Virtual sales training has become an extremely popular choice for most sales teams. The shift away from in-person sales training towards virtual sales training was already happening, a trend that was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are merits to both virtual sales training and in-person sales training. In this blog, we will define the former in particular and discuss how it differs from in-person sales training.
Virtual sales training means any form of training where participants are joining online from other locations. This can also be referred to as online sales training. Virtual or online sales training can be completed on-demand, self-paced, involve a live instructor through a webcam, or a combination of all three.
So which sales training approach is better for your team? There are four main factors to consider when choosing an ideal sales training delivery option. Let’s look at each factor and how they differ in-person compared to a virtual context.
Sales training cannot be successful if the participants, including your sales managers, are not engaged throughout the learning process. For either in-person or virtual selling skills training, it is important to engage participants through application exercises. Training should never be just a series of lectures and presentations. Once a concept has been introduced, participants should always be encouraged to try it on their own by using their individual accounts and opportunities as examples. Active participation is key to keeping engagement levels high.
In-person sales training might be more engaging if your team is composed of sales managers and reps who are very tenured and don’t like to use e-learning options for training. A person doesn't have to be incredibly tech-savvy to learn virtually. However, it does require using the computer and the internet in order to learn. If your team is not comfortable with this method of learning, it’s better to remove any sort of barrier or hesitation by conducting comprehensive sales training in-person instead.
Engagement levels can be negatively impacted by in-person sales training if too much learning is condensed into a one or two-day period. Cramming a ton of selling skills into just a couple of training sessions isn't a good idea. Since it is not practical to host a sales trainer and a sales team in one location for multiple weeks, most host in-person training sessions in a jam-packed, relatively short period of time. This can lead to information overload and have a detrimental impact on learner engagement.
Effective virtual sales training is a great way to avoid this problem, making it possible to deliver training in bite-size forms throughout a longer period of time. This can help participants learn in context and gradually apply what they learn. Therefore, the online sales training approach can boost a participant’s engagement level in a course.
When considering how engagement levels will be impacted by in-person or online sales training, consider your team’s comfort level with technology and weigh that against the cost of bringing everyone together. This should help you decide which option is better for your sales force.
Your sales training can be customized in multiple different ways to suit the needs of your sales reps, regardless of whether you opt for in-person or virtual, instructor-led training. First is the training content itself. Each sales role and experience level requires a different sort of sales skills training in order to improve performance. The second is the timeline; the pace of training delivery can and should be customized to suit the sales team’s needs.
Virtual sales training provides a clear advantage when it comes to tailoring solutions to suit the needs and availability of your sales team members. It is definitely possible to customize training content when hosting a training in-person, but it tends to be more expensive. If you want to train your SDRs with different content compared to your account managers, you need to have separate training sessions and also print different content for each group. Otherwise, it’s either too generalized or doesn’t cover all the essentials for each type of employee.
With virtual sales training, however, people in different sales roles can go through training at the same time but learn using different training content that best suits their role. This format also doesn’t require you to print different materials since everything can be edited digitally.
In-person sales training also makes it almost impossible to customize training delivery timelines. Most in-person training has to be condensed to a day or two in order to keep costs and lost selling time from getting out of hand. With virtual training, however, your sales team can take a week or a month, possibly even longer if needed, to complete their training. If training is available on-demand, even people who miss time due to illness or vacation can catch up.
Effective reinforcement is key to habit change. If a sales team goes through training but doesn’t adopt any new habits or skills, then there is no ROI on hosting training sessions. For proper reinforcement, participants should be getting together at least once a week for a month or more after the training to reinforce their new skills. It also enables them to share what they have learned with other team members and brainstorm optimal approaches.
If teams are working from the same location, these meetings can be easy to do in person and may prove to be effective. A virtual environment may not be needed. Sales reps and even sales management can learn new skills, give each other immediate feedback, and the manager can also step in to add additional insights during the training session. Getting together in-person during the reinforcement phase of training can also boost morale.
If your team is not working from the same location, such as if the sales cycle has been shaken up by remote work, then reinforcement has to be done virtually. This is not so bad, considering how far conferencing technology has come. In a virtual reinforcement session, you can have multiple breakout rooms. It also allows for individual sales reps and management members to get together than an in-person session might allow. This leads to more sharing of ideas and knowledge, and possibly even more efficient sales leadership.
Reinforcement is one of the most critical factors to consider when making a sales training decision for your operations. Sales managers, sales reps, sales leaders, and other team members should factor into decisions based on reinforcement. The best delivery option for your team in this case comes down to their proximity and ability to get together on a regular basis. The strongest sales teams are those that make the best use of their available manpower and resources, so don't forget to motivate and support your sales professionals along the way.
If you train a cohort of your sales force on a particular methodology and process, whether they are sales leaders or just starting out in a lower-tier position, it is a best practice to train new hires with the same process and methodology as well. This way, everyone from your sales reps to higher-ups is using a common language and methodology to execute and evaluate their sales. Therefore, the methodology and the sales process being taught have a lot to do with whether the training is scalable or not.
The delivery medium can also make an impact on how scalable the training is. If you just hosted an in-person training session for sales reps, for instance, it doesn’t make much sense to call the sales training instructors back in every time there is a new hire. Virtual sales training provides a clear advantage in this scenario: most forms of it do not require a cohort, making it possible to go through the training on-demand. Even if you choose an in-person option for training, ensure there is a virtual version of the same training for your new hires. This will allow you to scale the training as your team gets larger.
Much like any other sales enablement technology, effective sales training helps your team optimize for success. Sales reps, sales managers, and sales leaders each have unique needs and ways of working, therefore it’s important to take stock of their preferences and pick the right sales training method for your team. If your sales reps are not particularly tech-savvy, an in-person training solution might be the right way to go. However, you have to weigh that against the cost of hosting a live instructor and your sales team in one location. For most teams, a hybrid option is often the best choice. This way, you can get the best of what both of these mediums have to offer.
For more assistance on how to properly plan for a sales training initiative, request a free 30-minute session today. Let's help your sales professionals elevate their capabilities with a dedicated sales training program focused on their needs and your operations.