Case Study: Transforming Sales Training
Richardson is a global sales training and performance improvement company focused on helping organizations drive revenue and grow long-term customer relationships. From its earliest roots, Richardson has maintained a focus on helping sales organizations face their toughest challenges and drive results. As a global leader in the sales training industry, Richardson is known for helping sales professionals learn, master, and apply learned behaviors in the field with their customers, helping sales professionals push beyond the expected to lead markets, uncover opportunities, and strike out in new directions.
Challenge: A Lack of Innovation in the Sales Training Market
Richardson was offering customers instructor-led training options, along with outdated e-learning modules. Facing increased pressure to provide a more engaging and adaptive learning experience that aligned with professionals’ demand for digital, the company realized an urgent need to deliver a scalable solution that would appeal to a wide-ranging audience of learners, while standing out from the plethora of one-size-fits-all competitors.
When SVP and Chief Product Officer Chris Tiné joined Richardson, he made it a priority to search for a partner that could help them fill the digital learning void in the sales training market. He was looking to drive meaningful engagement that would make salespeople want to change their behavior. “We were up against the challenge of finding a partner to help us understand the difference between the digital hype in the marketplace and what customers really need in order to be successful,” says Tiné. “The sales training world lacked a digital, cloud-based, adaptive tool that blended assessment, learning, gamification, and analytics in an effective manner. We needed a unique perspective to digital learning to help us transform the way we deliver our product.”
At the time, sales organizations were having a unique challenge: Although they understood training was a necessity, they also felt like every minute not spent in the field selling meant losing a sale or productivity toward a sale. Richardson knew its training program wouldn’t be judged by other training programs, but against other major online players on the market such as YouTube, Google, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) players such as Udacity, Coursera, or edX. Richardson needed to step up its online training.
Richardson had to invest a lot of time and capital to think about their content, including many days on the road meeting in person with customers to get their input and hear their thoughts about the digital sales team approach. They set out to create learning pathways, in which each salesperson can start their learning journey based on where they are with their current knowledge in a 18- to 24-month sales training journey.
Solution: A Partnership to Better Engage Buyers and Move the Sales Training Needle
Less than a year after forming a partnership, Richardson and BenchPrep launched Richardson Accelerate, a solution that provides various online training programs to inspire and motivate sales teams to better engage with buyers and drive results. Accelerate enables Richardson to offer its customers an adaptive platform that includes all of the components they need to engage sellers, provide real-time visibility into performance, and run a successful blended online learning program.
Richardson sales professionals now have access to assessments, online learning, video, social learning, reporting, leaderboards, gamification, and other interactive engagement drivers. At the same time, managers have real-time access to their sellers’ performance and confidence levels, giving them an edge to make coaching more precise, personalized, and effective. The program has eliminated the need for sales organizations to build each of these components on their own in a learning management system, providing a more efficient and effective way to train employees.
According to Tiné, the role the instructors played in all of this was pivotal. Richardson had to think through how to still engage instructors in the broader digital sales training approach, and help them realize they didn’t need to do the menial tasks that sometimes took place in the previous workshops. With Accelerate, the moment the instructors walked into the classroom, they knew every learner more intimately, and every student was more prepared to come to class.
The Accelerate platform’s online sales training programs include consultative selling, consultative negotiations,coaching, and more. Richardson uses mobile-first technology to optimize the learning experience for sellers and sales managers on the move. Lessons are delivered online in self-contained, bite-sized modules of learning that are independent and easy to digest. Short,video-based scenarios make learning fast and bring skills to life by demonstrating the difference between effective and ineffective selling.
To engage sellers, the Accelerate online platform meets learners where thay are currently, allowing them to learn at their own pace and on their device. It also provides managers and coaches with data and analytics to promote learning interventions, when and where needed.
Accelerate online sales training programs use built-in touch points to provide the data sales coaches need to guide sellers along their paths to skill improvement. Baseline assessments benchmark starting points and prepare sellers for learning. Formative quizzes during the program check progress and redirect learning. An end-of-course assessment shows exactly how far learners have come and where they need more focus. Confidence scoring allows learners to self-identify topics that make sense to them and those that feel a bit shaky. Topics can be sorted according to learner confidence and can be revisited, if needed.
In addition to benefiting the learner experience, Richardson’s digital transformation has yielded valuable results for the business:
- Speed to market: At the time of launch, Richardson’s need for speed to stay relevant in the training space was critical. Tiné notes that BenchPrep’s team rallied to get Accelerate live and market-ready in less than 9 months, which jumpstarted their digital transformation.
- Global scale: The platform’s cloud-based infrastructure has allowed Richardson to deliver a meaningful training experience to more users than ever possible before. Whether a company needs to reach 20 or 10,000-plus professionals, content is delivered in a consistent manner that meets the needs of clients across industries, generations, and size, opening the door to global opportunities, as well.
The Best Way Forward
A classroom setting continues to seve as a vital component for an effective sales training experience, although that has taken a backseat during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ability to interact, observe, imitate, and receive feedback is crucial to interpersonal and soft-skill development. At the same time, sales professionals have high demands to meet their quotas and bring in revenue for their organaizations, limiting their time to be out of the field to attend training courses.
Through a blended approach, Richardson combines instructor-led classes with the Accelerate program to drive higher engagement and success across the training journey:
1. Lessons (in Accelerate): Introductory course material is accessible to learners, helping them become familiar with concepts, terminology, and models that will be covered in a classroom setting.
2. Instructor-led workshop: Richardson provides a focused session devoted to practicing, coaching, and providing live feedback on actionable and observed behaviors.
3. Learning modules (in Accelerate): After the classroom session, participants sustain the knowledge through online learning. Video-based scenarios, quizzes, and other interactive elements provide learners opportunities to practice, test, and validate skills learned.
4. Feedback and social learning: Robust reporting through a data and analytics dashboard allows managers to monitor progress and determine where additional coaching is needed. Social learning and gamification enable learners to create a community of peer-to-peer support, while also engaging in some friendly competition.
Technology played a big role in making this happen, but what was truly transformational for Richardson and its customers was the way the technology was packaged, delivered, and deployed. The transformation required major changes to internal processes at Richardson. The company had to change its team structures to sell digital workshops and physical workshop solutions. It also hired an agile coach, who came in and trained the entire organization on agile methodologies, and a product manager, who had a digital product background—both critical employees in making the digital transformation a success.
Richardson implemented a blended training program for a new Client Service Leadership team at iProspect, a global digital marketing performance agency, that began with content on Richardson Accelerate. Skills covered in the program ranged from consultative selling skills to developmental sales coaching for managers. Participants learned more about the skills in a series of instructor-led classes, allowing time to practice in customized role-plays that were relevant to iProspect’s day-to-day business. After the classroom, participants sustained the knowledge through Richardson Accelerate features such as on-demand videos scenarios, quizzes, mobile app reinforcement, and competitive leaderboards.
“By using the data and insights from the platform, we were able to tailor the content to the needs of our particpants,” explains Robyn Pratt, director of Learning and Development at iProspect.
“When I started engaging with the online portal, I was really excited and surprised what I was seeing,” notes Elizabeth Vance, group account director at iProspect. “The content was strong, the videos were great, and the quizzes were helpful because it was gut checking from what I was learning. I was realizing I actually didn’t know how much I thought I did, so it was really helpful.”
Adds Dessa Lambert, account director at iProspect, “The results we have seen from the training from the director’s group has been exciting. We are constantly tracking the conversations that we are having. In some forms, it’s to upsell a service line or consultative service, in other regards, it’s just improving the relationships overall. We see that across the board.”
Results by the numbers from using Richardson Accelerate from iProspect:
- 22:1 ROI attained from the training program
- 17 percent overall increase in consultative skills knowledge
- Average rating of 2.9 (out of 3) on overall training experience from participants
Lessons Learned: Steps to Prepare for Digital Transformation in Your Organization
Finally, there are five important key steps that leadership in organizations of any type need to take before successfully going through a digital transformation. These include:
1. Document and agree upon macro changes happening in your industry.
2. Audit your existing learning portfolio to stress test against the changes.
3. Identify critical gaps and points of failure, both short term and long term.
4. Study digital transformation of peers and organizations from adjacent industries
5. Assign an executive sponsor who owns the learner lens to lead the mindset shift in your organization
Richardson went through its digital transformation in phases. It launched in 2016, started gathering data in 2017, and by 2018, saw major improvement in business outcomes. As Tiné cautions, “Don’t expect everything to change overnight. Good things take time.”
Ashish Rangnekar is the co-founder and CEO of BenchPrep,a provider of cloud-based learning products for corporations, training organizations, and nonprofits