A lot's changed for sales enablers: we moved to a world of virtual sales training, which is now evolving into hybrid learning.
This means we’re seeing traditional training and sales kickoffs being remodeled into shorter, bite-sized sessions with more frequent breaks to maintain attention spans and mitigate ‘Zoom exhaustion’.
We spoke to some top sales enablement practitioners to get a view of how they’ve adapted and asked them to share their sales training and coaching strategies for remote employees.
Shaking off attention fatigue
Steve Reid, Founder & Principal Consultant at Venatas, and former Head of Sales Enablement, Kazoo, explains his approach:
“We’ve been breaking it up into smaller bite-sized chunks, with fewer learning objectives. Making the learning modules shorter so people can take a break, and trying to make them as interactive as we possibly can. Because naturally, those things would happen in a classroom setting.
Now [reps] feel obligated to be sitting in front of their camera and sort of locked into their seat the entire time that the learning is going on. I think we’ve had to be very cognizant about the way we deliver training, using the technology that we have, but really being aware of attention fatigue.”
Challenges in adapting sales training
“There certainly have been times where it’s been a bit apparent that what I’ve prepared isn’t effective in the moment,” says Steve. “So I’ve had to pivot to really engage with the audience, and what they’re feeling so that we can engage in a deeper conversation, and just getting a conversation started in a training environment that’s online, it’s really hard.
“We’re still working on how to engage the audience more, and how to be less tied to a visual on a screen and actually reach out and engage the people on the other side... getting people to talk is harder to do in a virtual environment than it is in a classroom setting where everybody can feed off the energy of other people."
Thomas Cheriyan, Director of Sales Enablement, OwnBackup, was also required to pare back L&D content and modify sales coaching exercises. This meant, rather than roleplays carried out in f2f bootcamps, both new and experienced reps were required to record themselves on video delivering the OwnBackup elevator pitch, then submit them for feedback.
Technology has added an extra dimension to sales training and coaching
Thomas says: “We had to make bootcamps 100% virtual, 100% Zoom-based, even for those that are based out or hired out of the New Jersey headquarters, because a lot of people don’t feel comfortable to come to the office. I’ve cut bootcamp in half; so, instead of it being a 9am to 5pm initiative, it’s 9am to 1pm. So that means for the most part, people from California to people in Tel Aviv can join with minimal disruption to their personal life with the time zone differences.
“So clearly, by doing that, I had to kick out content from boot camp. That means I’m explicitly not delivering training for those hours that I would have done sales training. What we did was implement a new learning management system called Brainshark - I’m name dropping Brainshark, in particular, because I think their platform is more relevant to our time now compared to any other platform.
"How we take engagement and learning and development to the next level is through the coaching activities feature in Brainshark.
"So I’ve created a sales coaching activity on, say the elevator pitch for OwnBackup, and what new hires and experienced hires have to do is record themselves using video and audio saying the elevator pitch, then either myself or their hiring manager grades them and gives them constructive and critical feedback.”
“This improves their ability to handle specific objections and other key aspects, where you demonstrate the knowledge not by taking a Knowledge Exam or by completing the course, but by being able to record yourself and roleplay.”
Bad remote sales training can be a disaster
Getting remote training wrong can be counterproductive, a point emphasized by John Moore, Vice President of Revenue Enablement and Value Creator at Bigtincan:
“If you do remote training poorly, it’s a horrible exercise. I mean, if you give people three hours of sales training to sit there in front of their computer, they’re going to be falling asleep, or they’re going to be on their phone, and it’s going to be a mess.
“Steve Jobs was a master at understanding how people learned and lost attention span. Yes. And basically, what it led them to do is every eight minutes, every eight minutes, there was a change of cadence or focus, just to get people’s attention renewed. And you need to apply these same lessons to your training materials.
“If I’m training you on a new objection handling technique, for example, the information I’m giving you shouldn’t take longer than eight minutes. If I’m making you watch a video, two to three minutes in length is great. And then maybe I follow it up with a deck that’s a page long or two pages of a PDF or a PowerPoint that you use to reinforce and then maybe it’s another video. It’s about changing the type of information.”
Reinforcement is key to retention
What steps has John taken to keep reps engaged?
“You need to have repetitive reinforcement built into your training every week, you know, over the course of the next month or two to reinforce it. And you also need to understand that in a day, in a world that we live in now, with Google being the norm, people are comfortable searching for what they don’t know. So you also need to make sure people understand where to look, they need to know how to find it.
“You could do a morning email to validate a piece of information - a one or two sentence reminder of a point. It could be that you click on a link and answer a simple quiz question.”
Adriana Romero, Director of Enablement Solutions at LevelJump.io, and former GTM Enablement Manager at Clearbanc, says:
“We decided to have a lot more touchpoints with people in terms of ‘end of day sayings’ and making sure we had constant communication with the team via Slack.
"We also created Q&A sessions and workshops where we could bring people into a Zoom meeting, and at least we were working together in some way, and seeing everybody’s faces.
“We had a few signature trainings in the company that I couldn’t break down into chunks because they needed to be kept in a certain way. But I chunked out how we were doing it, the amount of breaks, and even the format of delivery. We said ‘let’s get people to do it more like a workshop style and then to collaborate’. That was a big, big change for those trainings.
“So we did some sessions where we had breakout rooms, sessions where we had small enough groups that we could do the workshop portion all together, and there were sessions where we delivered the training via the LMS and just came back together for Q&A.”
Teach-back sessions reinforce skills
A particularly successful tactic at Clearbanc was asking reps to explain what they had learned in their own words:
“The thing that really worked for us in this virtual training environment, it was doing teach-back sessions. So, if I wanted to do a reiteration or make sure that people had a full understanding of a topic or specific training, I would tell them: ‘you’re going to teach me’. I gave them the use case, the questions, and a timeframe for them to come back to me.
“This wasn’t something we were really doing before, because we had the ability to do different things when we were in person. We could have done it, but it was a method the team came to appreciate more in this setting."