How to Create an Optimal Learning Experience for Sales Reps

Written by Darik Volpa

What’s the best way to learn how to sell? Practice, practice, and more practice.

Yet many sales organizations are not creating an optimal environment for salespeople to practice and perfect their selling skills. This creates at least five problems:

  1. Lost revenue. When salespeople aren’t ready to have conversations with customers, they’re more likely to lose deals. Additionally, there is the risk of creating a poor impression of your company when you send unprepared sales reps into the field.
  2. High levels of stress. Yes, salespeople need a tough skin to succeed in sales, but which manager wants to contribute to extra stress and anxiety by exposing salespeople to trial-by-fire experiences or failing to help them properly prepare for selling situations? The sink-or-swim approach does force salespeople to learn, but it’s not very enjoyable or efficient.
  3. Onboarding drag. The faster you can get new hires up and running, the faster you can see revenue gains. A lack of proper coaching and training only adds to the amount of time it takes for your new reps to ramp up.
  4. Hiring difficulties. A great learning culture is a point of differentiation that can make or break your hiring efforts. If your company becomes known for its poor learning environment, new hires might decide to take jobs at companies that invest in providing better training, coaching, and support.
  5. Slow response times. The traditional weekly or monthly coaching model is slow compared to the pace of business. When a competitor undercuts your price, you want a well-trained team that can respond swiftly.

This last point is especially important. The fact is that a poor learning environment is not just a front-end issue that affects new hires; it is a pervasive problem that affects the sales organization at all levels. Why? Because selling is a constantly evolving learning process. Think of all the instances that create new learning curves, even for veteran and top-performing salespeople:

  • You launch a new product.
  • You change your pricing structure.
  • You open a new sales channel.
  • You re-engineer your selling territories.
  • You move into a new market segment.
  • You adopt a new sales methodology/sales process.
  • You shift your marketing approach.
  • You adopt a new tool (for example, a new CRM system).
  • Your competitor does any of the above.

So what’s going to change the game for sales teams? I believe the answer is video role-play. Our clients use our video-based software Rehearsal VRP, to help sales teams practice and perfect their selling and communication skills. The process is simple and requires only a web cam and an Internet connection:

How does it work?

  1. Salespeople watch a short video from their sales manager, and then record a response to the question or role-play prompt (for example, sales managers could ask reps to respond to a prospect’s price objection or to a question about how your offering differs from that of the competition.)
  2. Salespeople then submit the recording to their manager or mentor for review. The person who reviews the recording then provides video feedback as well as a numerical score.
  3. The numerical scores are tallied and the top-ranked responses are added to a Leaderboard. This allows an organization to build a library of “Best Selling Practices” that everyone can view and learn from.

Rehearsal VRP software poses a number of advantages. Firstly, sales managers are able to scale the learning environment quickly. This means that when a competitor comes out with a new product, managers can disseminate a role-play quickly to all of their salespeople, who then can begin crafting a successful response to use during conversations with customers.

Secondly, salespeople have a safe space in which to practice their skills. They can record themselves as much as they need to before sending their video for review. I’ve found that salespeople gain more confidence when they’re able to practice a skill on their own as opposed to being put on the spot in front of a group.

Finally, the leaderboard allows salespeople to learn from the best possible responses to your organization’s particular selling challenges.

Our clients are reporting that Rehearsal is helping them obtain better ROI on their existing sales training investments. One sales leader at Clorox has reported saving $1,500 a week in travel and expenses. Additionally, among a survey of 27 salespeople at AbbVie who are using Rehearsal VRP, 78% agree or strongly agree that it is helping them effectively understand and practice the Challenger Selling model.

Today, there’s no reason to let your reps sink or swim. Chat with us live or sign up to take Rehearsal for a test drive and see how you can start creating an optimal learning experience.

About the Author

Alice Heiman

Darik Volpa is a passionate entrepreneur. He’s started two successful software companies including Understand.com and Rehearsal VRP. Prior to this, Darik had a successful 10-year career at Stryker Corporation in various sales and marketing roles.