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Interviews  |   Virtual Selling  |   Inbound Sales

Virtual sales training with IMPACT: Will it really help my team?

John Becker

By John Becker

Jan 18, 2021

Virtual sales training with IMPACT: Will it really help my team?

In 2020, the world went virtual. Now, in 2021, there’s no going back. Virtual sales are here to stay, and the businesses that are trained to thrive on virtual platforms will build and maintain momentum in the months and years ahead.

IMPACT co-owner and bestselling author Marcus Sheridan leads virtual sales team training for businesses ready to invest in their success. 

Over the course of six training sessions, Marcus illuminates the best practices that ensure sales reps will be experts in virtual sales. To ensure adoption, there are frequent role-plays and reviews of past sales call recordings, with each subsequent session building toward mastery and competency.

Here, Marcus explains why IMPACT’s virtual sales training is different — and why that’s a good thing. 

Training needs to be better

John: Why do you think so many virtual sales trainings fall short?

Marcus: Oftentimes, when someone talks about virtual selling, their big focus is not on the most crucial topic: how to effectively lead a sales conversation while on a video call. Remember, 71% of sales reps in the world are considered outside sales. And now, instead of going on site, we are doing it on video.

How do we create the same magic, create that same flow in the meeting, and how do we do it consistently? That’s what training needs to focus on. 

John: And that’s not being taught? 

Marcus: Not sufficiently. A lot of virtual sales training is focused on things like using LinkedIn, or prospecting and social media outreach. To sell virtually, people need to be great on video.

Oftentimes we feel that if somebody's good at selling in the traditional way, they'll naturally be good on video. So what we see is training on how to use the platform, but that is only a fraction of what they need. 

Sales reps need to be comfortable on camera. Virtual sales is way more than knowing how to change somebody's name on Zoom.

To be effective, sales training needs to be role-play based

If you’re asking sales reps to adapt to a new environment, they’re going to make some mistakes. That’s just how it is. Without role-playing, they’re going to be making those mistakes with customers and prospects. 

We can take great sales reps and make them great at virtual selling, but they need to learn, practice, and reflect. 

Growth comes from practice...and reflection

John: Can you give me an example of reflection?

Marcus: You’ve heard me talk about the importance of addressing questions to specific people on a sales call. If you don’t, one person comes to dominate and squash the other voices. We teach this, we practice this, and then we ask our participants to bring in videos of their own sales calls.

It’s not until you see yourself in action that you really realize how much you might be doing something. During the course of the training they can start to really watch themselves and become self-aware of these issues. 

John: Does everyone suffer from the same struggles? 

Marcus: Yes and no. About 80% of problems are similar from team to team. The rest are unique to that specific company. 

I’ve been working with a well-known household brand — and I’ve trained various divisions of their sales team. Even reps from different countries tend to have the same challenges as their company counterparts in another part of the world. 

Why role-playing is an essential learning tool

John: Why are role-plays so critical for this growth?

Marcus: If you can do things well with your team watching you, when you meet with a client, everything gets easier. 

John: Describe the training sessions you run.

Marcus: We work with groups of 25 to 30, in sessions of 60-90 minutes. These sessions repeat every week (or every other week, in some cases), for six sessions. This is what we’ve found to be the most optimal.

In every session, everyone speaks. I will call on people. This keeps them on their toes and keeps them focused. I want somebody new to be talking every 60 to 120 seconds. That's what makes it powerful. And they don't know what they’ll be asked next. Sometimes they're playing the role of the customer. Sometimes they're the salesperson. Sometimes they're the observer. 

Then, in a week we do it again. This builds momentum that you just don’t see in a single three hour workshop. 

Extending your learning after the training

John: After those six engagements, are there things that the sales team can keep doing within their company?

Marcus: 100%. Most organizations have a sales manager and underneath that sales manager, there's a group of reps. Oftentimes they'll have a one-on-one at least once a month. Once they go through this training, what we always teach (and we've seen great results with) is that the sales manager should see one new recorded sales call before each one-on-one. This allows managers to see the progress that someone is making. 

The more this happens, it becomes a part of the team’s DNA. They record a lot of those videos. They're self-aware because they're watching their own videos. Their managers are watching their videos, and therefore they’re constantly getting better. It becomes a culture of feedback and development. 

It's actually pretty exciting. Never have we had more opportunities to give better coaching for our sales teams than we do right now. 

Why a marketing agency can lead great sales training

John: Many people think of IMPACT as a marketing agency. Explain how that’s not really who we are.

Marcus: I think if anybody looks at marketing today and doesn't see it as completely integrated with sales, or looks at sales and doesn’t see marketing, they’re off track. They just are. If an agency is saying that they do marketing, but they're not working with sales teams as well, they’re off track. It's just not aligning with what today's buyer is expecting or wanting. 

To think that we could be effective working with a singular department is naive. You just can't have one without the other. IMPACT is a digital sales and marketing agency. Sales has always come first — and it has always been tied to the work we do with marketing teams. 

On a personal level, I started as a salesperson. I spent 10 years selling swimming pools. So I approach things with a sales-first mentality. 

Whenever I’ve done inbound workshops and training, it’s been with the purpose of bringing sales teams to see the vision of content marketing. 

Right now, sales teams need help, and its marketers who can help them, if they work together. Any marketing of sales initiative is incomplete if it doesn’t include both departments. 

John: Can you talk about IMPACT’s experience and expertise that allows us to be a thought leader in the virtual sales training space?

Marcus: We were one of the first agencies our there — maybe the first agency — that started teaching companies how to do video in house. We’ve long believed that video needs to be in your company’s DNA, in both marketing and sales. 

Video is an integral part of of digital selling. We were the agency that defined the term assignment selling and taught clients how to integrate content into the sales process. We were the first agency that really put on a true digital sales and marketing conference rather than just a digital marketing conference. And we had more sales people attend than marketers, which is unheard of. 

We ourselves have been doing video-only sales with our sales team for more than three years. We're way ahead of the curve on that. We’re a B2B company (just like many in our audience) and we’ve been selling our services via video calls for years. 

In everything we do, we seek to innovate and optimize, and we’ve trained thousands of sales people and sales teams to be the best they can be with virtual selling.

That’s the expertise we can offer. 

Reflecting on months of training

John: How has this experience leading these trainings been for you? What have been your big takeaways?

Marcus: At this point I've spent at least a couple hundred hours training doing these trainings since COVID started. It’s been very enjoyable — and very invigorating.

One of our largest clients is a well known multinational corporation, who I mentioned earlier. We did training with their North America division. Then, I worked with South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. And I’m doing their Indonesia division next. 

What’s been so interesting is that across this great variety of locations, I’ve seen many of the same struggles. The company culture is consistent, the sales process is consistent, and the challenges are consistent. 

Everyone has room to grow. That’s been fascinating to observe. 

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