6 Surefire Strategies for Virtual Sales Training at Scale
For cybersecurity specialists, the COVID-19 pandemic has been both an opportunity and a challenge. More business is conducted online than ever before, which has increased the demand for secure systems. At the same time, travel restrictions and pandemic protocols have prevented cybersecurity sales training teams from meeting in person.The result has been a surge in demand for scalable virtual sales training.
We invited two industry experts to address the challenges and opportunities of virtual sales training in our recent webinar, Progressing the Pipeline: How to Enable Virtual Sales Training at Scale, hosted by SMM Connect. The session featured Jake Miller, senior product marketing manager at Allego, and Vanessa Mericle, manager of instructional design at SaaS security platform ReliaQuest.
6 Ways to Enable Virtual Sales Training at Scale
The following are six takeaways that apply to any virtual sales training strategy.
1. It Must Be Tailored for the Specialty
When a prospective customer has a question or concern about a security system, the answer can’t be, “I’ll get back to you on that.” The sales team has to give the prospect confidence that they understand today’s sophisticated SaaS platforms.
“My job is to ensure that our employees have the skills necessary to be successful,” Mericle said. “Our platform combines technology, ongoing enablement and analytics to provide our customer teams with better visibility, faster detection and response, and continuous measurement of their security programs. It’s on our team to ensure that training is delivered, that it’s consistent, that it’s relevant and that it’s up to date.”
2. It Must Balance Synchronous and Asynchronous Training
Headquartered in Tampa, Florida, with locations reaching from London to Las Vegas, ReliaQuest had to develop an approach that would start each wave of new hires on the same page at the same time and then allow them to take next steps appropriate for their specific roles.
First things first. Every new ReliaQuest hire goes through the same three-day onboarding to align them with the company culture. Sales team members then receive an extra five days of intensive virtual sales training at the company’s Sales Academy. Synchronous sessions take place during a window that works across that eight-hour time zone expanse, with a few concessions to accommodate the remote environment. “We may push out a video to watch beforehand versus playing it over a webinar,” Mericle said.
Synchronous sessions also include frequent breaks. “We give teams time to go out and to talk amongst themselves, to communicate and create what we call teach-backs,” Mericle said. “These are moments where they’re sharing what they’ve learned and communicating that back to a facilitator.”
After five days in the Sales Academy, the training switches to a more asynchronous approach with a focus on shoring up individual weaknesses. “So it’s a little bit more tailored as they go down their personal development path,” Mericle said.
3. It Must Be Interactive
Effective virtual sales training involves more than just a massive download of information — the process Mericle called “drinking from a fire hose.” It’s imperative that trainees get a chance to apply what they’ve learned in a realistic setting. They have to demonstrate that they fully grasp the sales process before going into the field. “A lot of what we do involves roleplays,” Mericle said. “It’s very interactive, with a lot of group work and presentations. We want to see how they’re assimilating the information.
“We truly believe in the idea of, ‘We’ll give you 60% of the information, and then you’re going to struggle with the other 40% and getting yourself across the finish line.’ But it’s in that struggle that these employees are starting to master the concepts that they’re being taught.”
4. It Must Be Ongoing
That teaching never stops. ReliaQuest uses weekly exercises developed by Allego to ensure the sales process evolves to best fit customers’ needs. For example, one set of exercises identified the top three customer objections, based on a survey of the sales force. Reps were then challenged to apply those lessons to a current opportunity in their pipeline.
“That linking back to a potential customer makes these exercises very, very impactful and also extremely relevant,” Mericle said. “That’s why the reps want to do them.”
5. It Must Reinforce Excellence
By building a library of weekly interactive exercises, ReliaQuest continually defines and refines best practices for its sales teams. Typically, sales teams submit their exercises in video form each Wednesday, and the VP of sales enablement selects two or three to highlight in the next week’s sales meeting. The friendly competition among teams to produce a featured video provides an added incentive.
“Our teams are really engaged with that,” Mericle said. “We have them vote on the very best, and teams eat that up. We love rewarding them and keeping it fun.”
6. It Must Be Sustainable
One key to effective virtual sales training is ease of use. “During our Sales Academy, we do an overview of Allego,” Mericle said. “New team members get into the platform, they get into the mobile app and make sure everything is good to go. We actually give them their first assignment during the Academy, and they submit that to their direct manager. What’s really great about that is the manager doesn’t have to be onsite. They get that ping and they’re able to provide that feedback. That is part of our training right out of the gate.”
And training on-demand is easier to sustain. “The idea of just opening up the app and your camera’s right there and you can hold it up and record yourself — that’s been huge,” Mericle said.
Just as huge is each manager’s ability to provide rapid feedback. “What’s really awesome about Allego is the ability to create that scorecard with a very simple rubric that our managers can use to provide a score for each video submission,” Mericle said. “It’s definitely made a huge impact with increasing that feedback cadence for our teams.”
Take It From the Top
The key to activating any virtual sales-training program is that management must be fully onboard. “I always say training is only as successful as the implementation and the buy-in from the top down,” Mericle said. “ReliaQuest is a model of that. Training and development are highly considered across the entire organization.”
For a more in-depth look at how ReliaQuest successfully transitioned to virtual sales training, watch the webinar on demand: Progressing the Pipeline: How to Enable Virtual Sales Training at Scale.