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The Power of Cumulative Practice

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Practice is an incredible tool for sales teams. What reps say is critically important to whether a deal closes or a prospect converts, and the better reps can share the right message, the more likely they are to see a positive outcome.

Yet, practice does not automatically get at what SiriusDecisions calls the #1 reason why reps fail to hit quota: the inability to articulate value.

Introducing practice to your organization is a great step forward to driving better alignment and understanding, but does not ensure that reps will remember or apply anything weeks later. Reps still forget most of the content within a few days.

Similarly, just because a quarterback reads the playbook once a month does not mean that they can apply the right plays over the season.

So what is missing? Repetition through cumulative practice.

Cumulative practice offers your team the chance to go beyond practice alone. The magic of practice forms only when practice is deliberate, repeated, and cumulative. This allows the greatest chance to truly cement concepts and to build upon what reps have already learned.

Back to the sports example – despite millions in endorsements and a demanding pro circuit, Rory McIlroy does not spend his free time signing autographs. Instead, you’ll find him on the driving range, practicing just as much as he did back when his career first started.

Why? The more often he practices and builds upon skills, the more likely it is that he will master more aspects of their game and win more often.

To truly accelerate learning for your reps, the chances to take concepts that they learned during onboarding or the latest product launch must be frequent. The most simple way to do this is to take whatever method you currently use for practice – perhaps a platform or even roleplay – and schedule it to be repetitious. Ensure that reps are engaging in practice every week or month, and create content to practice that builds upon existing skills.

CommercialTribe is proud that reps using our platform practice each scenario 7 times on average before submission. Yet, we’re more proud of that idea that the same reps are coming back into the platform repeatedly over their tenure to practice the same content again, building while learning something new. This dedication to cumulative practice helps reps produce incredible results – doubling pipeline values, boosting conversion rates across the pipeline, or hitting quota quarter after quarter.

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Video Alone Will Not Change Enterprise Sales Learning

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A great recent article in Training Industry – Video Bytes: Just in Time Sales Training – gets at a change happening across the enterprise: video is becoming the best medium for learning initiatives. The benefits of video are rather clear, with reduced travel costs, deep engagement, and reusable content, and the impact is certain to grow through the next decade.

But there’s a catch: video alone will not meet the needs of the changing enterprise.

Research from Corporate Visions backs up the case for video – while only 9% of companies surveyed are using video in a coaching setting, organizations broadly across industries are creating incredible volumes of content.

Why does video miss the mark?

Like any content medium, a video is only effective when it is watched and absorbed. Simply getting a rep to watch a new piece of video content does little to ensure that they engage with the material, take away thoughts and ideas, and implement them in the field.

With just video, the pressure is on the sales rep to seek the content, purposely review it as many times as they need to learn and take that new message into sales conversations. If those habits seem familiar, it is because they are common to top performers, those actively seeking to advance performance. Across the balance of the team, this proactive hunt is generally less active.

Chances are, reps will review the required content a few times, perhaps occasionally refreshing themselves afterward, but ultimately forgetting most of the new message. There simply is not a mechanism in place to make broad adoption of successful video commonplace or automatic.

What’s missing? Practice.

Practice, in contrast, gives sales dedicated opportunities to purposely engage with video and do so in a way that mimics what top performers are doing. The same videos that Training Industry rightfully recommends – short, topical, engaging pieces of content – are fit into a culture of practice, which expects sales to enter the platform, portal, or database, seek or be prescribed relevant content, and review it multiple times.

Rather than being just a replacement for standard learning whitepapers, video becomes a weapon of choice for Sales, Marketing, and Enablement to deploy messages and strategies rapidly, and know that reps are practicing, and then taking those ideas into the market.

We’ve covered the idea of building vs. buying a tool, but fundamentally, systems designed to execute video across the enterprise utilize workflows, lessons, or some form of practice to drive actual viewing and engagement. Building a tool internally often just means introducing a video database to the team, with the expectation that reps view, absorb, and apply – without a means of actually tracking adoption and ensuring a degree of engagement.

The result of deploying practice goes beyond video, lifting the suite of content used to share messages and skills with the organization. Yet, with the ability of video in particular to drive deep engagement, practice becomes an incredible ally in making messaging happen.

How is your organization using video? Is the delivery static or dynamic, requiring engagement?

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Video-Based Practice: Build or Buy?

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When evaluating the need for video-based practice in a sales training toolset, today’s market may seem confusing. After all, anyone can record themselves via an iPhone, save that file, upload it to a shared folder, and voila – video! But at some point, the technology reaches a point where your homegrown system has to be compared to a professionally developed platform, which can make all the difference in addressing the problem you are trying to solve.

There was a day not too long ago that CRM ran off of spreadsheets. Today, few companies would consider running their business off spreadsheets, and, like CRM, we may be approaching a similar tipping point with video-based practice solutions. Nevertheless, you still have two choices today: build or buy.

But are these choices really equal? We can peel back the full spectrum of costs associated with building a solution to see which option presents the most value.

Build

For larger organizations, the prospect of internally sourcing a video-based practice system seems promising. Video recording technology exists, and many of the typical components of a video platform are perhaps already created: content management, analytics, and commenting/feedback are all large parts of the solution.

In reality, while 70% of the work may be feasible, the last 30% is incredibly demanding, requiring domain expertise, time, and large investments. Organizations that we have worked with that have attempted to build their own solution more often than not drop the idea before even reaching a first prototype – after spending millions.

Beyond the features, though, are technical concerns that make a workable platform difficult to produce. While much has to be in place to make the system work – the basic view, practice, submit workflow, feedback tools, an in-house champion or training team, or even just budget – a well-constructed solution addresses the below broad considerations:

Recording and Sharing

Video practice solutions are built on the idea of the bi-directional video platform, which saves video content in a cloud-based platform, automatically sharing it with groups as needed, pairing it with content or activities, and allowing coaches to evaluate it. Even with webcams built into most computers, building a solution for teams to record video and share it across the company is time consuming and challenging. The recording technologies used in current-generation video-practice platforms are cutting edge, requiring dedicated R&D to reach and use reliably.

Analytics

A core part of a practice-based solution is the ability to track who watches content, how often they interact with it, and any performance increases that result. With an internal solution, these details are difficult to track – and costly to discover. While you can attempt to track practice through raw data alone, it is typically only possible to count how many times content is engaged with, and not by whom. This leaves a gap in your ability to understand intent and engagement, and ultimately to make more informed adjustments.

Security

With any enterprise tool, questions of scalability and security are paramount. Can an internal solution support a global or distributed team? Will it be secure and safe enough to support company intellectual property and information? Because sales messages and strategies are often the differentiator between a company and its peers, the idea of having these secrets leaked or shared inappropriately would be catastrophic.

Reliability and Scalability

A homemade system is at higher risk of breaking – without a dedicated team constantly developing it, bugs and long-term issues go unnoticed. When this happens, who is responsible for fixing it, and how? While it can be less expensive upfront to rely on existing tools, over the long term, in-house systems are more likely to fail and require more investment to repair, taking time away from an internal team trying to build the next product for you to sell.

Likewise, mass recording of video is not the same as mass consumption of video. Typical challenges include access to recording bandwidth and upload and routing speeds. With an internal investment, your IT team suddenly inherits support for an undocumented tool.

Cost

It is increasingly expensive to build an internal solution, due to the level of support, sophistication, and complexity present in most video-based practice systems. A team would look to a meaningful investment to build out a rudimentary internal system, which does not take into account updates, new features, or support and stability. Typical costs include research, development, licensing, team and training, bandwidth and storage, and time taken from marketable product development. Unlike an internal static content portal, video practice systems are dynamic, and will constantly require new investments in stability and administration.

Ultimately, the investment will require several injections of new support, directly financing a single-use tool.

All of these factors make internal development of a sophisticated, and thus effective, video practice platform unwise. The sheer volume of resources, time, and research will push delivery of the solution out across several years. By the time the system launches to your reps, it will be out of date.

When asking whether to build or buy a video-practice solution, we have already reached the tipping point. Unless your organization is prepared to become a provider of a video-based practice platform, it is far more effective to buy, rather than build.

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Your Sales Onboarding Videos are Too Long

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Sales enablement in the digital age means a whole new suite of resources available to impact learning and cater to changing habits. One of the most impactful methods of sharing information with your new hires is video, a chance for reps to actually engage with and absorb content. One profile shared by Brainshark highlights a 3 – 6x increase in learning retention with video, “compared to isolated audio or text/images alone.”

However, simply putting a video into the onboarding process is not enough. Often, reps get bored or distracted, missing the point of the exercise. Usually, this is not because of the rep, but because the delivery of the content itself is flawed: it is too long.

Analysis pulled from the CommercialTribe platform in 2014 provides a guidepost. We found that the most impactful videos were less than 3 minutes long. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise in the 140 characters or less world that we live in, but nevertheless, organizations still struggle with this concept in their delivery of information. Our finding also matches outside research on the subject, such as that from Rochester’s Philip Guo and edX, which suggests that ideal learning videos are shorter than 6 minutes.

The recommendation to “break lectures into small, bite-sized pieces” holds true. When those videos are intended for reps to observe and then practice (i.e. create their own), it’s even more important to abide by the 3-minute rule.

To reach our conclusion, CommercialTribe profiled its entire pool of usage data from 2014, determining not only the right length for the perfect training video, but also how curriculum, recording, and timeline work together to drive learning.

The benefits of small, targeted lessons are clear.

New hires absorb more

With a huge volume of content, HR materials, and skills landing on a rep’s desk in their first week, it can be hard to navigate through the noise. Keeping content short and concise helps reps pay attention and actually take home the lesson.

Reps can practice

Whether you use a practice-based training system or not, giving reps chances to review material and even repeat it as they would in the market is invaluable. With short videos, reps can more readily review it for proficiency and transition the information into their selling. Best of all? Reps can share and learn with their peers.

Content is recyclable

With large videos, it is easier for content to become dated or fail to be impactful. As a result, you have to throw away the project and start over.

When videos are short and focused, individual videos can be quickly updated or adjusted to maximize impact. As new products or messages launch, relevant units can be quickly replaced, avoiding the cost and effort of re-recording.