales Training
Online sales training is particularly effective when it comes to knowledge transfer and building comprehension, especially if it is done in an engaging and relevant way. If you have a large audience to train in a certain skill, flying them around the world or driving them around the country is a very expensive way to transfer knowledge. If you think about other areas of business, we don’t drive to meet somebody or write a physical letter when we could send them an email. So why hold classroom sales training sessions when all you’re doing is transferring knowledge? Using online learning can be very effective and take a huge amount of cost out of your sales training program.
Sales Performance Support
Online sales training is also extremely effective in the area of sales performance support. It’s unusual that somebody can leave a sales training course and immediately apply all of the skills they’ve learnt. It may be some time after the sales training course that the delegate finds the opportunity to apply the skills they have learned. When they do find that opportunity, they may need to be supported if they have forgotten elements of the skills. Online learning can be an extremely effective way to remind the delegates of what they learned so that when they have the opportunity to apply the skills they are ready to do so.
For field sales people, or any sales person who commutes to work, podcasts are an extremely effective way to improve knowledge in a sales force. Contrary to their views on online learning, most sales people enjoy listening to podcasts.
Online sales training ceases to be effective when it comes to the application of sales skills. Some people will argue that there are components of sale skills that can be enhanced online, but these are few and far between. Companies like Imparta have developed online sales simulations, which really push the boundaries in terms of how effective online sales training can be. But those online interventions are a catalyst to enhance other interventions, and in isolation are less effective.
The busy schedules of most salespeople render many online sales training programs ineffective. Given the option, most salespeople will not attend online sales training sessions, because they are too busy doing their day-to-day work of actively selling or performing sales support activities. Webinars seem to be the best way to grab the attention of sales people, largely because they need to be scheduled into their diaries. But even then, a more important thing arises and the online sales training is abandoned.
Delegate Buy In
Most sales people do not like online sales training. Given the choice they would rather have a day off, go to a nice hotel, get drunk with all their mates, and have a great time at a remote location where the sales training is being held. It’s quite easy to see why they don’t like online training when you compare it to that. To get around this you’ll need to sell them on the benefits and do this as part of a change management programme.
Online Sales Training – Conclusion
Online sales training typically does not deliver the return on expectation that most people who invest in it want to see. This is because expectations are often out of line with what can realistically be delivered. If online sales training is made a part of a blended learning experience, for example, where it is used for knowledge transfer ahead of the face-to-face intervention for applying the skills, then it will make a very good return on expectation. If you’re thinking of using online sales training instead of face-to-face sales training, the problem you have to solve is how do the sales people apply the skills they’ve learned? If you’re thinking that they will do it with real life customers, then the question I have for you is what price do you put on losing a live customer or two, or three…?