Work at home and shelter in place policies have forced sales organizations to embrace virtual selling models whether they were ready or not.  They are also having to virtually provision sales learning and development. While available technology has proved useful in this effort, many firms have still met with unsatisfactory outcomes. As a result, many organizations are reevaluating their sales learning and development investments, resources, and strategies in light of the pandemic’s persistent impact.

Remote learning is now a fact of life because face-to-face training delivery is not a practical option now, or likely in the coming year as two thirds or organizations are making remote working permanent. Most organizations have cut travel (84%), training (34%), and sales support (25%) budgets while encouraging employees to work at home.20

A survey of sales leaders reinforces the urgency to rethink sales learning in a remote context because the dramatic shift to remote and virtual selling has forced sales learning and development teams to do more, with less, faster. Specifically, the research found that sales managers are not very effective at coaching remotely and have largely failed to leverage the potential of advanced analytics to improve accountability and reinforcement. The survey identified visibility into adoption, behavior change and use of sales skills and tools in selling situations as the biggest opportunity to improve sales performance.

To fill these skill gaps and enforce the behaviors in execution – sales leaders are taking a more integrated and virtual approach to sales development, enablement, and measurement. There’s lots of opportunity in connecting the dots between these functions and systems. This is because the technologies and programs that underlie sales development, management and measurement are usually highly fragmented. As a result,

  • Learning management systems are disconnected from the sales enablement systems where sales playbooks reside.
  • The sales analytics and AI used to measure sales activity, adoption, and behavior are not linked to sales readiness and training.
  • Feedback and reinforcement suffer because very little of this information is available to sales managers to support grading, coaching, reinforcement, and performance measurement.

There’s no good business or technical reason for these systems to be separate and disintegrated. All are in common use across most sales organizations.  But they exist largely in silos because the functional experts that buy, manage, and deploy the systems and assets that underlie sales development have no financial incentive to connect the dots across them.

Sales leaders must make linking sales readiness to sales effectiveness a priority. They can no longer afford to automate only “part” of the learning and development process. The urgency and cost of rapidly reskilling sales forces to prepare them for virtual selling will compel organizations to treat them as one system. This will provide sales leaders, managers, and effectiveness executives an end-to-end approach to building skills that can measurably lead to sales and profit outcomes.

The disruption of moving revenue teams to a work at home model creates is an excellent platform to drive change by insisting these expensive and important growth assets work together and work effectively. To move at the speed of the market, learning and development organizations are going to have to find ways to connect the dots across their systems to make them faster, more “virtual”, and accountable.

By connecting these dots sales leaders can create an integrated sales development approach that is both highly efficient but also a “closed loop” in that it connects training to behavior to performance. For example:

  1. Training and skill development can be assigned and executed virtually by taking advantage of video role play and pitch management systems. These allow reps to practice and develop role play, product demo and “situation-specific” presentation skills remotely using video platforms.
  2. These video role plays can be  inspected and graded consistently and at scale using a mix of AI-assisted scoring and human assessment by peers and managers.
  3. The best of these can be cataloged and connected to a master content library of plays and best practices that can be targeted by process stage, persona, product, industry, or pain point.
  4. These plays can be tagged to be deployed in real time using advanced AI and guided selling tools that recommend the next best sales play, or most relevant content, based on buyer engagement and response data and the context of the selling situation.
  5. Managers can track and measure how this effort and training translate into actual customer engagement and account success by building data-driven KPI that quantify outcomes based on actual seller activity, customer engagement and success.
  6. The entire process should fuel a feedback loop that continually reinforces skills, refines plays, adapts to customer needs, and tightens the connection between training and results.

Not every organization can take all these steps at once.  But most of the underlying technologies and assets are in place in most large and complex sales organizations. Connecting any of these dots will represent a significant step forward compared to the status quo or waiting for the next opportunity to conduct traditional classroom training (which could be 12 months away).

The business benefits of taking an integrated learning and development approach should be to improve your sales readiness and performance in four specific ways:

  • Reinforcement in the context of day-to-day sales activities with real time, micro-learning and easy to use training guides.
  • Accountability with automated and AI-assisted evaluation, grading, and feedback and behavior-based KPI;
  • Scalability by integrating to the existing sales process workflow and sales enablement assets;
  • Cost effective delivery by using techniques like “virtual role playing” that allow reps to practice remotely and get feedback and coaching quickly.

You can learn more about integrating learning and development and ways your organization can accelerate growth and transform selling by reading the case study in our best selling book Revenue Operations.