Remote training: what are the advantages for sales training?

frédéric vendeuvre Published by Frédéric Vendeuvre – 6 April 2023

Remote sales training: how effective and real is it?

For a long time, sales training has been deployed in a very simple “face-to-face” model. Either in “conference” formats, with groups ranging from 20 to hundreds of people, lasting between 1 hour and 3 hours on average; or in more “practical” formats, with situational exercises and smaller groups of between 8 and 15 people. These formats still exist, with disparities between different parts of the world. Smaller groups in Europe (on average 10) or in the USA, larger groups in Latin America or China for example, quite frequently up to 50. The arrival of blended learning over the last 10 years has slightly undermined this model. For years, companies have mainly sought to reduce the duration of face-to-face training, going from an average of 3 to 5 days in the 1990s to 1-2 days in general at the beginning of 2020. Companies saw this primarily as a way of reducing costs without changing habits too much. Because the sales force, as we often hear, is a separate category in the company: they need to see each other, to get together. Besides, we speak of “sales team”; it is an accepted term even if it often does not cover any reality. For many, they are also resistant to IT tools, the CRM being a good illustration of this lack of enthusiasm for digital tools. Moreover, on the eve of the pandemic, on average 87% of the formats used in sales training were still face-to-face (source: Cegos – European barometer of 6 countries).

Obviously, the pandemic upset this balance. Firstly, the sales staff found themselves having to sell at a distance, and secondly, the customers also got used to this way of working. The result? According to Mac Kinsey (February 2022), on a basis of 3500 companies surveyed, more than 60% are ready to spend more than 50K US dollars entirely remotely without physically meeting a salesperson, and even 27% are ready to spend more than 500K US dollars. These figures continue to rise in their survey repeated every three months. Sales managers have shifted to the development of hybrid and remote sales methods. The result over the last year, according to a Salesforce 12-month 2022 study, 32% of B2B sales deals were closed completely virtually, 34% in hybrid and only 34% purely face-to-face. B2B sales have therefore shifted to a hybrid mode, with a high proportion of remote sales, so sales training should follow?

Despite this irreversible changeover, many decision-makers (sales managers or HR managers) still favor face-to-face or even almost exclusively face-to-face formats. On average, almost 50% of sales training projects are still face-to-face. The arguments of those in favor of “classroom” training are often the same: our teams need to get together, they “can’t take” any more Zoom and Teams meetings. Moreover, sale is about interaction, about people, we need to see each other, we need an informal relationship. These arguments are perfectly understandable and difficult to dispute. Still…

Wanting people to meet, exchange and spend informal time in the evening after the training over a beer or a glass of wine is a useful objective, no doubt. But it is a management and team building objective, not really training and learning. “Drilling” a sales team for 2 days and letting them relax until sometimes late at night to start the 2nd day of training is not really the ideal learning environment.

Thinking that sales is about people and relationships is not incompatible with hybrid sales, with a lot of remote sales interactions and key moments of physical meetings, but much more spaced out. Favoring remote training courses for its salespeople is the best choice a decision-maker can make, for three reasons:

  • It is beneficial for the People, especially the Y generation, inevitably choose the distance learning course when it is offered to them. It is easier to fit into an agenda, easier to memorize in bite-sized chunks, alternating exchanges with peers, remote role-play practice with a tutor with more truly individualized time, time for immediate implementation on real cases, self-learning and teamwork in web classes. You learn better, you retain better, you can really practice on remote sales formats which are those where you need to make the most progress and over a learning period of a few weeks, more synchronized with your sales process and therefore time for feedback. How to do better?
  • It is good for the bottom line, the Profit: 100% distance learning formats, which alternate between various and coherent methods, save unnecessary travel and accommodation costs, estimated on average at 40% of the training budget of large companies. Why have indoor groups of 20 people over 2 days and pay almost half of the “travel and accommodation” budget when you can do more hours of remote, tutored and partly individualized training in smaller groups of 6 to 8 people? Why pay miles to your sales people to progress?
  • It is good for the Planet. Can we still ignore the carbon impact of our employees’ travel? With a group of 10 people, sales representatives often scattered over the territory, coming on average from a radius of 300 km, we can save 2 to 3 tons of CO2 on a training seminar (French figures based on a part of travel by train, which is more economical in CO2, and a part by plane for longer distances), knowing that a French person consumes, for example, about 12 tons of CO2 per year. Why talk about climate emergency if we continue to reason as if it only concerned others?

Everyone should therefore make their choices rationally and switch to a 90% tutored distance learning and multi-activity mode and 10% mixed or face-to-face, when the team building objectives and expected gains are greater than the objective of training their sales staff.

  • Logo linkedin