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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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Why Video is the Missing Ingredient in your Sales Training Plan

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As an industry, sales training has relied on a mixed bag of the same tricks – kickoff, webinars, sell sheets, roleplay, etc – each designed to promote learning and more effective selling.

Yet, into the 21st century, the facts remain stunning: according to a recent survey by Corporate Visions, only 41% of companies ask their reps to practice skills and messaging, and 34% say no one is responsible for coaching and certifying rep proficiency. The lack of a more robust training process results in the same set of outcomes that we’ve experienced for centuries: not enough reps meet quota, company goals are missed, and attrition rates remain high.

What Makes Video Different?

The way a rep learns varies from individual to individual, with no clear learning path that an organization can set. That means that sales leaders and trainers need a captivating and adaptive method to offer the least resistance to training for the most people.

Video differs from in-person learning or static content by offering a visual package that the viewer can interact with. In sales training, gaining a bigger share of a rep’s attention and focus pays immediate dividends, with the message sticking more often. Research by Brainshark suggests that “seeing and hearing messages increases audience retention by 3-6 times” versus traditional methods, boosting the viewer’s engagement and comprehension.

Video can be easily updated and highly reusable, making it easier for the training organization to revitalize content and deploy it across the team without a large lift.

Adding video to your sales training toolkit can help reps of all learning styles actually absorb and apply the right skills, messages, and behaviors in the marketplace.

How to Use Video

According to the above research by Corporate Visions, only 9% of sales teams are using video to engage their reps in practice. The progressive teams relying heavily on this medium, including Corporate Visions, have found some early data that suggests best practices for video.

At the end of 2014, CommercialTribe pooled its usage data and developed The Activation Hypothesis, an analysis of a year’s worth of videos, practice sessions, and interactions. While limited in its scope and size, the research suggested several key criteria to help plan a video-based practice program.

1. Keep videos short: 2-3 minutes

Our data found that reps lost interest in videos that lasted more than 4 minutes. Presenting a lot of content at once makes video content hard to digest in one sitting. Keeping videos short means more engaged reps and makes content updates easier to execute.

2. Aim for 3-5 review sessions per video

While reps in CommercialTribe practice best-in-class scenarios as part of their training program, many organizations are still just delivering one-way video for reps to watch. In either case, the same data holds true – reps need multiple views to truly absorb and apply the content. Give reps ample opportunities to dive back into videos, and measure how many times they review the content. If they are reviewing at least 3 times (assuming your videos are short), chances are high that reps are learning. The long-term results are also clear: reps feel more in control of their own learning.

3. Create opportunities for application

The ultimate test is always what are reps doing with this information: do they actually bring it into their customer conversations? Measuring this can be tricky. Tracking interactions in salesforce.com can demonstrate the type of conversations reps are having, but you can’t hear what they say on each call. Having reps practice what they will do differently is the best way to gain insight into whether behavioral change has taken place or not.

Why Not Just Video?

While video offers the most cost-effective and scalable medium for training, it is not a full replacement for your training program. Successful sales training relies on a blended approach to learning and must be reinforced by sales leadership.

A comprehensive program uses video to be more accessible but continues to use traditional, classroom-based learning, roleplay, and joint travel sporadically. The result is a program that is pervasive, reinforced, and effective. Though most reps from the YouTube generation will respond strongly to video, it may not appeal to hands-on or literary learners, who could end up absorbing less.

Creating ample opportunities for learning, with a wide variety of opportunities to consume and apply, offers the best chance for reps to adopt and apply the right skills, messages, and behaviors.

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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.