There are three primary ways to deliver sales training: face to face (classroom training), facilitator-led online (live webinars, etc) and online without the facilitator (training videos, etc.). But which is the best?
Classroom training: the pros
According to a recent poll we ran on Twitter, in-person training is widely preferred. That’s no surprise. Just like in a sales meeting, the benefits of face-to-face communication can’t be overestimated. The facilitator can more easily read the room and the trainees feel better able to speak up, where training isn't given in the first language of the audience this can be really important. With in-person training, it’s possible to follow the interests of the salespeople being trained, spot weak spots and drill down into the areas that really need improving.
There’s also the benefit of getting a group of salespeople together. It’s an opportunity for a large team to bond, and to learn from each other. During the course of a day’s training, which will likely include some role-play sessions, alliances may be formed that continue to benefit the team after the training is over.
Classroom training: the cons
Classroom training is by far the most expensive training option. Apart from the cost of the training program itself, there’s also the venue and travel costs to consider.
It also requires salespeople to take one or two days out of their hectic schedule, potentially away from their families and certainly away from their desks.
As with all types of training, it’s important to ensure you have decided on how you’re going to measure ROI so that you know whether or not the expense has paid off. Try using SMART ways to prove the value of sales training.
The other thing to bear in mind is that the success of the course still largely depends on how good the facilitator is. You can as easily fail to pay attention in person as you can online if the facilitator is not engaging.
88% of employees say e-learning helps them more on a daily
basis than classroom-based learning.
Facilitator-led online training: the pros
Facilitator-led online training usually takes the form of webinars. These would usually go live at a scheduled time and include an interactive element, even if that’s just a chat screen, so that the trainees can ask and answer questions. Unlike classroom training, which would usually be a solid block of a day or more, online training like this tends to be broken up into sessions of a more manageable length, making it easier to fit into a salesperson’s busy schedule.
Without the venue and travel costs, this is a more budget-friendly option while still giving the facilitator the option to tailor the course to the needs of the trainees.
Facilitator-led online training: the cons
The major downside of this mode of delivery is that the facilitator has to compete with your environment. If you’re watching a webinar online, it’s very easy to be distracted by other things on your computer or even on your desk. Email notifications, phone calls, even social media can all divert the trainee’s attention away from the speaker, and there’s no real way for the facilitator to know that they have lost people, especially if there are a lot of trainees tuning in.
There are two main ways to counteract this. From the facilitator end, they need to know who’s logged in and call on them from time to time to answer questions. (Of course, they also need to create an engaging webinar, but that’s a given!) On the other side, it’s a good idea to provide your trainees with either a different space to work in - perhaps a meeting room, where distractions are minimal - or encourage them to close everything else down while they listen to the webinar. Follow-up quizzes also help to ensure people are paying attention.
Online training: the pros
Without the live aspect, online training can be carried out whenever it’s convenient to the individual. This makes it the simplest and generally also the least expensive option. Good providers will still ensure the training is tailored to your needs, though obviously without any live ‘chat’ it’s much harder to answer questions or follow the trainees’ curiosity.
Online training: the cons
I wonder how many people reading this have signed up for some kind of online training and failed to see it through to completion. I know I have. All the good intentions were there, but because it was down to me to fit it into my schedule, I never found the time. This is the main drawback of this mode of delivery, though as I said above the fact that this kind of training usually lacks the personal touch is also a big negative. There are ways to counteract these problems, of course. Make it mandatory. Set a deadline. Run quizzes. And in terms of answering questions and tailoring to your needs, you can iron this out from the outset by seeking a training provider that offers this service as a follow-up or in between sessions.
Multiple modes of delivery for the win!
Probably the best training programs are those that offer a combination of training options. Maybe you kick off with some classroom training that gets everyone excited and aligned in their vision. Perhaps the follow-up sessions afterwards are conducted online, with your facilitator checking back in to see how you’re doing. They might also send you regular videos with reminders of things you learned in the classroom that you need to put into practice.
The future of sales training?
There’s no doubt that e-learning is popular in theory, but I don’t think hour-long webinars are ever going to be much competition for in-person training. What we probably will see more of, though, is snippets of training - videos of anything from about 30 seconds to a few minutes - that give salespeople little tips and tools to implement immediately. In the not too distant future, those shorts will be automatically generated when you need them - little learning reinforcements for every stage of the selling process. AI is going to be an interesting addition to the training arena!
AI can deliver keen insight into where reps are struggling in deals, which then informs and influences sales training.
While you’re waiting for that to be widely available, why not create your own inhouse videos with reminders of your training methodology and load them up to your Sales Enablement Platform? Store them together with the relevant content and give your salespeople additional tools to improve their skill set.
Whatever mode of training you opt for, don’t fall into the trap of running one workshop and thinking you’re done for the year. Training needs to be continuous in order to be effective, so think long-term and make sure you plan follow-up into every training program you undertake.