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You Need Flipped Sales Training – Here’s How to Do It

The flipped classroom is a hot topic in education today, to the point you would think it’s a new phenomenon.  While credit for the origin of today’s flipped classroom goes back to a couple of high school teachers in 2007, technology has been transforming and upending the learning process since the invention of writing – the pace has just accelerated.  And nowhere is the flipped classroom more important than in sales training.

Let’s talk about what it is and how to make it work in sales training.

What is the Flipped Classroom?

The concept is simple:  Take the things students used to do in class (listen to lectures) and the things students used to do outside of class (solve problems, practice)…and flip them.

Today’s flipped classroom looks like this:

  • Students access the lecture via technology outside the classroom
  • Class time is used for lab, problem-solving, application, and remediation

That’s it.

Why is the flipped classroom instructionally sound?

There are three reasons we prefer the flipped mode for learning, and sales training in particular:

  • Diverse learning styles and speeds mean everyone ingests content in their own way, at their own pace. While it’s impossible to deliver a lecture that serves this diversity, on-demand lecture/content allows students to use their own pace and style to learn.
  • Exposing everyone to the lecture is challenging when not everyone is there – and someone is almost always missing. Putting your lecture in the cloud eliminates the excuse of “I missed that day.”  There is no missing that day.
  • Quality of delivery improves with practice, and recording lectures invites practice. Most good instructors will do more than one “take” of their lecture, and edit/refine for best quality and clarity.  We think this beats a one-time live lecture!
  • More time for application happens once you remove content delivery from the classroom. This application time is essential to achieving higher-level learning objectives.

Salespeople NEED the Flipped Classroom!

Why?

  • Nobody sucks worse than sellers at sitting still for a lecture.
  • Sellers have extremely diverse learning styles.
  • Sellers have very low tolerance for wasting time hearing a lecture on something they think they already know.
  • Sellers are as unlikely as anyone to not do the homework if they’re not accountable for it.
  • Sales skills are all about higher-level learning objectives – using new behaviors.
  • Time together is too precious to spend it inefficiently (i.e., lecturing).
  • Sales training is too expensive to do anything other than practice

Do you believe?  If so, here’s a primer on how to start flipping your sales training.

How to Flip Sales Training

It’s not complex – here’s a schematic with a few simple steps to follow.

Activity Traditional training Flipped Classroom
Listening to a lecture (KNOW) Classroom Online
Problem-solving   (CHOOSE) Homework Blended
Practicing new behaviors  (DO) Homework Classroom

 

Step 1:  Record what you need sellers to KNOW.

The obvious step here is to just record your lecture into a camera or microphone.  But there are actually three parts to creating an online knowledge repository for your sellers:

  • Turn principles, stories, and examples into online lectures
  • Turn reference materials into job aids
  • Turn good examples and models into recorded best practices

Step 2:  Create a “supported homework” environment

Too often, students (and salespeople) leave class with a set of problems to tackle at home. In math, it may be quadratic equations.  In selling, it may be passing a certification exam or post- product training quiz.

The problem:  Solving problems at home is only as useful as it is supported. The minute learners get “stuck” on a problem, they typically abandon the homework.

To prevent this, create support mechanisms that help sellers do the work outside of class:

  • “Office hours” where a live instructor/SME is there to chat
  • Peer study groups where small groups of learners do homework together
  • Strong reference materials and job aids (see above)

Step 3:  Turn training into practice

The most important part of flipping the sales classroom is the increased focus on practice time.  In no other profession as complicated as sales do people practice less and play more.  You can rectify that in part by using as much of your live time (in-person or remote!) as possible to practice.

Here’s how to maximize the value of live training time with salespeople

  • Set the expectation for an immersive, intensive, engaged practice session
  • Provide pre-work that prepares sellers to be successful in practice (i.e., lecture/models online!)
  • Set your training environment to facilitate practice**
  • Put really good coaches in place and turn them loose to coach

**Environment is underrated.  If you want to facilitate practice, create as much of a game-day atmosphere as possible.  For example, when we work with medical device reps on selling in the lab, we put on scrubs and walk into a “lab” with “doctors.”

As you can see, flipping the sales classroom is not hard, but it requires a different level of thoughtfulness, preparation, and execution than traditional sales training.

A Quick Word on Your “LMS”

I put “LMS” (Learning Management System) in quotes here because a lot of companies don’t really have one, and the companies that do typically under- or mis-employ their system.

The good news:  You don’t need a fancy, formal, or expensive LMS to execute the flipped classroom.  We’ve helped clients execute with everything from Salesforce.com- based systems to freestanding sales enablement systems like MindTickle to home-grown systems using YouTube and Google Docs.

The important thing is using a system that salespeople will use.

Smart Sales Training is Flipped

It’s not complex, nor is it totally easy, but it is essential:  Flipping the sales classroom meets the needs of diverse sellers, puts the focus on application, and ultimately helps you get more time- and cost-efficient in the process of developing your sales talent.