ASTD Sales Training Virtual Conference Series: Can the Virtual Classroom Replace the Traditional and Physical Classroom for Sales Training? with Martyn Lewis
Only a few years ago if I had been asked if we could move sales training from the physical classroom to the virtual I would have replied with a resounding no! At that time my company would have trained some 35,000 sales professionals and sales managers, every one of them in a classroom, conference center, or hotel meeting room. I would have questioned the level of engagement, participation, and collaboration in the virtual classroom. I would have questioned how we could incorporate role plays andexperiential learning in the virtual classroom. Since then the world has changed. In just a few short years we now work in a far more networked, collaborative, and mobile world. I have personally now seen what can be accomplished in the live virtual classroom. Imagine that we no longer need to hold our sales force hostage in a classroom where we fire-hose them information that likely will have little impact on their actual job performance. Imagine that we can now deliver training to them wherever they may be in more of a drip feed fashion. And then after each bite-sized learning module they then get the chance to put new ideas into immediate practice, and also collaborate with their own peers and coaches.Imagine that we can deliver subject matter experts into the classroom, from wherever they may be to further collaborate and share best practices. Imagine that we can integrate the learning, with the doing, and with coaching. Imagine that we can engage our learners with the same level of intrigue that TV has been doing for over 100 years to convey information and ideas. This is not just the promise, this is the reality. We have now delivered in excess of 700 training programs from our studios in the San Francisco Bay area to sales teams all over the world. So, now, my own thinking has been changed. I am no longer focusing on what we used to do in the physical classroom and thinking about how we do it virtually. I have now seen what we can do in the live virtual classroom that we could not have done in the physical. The very notion of putting a sales team into a physical classroom for several days to me seems antiquated. Caution is required, though.The siren call of PowerPoint and WebEx enables many to deliver poor content in an equally poor way. Dont let the speed and apparent low cost of providing sales training over the web lead you into these deep and dangerous waters. There needs to be a greater focus and higher level of expertise applied to the design and delivery of sales training that will be delivered in the live virtual classroom. However, the returns for those who get it right are significant. In a recent and most comprehensive survey focusing on virtual sales training published by ES Research Group, the shift away from the physical classroom is clearly spelled out. www.ESResearch.com/virtual-report. The survey concludes that the barriers to entry (to virtual training) are predominantly attitudinal rather than factual. So, next time you hear someone lamenting the passing days of sales training in the physical classroom maybe they, like myself a few years ago, have simply not seen the possibilities and experienced the results possible in this new world. Martyn Lewis is the Founder of 3g Selling LLC as well as the President and CEO of Market-Partners, Inc.In these roles he has worked with sales leaders and teams across a broad range of industries, from start-ups to industry giants. Prior to 3g Selling and Market-Partners, Martyn had extensive executive, sales and marketing experience, including President and CEO for Drake International in North America where he led a large, multi-divisional sales force to reverse the companys rapidly declining revenue. Martyn also served as VP of Marketing and Sales Services for Digital Equipment of Canada, where he led several hundred sales professionals. Martyn acts as an advisor to a number of executives in the high technology industry and is active on several advisory boards and boards of directors. He has developed a reputation as a dynamic speaker and authority on live virtual sales training, as well as sales and marketing processes.