While remote work was a quick solution to pandemic-related quarantining and social distancing efforts, it reflected a then-already emerging trend in the workplace toward hybrid and WFH options. Today, it’s become fully normalized, and 85% of managers expect remote work to be here to stay permanently. For many businesses, it’s time to stop debating if remote and hybrid work will continue and focus on how remote work can be as productive and profitable as possible. This paradigm shift will dramatically impact sales teams, affecting everything from sales performance management to customer engagement methods to remote sales training.
Remote training, in particular, has been a concern for sales organizations across every industry. How do you onboard new sales reps and create a good company culture? How do you train salespeople to stay on message and use company-specific best practices? How do you reinforce training from a SKO or national sales meeting? Also, how do you evaluate each employee’s performance and give them the right tools to do better?
Start creating a modern remote sales training approach that takes advantage of new technology—including artificial intelligence—so your team stays ready for fully remote selling and account management. This guide identifies some of the most common problems you may see in your current program and how to use technology-based training to address them better.
3 Problems Managers Face With Hybrid and Remote Sales Training
Before you transform your remote sales training processes or start building out a playbook in earnest, take a moment to evaluate what isn’t working in your organization. You can make sure those points are fully resolved by identifying specific problems that plague your trainers or your sales employees. These are some of the most common problems sales managers see:
1. Holding Onto Traditional Training Practices
For most salespeople, conventional training tactics never worked well. Prominent sales seminars couldn’t address the needs of employees with widely varied skills and degrees of experience. One-on-one training would be sporadic and too cumbersome for training managers to coordinate for long. Scripts and roleplay scenarios were also awkward, disliked, and too detached from real-world scenarios salespeople faced. Just as importantly, conventional sales training techniques and content became outdated almost as soon as they were created: cold calling, relationship management, and demos change radically every year, and sales reps can’t trust the advice they’re given.
As haphazard and unpredictably effective these methods were in a pre-pandemic world, they’re even less effective in hybrid and remote sales training applications. You can’t gather large teams together in a conference room. One-on-one training might be logistically easier over a video call, but giving everyone enough attention is still hard. And the old training materials your corporation has from before 2020 are more outdated than anyone might have imagined. It’s time to let traditional methods go.
2. Not Prioritizing Data Tracking
Just like profitable revenue practices involve analyzing large swaths of customer and industry data to identify prospects, customer trends, and high-performance sales techniques, sales managers do best when they have a lot of data about their team. However, there are a lot of pitfalls in your way:
- Tracking attendance at online or in-person events gives you little insight.
- Paper-based training assessments and feedback are hard to quantify and track over time.
- Even experienced trainers can track only so many assessment factors simultaneously, leading to incomplete or arbitrary feedback.
- Once you have the data, what can you do with it beyond giving your employees scores and only addressing apparent areas for development?
As you develop a new approach, prioritizing data collection and generating actionable insights will be essential.
3. Not Getting Engagement—Or, More Plainly, Not Being Engaging
Most conventional sales training practices are passive: reading a book, listening to a seminar, getting tips or requirements from a manager… This doesn’t set the stage for effective learning. Introducing more active learning and participatory aspects to training can increase engagement and effectiveness.
But even during the transition to remote work, companies have relied on passive methods: recorded lessons, PDFs and static SOP documents, and action items that focus more on completion as an easy metric to check. Now is your opportunity to look for more engaging training resources to facilitate active learning and practice.
These three challenges are common are sales organizations of every size and niche. As a result, many sales teams may feel like training is cursory or a waste of time.
But Remote Sales Training Is More Important Than Ever
A great experience during the sales process is one of the most important factors buyers consider when making a first-time purchase or deciding to work with a business again. It sits in third place (just behind product quality and price concerns), with 73% of all customers wanting a good experience. The same survey found that 42% of shoppers would pay more for a better sales experience, and 65% feel more persuaded to purchase by good interactions than good advertising.
Excellent experiences must be at the heart of how sales organizations run their business. The marketplace is too crowded to risk alienating customers, having aggressive or awkward cold calls, or dropping the ball on a customer question. With the proper remote sales training, interactions can look like this:
- Sales reps who can easily navigate your CRM while on the phone
- Customers get answers with the correct information and the right messaging, no matter how technical your products are
- Sales reps who know how to navigate confusion, frustration, and uncertainty reflexively
To get those outcomes, use the correct remote training tools: AI-powered platforms to help your reps actively train on the processes, messaging, and tools they need to do the job well.
How to Use AI to Power Remote Sales Training
Businesses have seen a surge in the use of AI since December 2022, but it goes far beyond ChatGPT-powered add-ons to programs in your existing tech stack. Artificial intelligence can compile extensive data sets into actionable insights, deliver real-time support and answers through a well-trained internal chatbot, and even automatically update customer profiles from your organization’s different data streams. (After all, 86% of B2B customer contacts expect sales reps to know the information they previously shared with other departments.)
But where AI shines the most is in remote sales training. Use these different avenues to transform your training program into a more active, engaging, and impactful process:
1. Choose an AI-Powered Platform That Delivers Interactive Experiences
Despite the logistical difficulties and dislike for exercises like sales call roleplaying, they can be tremendously powerful. AI software can generate interactive avatars that allow salespeople to practice interactions with an artificial customer or prospect. They can practice cold calling, performing demos, making the sale, and other scenarios. Because the customer avatar is an AI instead of a real person, it’s less embarrassing and awkward. Salespeople can also practice any time they want without waiting for a trainer to be available.
2. Develop Dynamic, Individualized Learning Tracks
AI delivers in this arena, too. Conventional sales training practices couldn’t use individualized learning tracks. Beginner sales people took part in regimented beginner lessons, and all salespeople had to participate in general training and annual or quarterly assessments. But this can be a waste of time for everyone: experienced salespeople may not learn new tactics, and entry-level salespeople may not be ready for all the information.
Personalized learning tracks based on assessments, progress, and rate of progress through learning modules are much more engaging and efficient. Each of your employees will learn new skills (and be able to practice them) based on their individual learning needs. AI is crucial here because it can analyze all the data to recommend different modules or focus on specific areas for improvement.
3. Use AI to Deliver Feedback
Salespeople need objective and immediate feedback to flourish. Assessment scores and recommendations long after an exercise is complete don’t give salespeople advice they can use, and they can’t immediately put helpful tips into practice. But AI coaches and assessment tools can immediately evaluate performance in an exercise to give feedback, make recommendations, and be ready to try the exercise again. AI tools can even offer real-time advice to guide the activity.
This accelerates learning by eliminating delays from manual, in-person assessments.
4. Track Progress for Everyone—Comprehensively and Individually
Sales managers and L&D teams also benefit from giving sales reps AI-powered tools for conducting remote sales training. You have instant insight into each rep’s engagement in training, growth, and continued development needs. You can also survey progress for your team to uncover where training resources need to become more robust. Much like AI tools on the sales side eliminate manual work that cuts down on time for selling, AI tools on the training side give you more time and information for improving training and team performance.
Power Your Remote Sales Training With Artificial Intelligence
Just because you can’t sit down with your sales reps face to face for training exercises and feedback doesn’t mean you can’t train them. Today’s more technologically-centered work environments can make it better. Quantified sales training simulator and AI coach give salespeople constant access to dynamic, real-world training simulations and instant feedback, coaching, and support. Reach out today to see how your remote training programs get stronger with AI.