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Vital in a Virtual World: Making Training Stick – Sales Enablement Soirée, Summer 2020

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CT: Welcome to our panel session, which is very aptly titled Vital in a Virtual World: Making Training Stick. So, I think that this is one of the most talked about topics in sales enablement in the last few months. So, I’m very excited to hear from all of our panelists today about building innovative and engaging training and learning programs for sales reps in a virtual world that stick. And so, I would love to get each of our panelists to just introduce themselves, say your name, a little bit about yourself. Let’s start with you, Brandy.

BR: Hi, my name is Brandy Ringler. I’m the global sales enablement manager at Gong.io. I report directly into our VP of global operations and indirectly into our CRO.

MM: Mario Martinez, Jr and I am the CEO of Vengresso. We are the world’s largest digital sales training company and our primary focus is all around helping sellers create more sales conversations through digital learning or virtual learning. So, we’ve been around for a little while doing this and I’m excited to be with you guys.

JL: My name’s Jen Leary and I’m a sales enablement professional. I’ve been doing it for about a, I don’t know, a long time now. And most recently was the senior director of sales enablement at Toast. And I’m looking forward to an exciting panel today.

CT: Thank you all for joining us today. I think we’re going to kick it off with, I think a big question, which what is the difference between in person training and kind of virtual sales training and what are the pros and cons to both?

So, I’m going to punt this one to you, Mario.

MM: Well, first off, I think everybody who’s watching right now absolutely knows that in-person training has been cut off completely and we are now living in a completely virtual environment to help train our sellers. And it was interesting because actually Vengresso, a few years back, we made a conscious decision to cut off all of our in-person training. And we predicted that the market would actually within five years, would actually follow up and say, you know what? In person training was dead, it’s done, it’s dying. And everybody moved towards a digital environment.

Well, of course we didn’t predict that a global pandemic would happen. But it actually happened in three years as a result of the pandemic. But one of the reasons why we did that was because if you look at what I call traditional training, which is your in person training versus virtual training, there are many differences that happen as a result of, the actual behavior change and the results.

So, on traditional sales training, you have this thing called the forgetting issue. And that is roughly, Gartner actually showcase that 70% of B2B sales reps forget the information that they learn within a week worth of training. Now, if you actually increase that now to a month, they also identified that 87% of B2B sales reps forgot the information that they learn within a month worth of training. And there are many reasons for that. I know we’re going to go through some of that, but if you compare that now to the virtual sales training model, which is the reason why we made that decision in the first place, 80% of information is actually retained after 60 days with using a technique that we all talked about later on called The Spacing Effect. And that was actually by the Harvard Business Review. In addition, 65% of information is retained after just three days when using video. And that was a study that was also done as well. So, when you take that combination of virtual training environment and add that to the length of period of time, which is a minimum of 60 days to learn a new behavior, and add on video with audio, you now can create a very sticky environment.

BR: If I can actually jump in. So, Mario, I loved what you said about, impact of the training. In my experience, the logistics are actually much easier. So, an example I can give of the current environment at Gong is we have a hundred plus reps across, our SDR MBR organization and then our AE selling organization.

And with the transition to virtual, I think there was a lot of concern that trainings wouldn’t be as effective. There wouldn’t be a high participation and you couldn’t see like the effect of  the training, post conducting it. What we actually found is that we had a higher attendance because you make up for your enterprise or your strategic sellers that are often, global or different geographies across the US, the coordination of space itself.

So, getting 60 plus people into one specific room to actually conduct a live training is incredibly difficult. And there’s typically just logistical issues with both the trainer being able to be heard across all 60 people in whatever auditorium or room there is. There’s difficulty in conducting any sort of breakout.

So smaller group settings where you can do, like coursework on the training that’s actually been conducted. So, what we’ve found is that our virtual trainings are actually have a higher engagement. So, they’re easier to schedule logistically. We have a higher attendance and then we have been able to conduct these smaller breakout rooms due to zoom. And then send out the reporting, obviously, VR on product Gong.IO, on like the training itself on which points in the training, different speakers were talking and then on like snippets of highly valuable content. So that reps are actually able to refer back to those key moments in the call.

JL: Those are some great, excellent points. One of the things too, Cassandra, that we’ve noticed is a different way to handle content with virtual trainings that we’ve found that’s actually been really helpful. And that was more around having people do pre-work and then join and use the virtual modality to have a discussion, more like a lecture base or a university-based approach. And so that’s one change that we’ve adjusted to. Combine offline and online. That’s worked really, really well.

CT: In moving on, I would love to talk about how to foster long term retention, for training among sales reps, especially in this virtual environment. So again, Mario, I’ll put this one to you and I’d love to hear everyone on this.

MM: Hmm. So, to foster a long-term retention, you heard me say earlier really about the length of time it takes to be able to change behavior and also to make something stick. So, you may not know this, but the studies show that the average number of days that it takes humans to create a habit, to form a new habit or to create something that you’ve learned and make that as a new automatic habit. The average number of days is 66 days.

Now, if you combine that with what I mentioned earlier about this whole forgetting curve, if you would, about the percentage of data that you forget as a result of learning things in a short snippet of time. So generally, most sales trainings were two-day trainings, or one day trainings, or a weeklong boot camp. Everybody flies in and onboarding and everybody just like death by PowerPoint and presentation inside of a room. So, for the most part, everybody would forget. How do we know that? Well, there’s been many, many studies done, but one of them was a German psychologist, Hermann Ebbinghaus and it’s known as now The Forgetting Curve. And what it identified was, he found that if new information isn’t applied, people forget about 75% of what they learned after just six days. Now, if you think about this inside of a two-day training program or a weeklong training program, where most of us put our sellers in anyways, and we did these types of programs, these boot camps. They’d get inside, they’d open a book; they’d have to write things down. We’d have them do a few role plays. We’d ask them to go out of the room and actually try something. And then they come back in and we continue teaching, teaching, teaching. Well, generally you can only learn a handful of things across multiple hours, but we would inundate them with all this information.

So, with virtual training, in terms of being able to really foster that long-term retention, you’ve got to factor in The Forgetting Curve, which is, how much you consume in a short period of time, combined with how long it takes for us to change our habits.

JL: Yeah. I would add to that. Awesome. Probably testing too, right.? And that is probably the next one. And you know what Mario was talking about the online-offline component. So, one of the benefits of offline is the ability to practice, right? And the ability to have interactions. You mentioned roleplay. I think what’s critical for sales professionals to think about is virtual training drives different behavior in your programmatic approach post the event itself. So, what are your sales managers doing to replicate offline training that could no longer happen? Whether it’s through curbside coaching or ride alongs or what have you.

Yeah, so it’s exactly what you’re saying. That extension. the practical application of the learning that’s no longer possible because they can’t do face to face, has to be considered in concert with the stickiness of the virtual piece.

BR: I think actually, along the same lines, but a little bit different. I think, virtual or not, retention of topics that are done in trainings from sales reps is I think the biggest issue that a lot of enablement folks have, right. It’s always a continuous question of, are reps adopting it and previously the only way to really understand that was, yeah, totally. You’re going to your frontline managers, you’re going to your VP of sales and you’re saying, do we think that’s stuck?

Or the VP of sales is going to the frontline managers and saying, are you hearing this happening on calls? Like, do we think that it’s actually being executed in the field? For us, we’re actually able to measure that based on the content of the conversation our reps are having. So, since COVID, because unfortunately we are all in this virtual environment that seems to be ongoing with no specific end, we have implemented a biweekly training structure for our entire sales org.

So, we split that up into a biweekly training for SDRs. And then on the off weeks, we do a biweekly training for our age group. It’s my responsibility to do is after we implement this training, we typically have a takeaway for the field. So, we are asking to say specifically keywords based on that training in the field.

So, whether that’s a new pricing change, I can give you the specific example of when we started COVID is that we changed our value prop. It was still the things that our product could actually do, but because of the crisis, I think most companies were struggling to find like, Hey, our value prop might’ve been a little bit soft before.

It was maybe a nice to have and now that companies are pulling back on what they’re actually willing to spend money on, we need to change that value prop to match what companies care about today. And so, we had to quickly execute on that training. And then the only way for us to understand if that was actually a moving the needle with our reps on the floor is, we were actually able to see that conversation happen live. So, I was actually able to, and I would report it back to my VP of operations and my CRO on a team by team basis, what the actual percentage of reps were that were actually using that exact verbiage on early stage conversations. So, qualification on discovery calls. So, for any training we do, I am actually looking at those leading indicators of, is that actual verbiage being used in the field.

If it’s not or if we’re seeing that we’re not seeing an increase in that, do we need to run a subsequent training on that same material to reinforce? And so that’s how we have quickly adjusted our strategy in the field to run a training, see how the progression of that training is doing, how often it’s coming up in the field.

Number one, but then number two is, are we actually seeing an increase in those early stage opportunities moving to later stages in the sales funnel? And if we are, then it tells us that training was worthwhile and successful and we’re actually seeing impact in our deals moving forward.

CT: I’m going to move on, and shift gears a little bit to this next question, which is around technology and people that really play a key, key role in delivering virtual training.

So, I’d love to know what some of the key considerations you have when utilizing virtual tools and train our talent, during training and what are the benefits and what are some of the challenges and how you address those. So, I would like to put this maybe to Jen first and see what you have to say on this.

JL: Sure. So, in terms of I’ll take the people piece. So, I think virtual training has really challenged us all from a content perspective, probably more and more than ever. I think it’s really important. It was really important for us to have all of our content providers really up their game in terms of getting information to a point where it was not too much, but just enough and always hitting on the right points. Certainly, arming presenters with the ability to maximize all the features of a tool like zoom, to understand how to utilize breakout rooms and how to make sure that when they were putting their content together to think about, we only have the modality of a virtual experience now. So how does that change your delivery?

And making sure that you’ve put the work in upfront to take a look at the content again, succinct. I think Mario mentioned seven things at a time and really get things down to the salient points and make sure the technology that you’re using is being used in the most effective for the for the seller.

MM: So, I love the people want to and the technology. So, I mean, it’s a really important question. Cause both go hand in hand, you could have some but technology, but you could have sucky trainers and we’ve all been there. We’ve all been there where we’ve been in the room and you’re like, dear Lord, please let me get out of this training. It is just not going well. And you know, I like to think that, some of our sales enablement leaders are also great trainers, but that’s not necessarily the case and the same applies for some of our great sales trainers, are not great sales enablement leaders either. Right. And so, what on the people, tell us, I’ll touch on where Jen started out.

A couple of things that I think, what we have observed, we have a very high criteria for trainers that are in our organization. If you do not follow the model, you do not train, and we will bench you. And the NPS scores or customer satisfaction scores really highlight whether or not people thought that you were a good trainer or not.

But if you think about it in a virtual environment, in person, you have a lot more forgiveness in way of how animated you are, how much passion, how much fire, how much energy, and also how much you challenge people back in a virtual environment. You have basically, you are competing against everything else that is popping up on that person’s computer, the dings, the pings, the bloom gum, right?

All those things. And so, you’ve got to over accentuate in order to be able to be a trainer that captivates and pulls in people’s attention. You’ve got to be almost actors, if you would write and think about not just how you’re going to do. I’m sorry, not just what you’re going to deliver and what you’re going to say, but how you will do it in such a way that brings your audience in and gets them to engage.

I don’t give you an example. We start out all of our training programs, every training, with high beat high energy music. It could be Bruno Mars 24K Magic. It could be Maroon Five. We’ve got something that starts and every single time we do, okay, now you try or now you do this music goes back on and generally it’s, we’ll do like motels down and where people you’re bobbing their head and they want to stay engaged and it’ll helps to avoid that, ‘I’m going to go over here. I’m going to go over there. That being in that ding.” So that’s just like one example of how you would want to deliver something and overextension.

BR: We don’t have too much more time on this question, Cassandra, but I did want to add something, because I actually think that we have a bit of a different approach than Jen and Mario mentioned.

So, we don’t actually plan out training three months in advance. We take a more fluid approach only because we are a startup and we want to be very nimble. And, our customers are also changing just as quickly as we are, especially in the current climate. So, what might have been accurate three months ago is no longer the case.

So, for us, what we actually do for our trainings is I coordinate a meeting between the leaders of the relevant parties. And so, for enablement folks, like what I would encourage just for you to take the reins on creating training. And if it’s done well, enablement should be in the background and you should be like letting the leader shine through.

So, for us, all of our sales trainings are scheduled two weeks in advance. So, I set up a meeting between myself, our CRO, our director of AR. Our two directors of our largest business units and our VP of sales. And it’s a really short meeting. It’s a 30-minute meeting. And in that meeting, it’s my job to come forward with three or four or ideas for the following training.

And they’re either based on the leadership meetings that I’ve been attending with the different segments where we’re understanding the gaps that are happening or we’re hearing feedback from reps on where they are struggling. We also send out a survey after every single sales training to ask for feedback on the success of the training and to ask what they’d like to focus on for the next sprint that we’re running in two weeks.

So out of that 30-minute meeting, we come out with what the one decision is going to be for the training. And it’s my job to say, Hey, that’s doable or it’s not because I’m the one that’s pulling together the content. Then the following week before we run the training, I reviewed the deck with whoever is sponsoring that training.

And what that means is, it’s really important for us and our reps that the people they respect the most are leading the trainings. So, example is I’m going to pull together the content and the calls that we are going to train on. I’m going to structure the deck, but I’m going to ask one of our leaders to run the training itself. So that’ll either be our VP of sales, our CRO, or if we’re going to pull in somebody from a different department. And so, I’m going to run through that deck with them to make final edits and to structure the talking points. And it’s my job as we go throughout the training to a watch time, but to pull other people into the conversation.

So usually before those trainings, I am asking a few of our reps that I know are more seasoned to interject at certain points in the deck. So, I’ll give access to that training deck to some of our more seasoned veterans. And I say, ‘Hey, I’m going to ask for your feedback during this point of the training. Can you interject with this thought?’ And so, we’re pulling in as many different voices as possible so that our reps are hearing from those that are executing well on the floor and from the leaders that have this expectation of the rep. So, like from a tree training standpoint, that’s how we organize the trainings themselves.

And it shouldn’t just be monotone. It should be one leader and then we’re calling in other folks, but that’s how organized, like two-week sprints. And we’re typically playing samples based on what we’re trying to train on of what’s actually happening live in the field.

So, I think that’s an important piece. The other important piece is we try not to have too much like arrogance about the training we put on. An example would be is if we run a training and I start to hear on the floor that it’s not going well or our customers are not responding well to the training that we gave either.

It’s not moving the conversation forward, or we get feedback from reps, but it’s too clunky. We’ll center our next training on exactly that same topic but adjust the talk track. So usually I know if we’re going to run a training on a talk track, there’s going to be those five reps in your organization who always hit it out of the ballpark.

And they’re going to massage that messaging into whatever actually works well for them. And so then as enablement and my team, it’s our job to understand how they did that. And then reposition that messaging to the rest of the sales force. So, we’ll go in sprints, and we’re not afraid, or I don’t want my team to be afraid to say, Hey, we gave you this training and it was great, but it was halfway there. It wasn’t what you’re actually going to stay on the floor. And we recognize that these folks’ reps executed really well against this. We’re going to take back what we said or we’re going to adjust that messaging. I want you to listen to what’s going well here. And then we’ll ask our top performers to actually be speakers during the training.

So, we don’t often have, I would say individual trainers come in. We try and incorporate the content and then have our leaders and our sales folks actually train the masses.

CT: Absolutely. I love that you added that kind of perspective and insight, Brandy. We are going to shift gears again and move on to another question around, we recently did a report on sales enablement analytics, and we found that the number of sessions delivered was actually the most common measurement for sales training success, which was surprising to me. But I would love to hear from you guys on what are the potential drawbacks of this metric and what are the other key metrics that you use to really gauge sales training success? So, Brandy, I love to hand this off to you.

BR: I think I might’ve answered this partly in some of my other answers, but we measure success of training twofold. Number one is actually adoption in the field where we’re measuring, whether our reps are actually using that content in their sales calls. And then the second piece that we measure is, how that measures against actual revenue impact.

So, we use our own product to understand, ‘Hey, if we ran a training on, let’s say like, we did a new release on pricing, which we did at the start of the year. We run a training on pricing, and we come up with new verbiage for our packaging, et cetera. And like how we want reps framing the way that we price as a company.’

What we want to see is age does that, now that we’ve released that training, how many of the reps are actually talking about the new packaging and the new releases? So that’s number one. And then number two, has that increased our ASP, from when we actually started the training and how many of our deals move farther down the funnel.

So how many of our early stage deals actually move into our presentation stages all the way through closed one? So that’s how we measure all facets of our training. It has to be adopted. Yeah. But number two, what we care about more is it actually impacting revenue outcomes?

CT: Jen. I also love to hear from you.

JL: So, we were super, super metric driven at Toast and I’m similar to Brandy, but maybe, maybe a little deeper. We had very, very specific macro metrics that we looked at, like competitive win rate. Competitive win rate, win rates, average yield per rep, et cetera. But we also looked at converting metrics across the sales cycle.

So, for instance we would look at individual rep performance and we would look at how many demos are you doing? How many of those demos are actually turning into quotes, which are closing. So, we would. They have very, very specific measurement for individual performance across each metrics. So that’s one thing that we looked at.

Another thing that we looked at was sort of byproduct who would look at revenue targets and movement by product. And to Brandy’s last one in the last question, we would take reps that were performing well in one area and train that weren’t in another. And that would change all the time because certain reps had certain strengths than other reps had certain weaknesses. And that was a really popular way to have peer learning happen, outside of the old routine. But we basically judged our training success based on the numbers all the way from super, super, like I said, macro ones to very specific individual conversion metrics across the sales cycle, right?

CT: The next topic, I feel like I’m a broken record saying this all the time, but the world of work has really changed in the last few months. And what this means is that a lot of sales reps have had to adopt new behaviors and learn new skills. And so, I would love to hear from you on how do you really create and measure behavior change for reps? And so, Brandy, I’d also love to hear from you on this.

BR: I don’t know if I want to sound like a broken record either, but I think that the main thing is there was so much being thrown at rocks during this time. I would assume I can probably speak for a lot of companies that say a lot that says a lot has changed in the last few months.

And so, rep’s habits, their behaviors, what they’re talking about differs now probably from what it did three months ago. I think, for us, we’re measuring a couple of things at once. So, it’s really important for us to be able to not lose sight of training we ran, like let’s say even last month versus a training that we’re running today.

And so, we’re doing that as I mentioned, by taking a look at adoption over time. And making sure that it’s still consistent in the messaging that’s happening on the floor. We’re also paying attention to, I think Mario had just mentioned, the leaderboard. Right. So, we’re also trying to understand what’s important based on what our top reps are talking about.

So, if we ran a training and we see that it’s not actually a part of their conversations, I’m okay actually, pulling back that piece of training and letting it fizzle a little bit, if we see that there are other things that are more relevant that’s moving the sales cycle forward. The only thing that I would say, along maybe like with along these lines is, I think that there is change fatigue, unless you give reps and understanding of why you’re running the training.

So, running virtual trainings just to run them is not very effective. And so, we actually got that feedback, right, because we were doing these sprints. And so, I think one of the things that we learned, and I would caution against is laying that groundwork as to why the training is important. And then in the follow-up trainings that you’re running, sharing with the reps, what the impact has been. So, that tends to like to reemphasize the change that we’re trying to drive. If we’re calling out winners based on the training that we’ve already completed.

JL: I think that that’s such a great point. Brandy, and I’ll just extend on that a little bit. And before I get to that, I want to just say, I think anyone training sales individuals is really fortunate in this unfortunate environment that we’re all in because sales individuals are great at tuning when they did tune in, they know what they have to go to, and they know what they can skip. Right. They’re really good at time management because they’re on their own, they’re in the field. They’re not in the office for the most part. Obviously BDRs, inside teams are exception, but I think compared to other parts of an organization of a business that are now forced to, or not forced, but you know, only have a virtual environment to exist in. We, as people who train sellers are in a fortunate position, they’re pretty used to it. And they’re pretty good at it in my experience. So, that’s just like a bright spot, I think, in terms of audience. They’re prepared, and they’re pretty used to it.

What I was going to say was one of the things to reduce that fatigue that you were talking about, Brandy is at Toast we incorporate a lot of other modalities that went along with training. So, for instance, in proven head we had to pivot really quickly and stand up a product that the reps needed to literally stand up and train them on it in like 10 days. And we had it Slack channels specifically around like COVID objections, right. We had all kinds of other office hours and pop up mentor opportunities all around a specific initiative, that started with training, but gave them other outlets besides like tuning into a zoom to talk about it.

So, tying all that together and kind of moving that along for the rep and offering them different outlets besides just Thursday at 11:00 AM. I have to go to this training was really helpful because they can’t always get to the training and this allowed them other ways to continue the conversation and bring them back to a standard training at a different time.

CT: So, we like to end our panels with just each panelist, giving one takeaway that they want to leave the audience. So, I would love to hear from all of you on the one thing that you want people to walk away with today, let’s start with you, Jen.

JL: Thank you so much. This was great. And I actually learned a lot from the other panelists too. So, thank you for that. I would say that we’re all in this together and it’s still different when you’re training salespeople. And I think that it’s really important to support your sellers. I’ve heard from a lot of CRS that there’s struggle with, not just continuing to hit numbers, but you know, dealing with the impact of family, life, kids at home all these different things. And so, I would just like to leave that empathy. It’s probably an order in droves for each other and as managers in a sales enabler professional, because it’s really tough out there and sales isn’t an easy job to start with and they’re selling a recession market. And so that’s my takeaway, my thought, as I go into, I’m thinking through how to help these folks to get better, what I’m delivering, but also to help them get better and what they’re doing in this market, in this environment.

CT: I love that. I love that topic of empathy. Brandy let’s hear from you.

BR: I love that, I would echo what Jen just said. I think, this was an awesome panel to be on and it’s a conversation I have behind closed doors with a lot of enablement folks, especially during this time. So, I’m glad that we were able to have this talk.

I actually think that my, my one takeaway that I would love enablement folks to get out of this conversation is that there is a hunger from reps to hear from senior leaders in virtual trainings. And I think, if you’re just doing any sort of virtual training you’re ahead of the game, because we’re all new to this in the last few months. At least for the most part, it sounds like Mario has been ahead of the game for three years, but the rest of us we’re, we’re all new to this.

But the best feedback I’ve gotten from reps is that it has been so powerful to hear from sales leaders during the trainings. And also, to get encouragement from the sales leaders about how the trainings are going and reinforcement on the field. I think it encourages reps to show up and to take it seriously. And then B, it makes them feel validated that the sales leader feels like it’s important enough to show up for themselves. So that would be my major takeaway, if any.

CT: And Mario?

MM: Whoa, excuse me. Clear that one out. Delete that from the record. So, I actually have a saying. And the saying is a fool with a tool is still a fool. A fool with a tool is still a fool.

So, a lot of sales leaders are impacted in the sales organizations and revenues are impacted as a result of the world having changed. And everyone’s trying to figure out how to pivot. And there’s of course, millions of people that are out of work and layoffs happening all around.

And what I’m seeing a lot of in the marketplace is sales leaders, sales enablement professionals, marketing leaders, they’re throwing more tools and technology at their sellers to say, maybe this will help fix, go use this to be able to connect with your buyer, go do that. And my message to you is a fool with a tool is still a fool. So, tools and technology, yes, you might need it. Might. I’m not saying you don’t, but you need to equip your sellers with the modern selling skills to be able to communicate with today’s modern buyer, which is digitally connected, socially engaged, mobile attached, and video hungry. And by the way, you’re not meeting them in person and it’s not going to change very soon.

So really focusing on, instead of throwing more tools and technology, understand your sellers, know they know what it is needed to be able to help them. And in most cases, what we’re hearing from sellers around the globe is digitize me, digitize me, digitize me, help me understand if you gave me this tool to create video, what do I say?

And how many seconds do I actually have to be able to capture someone’s attention? Right. Help me before I send this message across email, to make sure that it actually is going to bring value to my buyer, because guess what? Every other rep in the world is using email and phone to be able to connect with that buyer.

So, in this digitized environment, I would focus in on the tool is still a fall. Don’t throw more tech at it until and unless you are going to help develop the skill. And the number one skill that is being asked for right now is digitize me, help me to be able to be digital so I can communicate with my digital buyer.

CT: Absolutely. That’s a great point to end on right now. We will open it up to Q and A. So, we’ll give you a moment to type in your questions and we will get those answered by our panelists today. But thank you so much. I think this has been a fantastic discussion.