Flip Sales Training and Convert 13% More Leads

In the same way that our traditional education system often prevents students from reaching their full potential, I believe standard sales training also hinders the growth of your reps. It leaves them unable to learn and adapt, and ultimately holds them back from hitting their number. The problem is that reps—like students—do the bulk of trial and error learning on their own, missing out on valuable collaboration, coaching, and peer feedback.

One emerging concept breaks this mold, focusing on individual growth and coaching rather than standard lessons and busy work. Called the “flipped classroom,” the concept stresses that teachers do what they do best in their time with students: teach. Students take the “lesson” home, review it—read, watch, or listen— in a comfortable environment, and come to class to work through problems and scenarios with live teacher feedback. The “flip” reverses the normal routine—hard work alone and guided reading or lectures in class—and dramatically increasing interaction and learning retention. Flipped classrooms, tap into social learning theory, which are the foundation of “MOOCs,” Massively Open Online Courses, like Khan Academy, and are gaining popularity in real classrooms.

The flipped classroom relates to sales training

The Flipped Classroom, via University of Washington

The results from the flipped classroom are short of miraculous. In the first classroom that used the method, overall student failure rate for the entire school dropped from 30% to under 10%! Students were not only performing better in class, but were actually learning and engaging with lessons.

70% of sales reps forget all lessons within one week of training, wasting billions of dollars a year.

How does this relate to sales training? The scenario is exactly the same: 70% of sales reps forget all lessons within one week of training, wasting billions of dollars a year. Like the struggling classrooms, the problem is not with the reps or teachers, but with the methodology itself. For Sales Kickoff, most companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to fly their sales team to a central location, just to spend 2-4 days sitting quietly side-by-side and watching presentations. Assuming, optimistically, that these reps retain 10-20% of what they heard in the presentations, the return on investment of this sort of event is wildly punishing.

What if we were to flip the Sales Kickoff event? What if you were to have sales associates watch and digest the presentation material in advance of the kickoff and then use the precious, and costly, time spent at the kickoff event doing critical thinking, message alignment, and collaborative skill development?

Flipping the sales training process is exactly what CommercialTribe succeeds in doing with an online development platform that uses multiple video modalities—video practice, role play, screen recording—to practice and develop the tribal knowledge lessons home with them, training and practicing in a safe, comfortable environment. Later, working with managers and peers, reps are able to gain valuable feedback from the experts—your sales enablement “teachers” —giving them the opportunity to master new sales and marketing knowledge. Reps ultimately “train before the training,” absorbing knowledge and constructs before testing and adapting them with one another.

To learn how one customer implemented this solution and boosted overall lead conversions by 13%, contact us at info@commercialtribe.com or simply register for a demo below.


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It’s time to rethink how we train our reps

“Education has been preparing our students for an economy that no longer exists. Technology and globalization have transformed our society.”
Dr. Yong Zhao
Director of the Institute for Global and Online Education

Our Industrial Education System

I recently attended a conference and was spell-bound by a keynote speaker, Dr. Yong Zhao. A native of China, he left that country to get an advanced degree in the U.S. and has since become an international expert on education. At the conference, he postulated a startling theory:

With all the emphasis on Common Core and Leave No Child Behind here in the U.S., we have focused our efforts on readiness for college and career. But in spite of heroic efforts, we keep hearing statistics that make us all depressed: Over 50% of recent college graduates in the US are unemployed or under-employed. Our kids consistently rank behind students in other parts of the world on tests in the key STEM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). How behind? According to Teach for America, the United States ranks 25th in math and 17th in science among developed nations. Ouch.

But what Dr. Zhao said next made me sit up in my chair and take note, as I thought about the thousands of sales execs I’ve had a hand in hiring or training over my career. He pointed out that teaching that STEM curricula—or any curricula for that matter—in the way we do today in classroom settings, books and tests, is actually preparing our kids for an economy that no longer exists. Just like the industrial age transformed us from an agrarian economy to world where factories were king, we’re now going through a similar transformation as we move into the age of entrepreneurialism and what I sometimes call ‘digital everything.’ The problem is, our educational system—and the way we typically train our sales teams—are still back training kids for the industrial age.

Our kids, and our sales teams, aren’t poorly educated. But as Dr. Zhao calls it, they’re ‘mis-educated.’

“They were prepared to look for jobs, but not to create jobs. They were prepared to solve problems, but not to identify problems or ask questions. They were prepared to follow instructions, but machines can follow instructions more precisely and more important, with less cost.”

The evidence? Can you name a great, innovative company coming out of the countries that are besting our kids at the rote curricula? Alibaba you say? OK. It’s an Amazon knock-off. Huawei? It got its playbook from GE. Samsung? It’s trying to copy Apple. That’s right. In spite of lagging behind in the core curriculum standards, we have some of the most entrepreneurial and creative business people in the world today. Many of our best leaders didn’t even finish college.

Preparing Our Reps for The New Age of Selling

That got my attention. And then I began thinking of how we typically train our reps.

Here’s how most of us do it. See if you agree:

  1. Bring reps together in a classroom or auditorium setting for a multi-day training on our new products or solutions
  2. Have multiple presenters (usually product or marketing types) talk about the latest ‘thing’
  3. Certify or role play to test their knowledge
  4. Send them forth to sell

Sound a lot like how we teach in school today? It did to me. It’s no wonder that typically one out of 3 new reps fail.

But how did our best reps really learn? They learned from their mentors. They observed, and stalked the best and imitated them until they got it right.

That observational/practice learning style has been proven to be the most effective in teaching new sales skills. But our training systems today are woefully behind. Not only do they not encourage that kind of mimicry and practice, most of our best reps don’t have the time, or the inclination, to teach and mentor. They’re busy selling.

It does not have to be this way.

Observational Learning At Scale

Solving the sales training dilemma takes two basic solutions:

1. Make it easy for our best reps to share what they know

  • Record one time, share it with many
  • Capture what they know when it’s convenient for them
  • Give them status/rewards for being the most sought after

2. Make it easy for our training reps to learn

  • Browse for the best/most relevant training content
  • Practice and self-critique until happy with the result, then up-load for review
  • Certify and or give status/rewards for completing the curriculum

The Sales Learning Cycle

sales learning cycle

At CommercialTribe, we took this challenge to heart. We created an online platform that makes it easy for the best reps to contribute what they know—and get rewarded for it. And even more critically, we created a platform that enables younger tenured reps to upload and practice bite-size pieces of a training curriculum. Watch. Practice. Record. Re-record until happy with the result. Then Post for Review and comment and sharing. Just like a social media forum, but for our reps.

Think it won’t work? We’ve found that reps using the system practice and record an average of almost 7 times before posting for review. Yeah. That’s seven times more often than they’re practicing now.

It’s also what I call observational learning at scale. It’s sales training for the Digital Everything Age: By Reps, For Reps.


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