Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, sales professionals have been displaced from a world built around interpersonal engagement to one conducted via Zoom and e-mail. Now offices are opening up, and if anyone is going to relish a return to business as usual, it’s sales professionals.
While many companies began making a return to the office in mid-2021, uncertainty surrounding current events has seen a return to remote working in major cities across the globe. The details of how work environments will look in the remainder of 2022 and beyond are yet to be finalized; however, many expect that most businesses will adopt a hybrid model, which balances office time with remote work.
2020 and 2021 also showed that the sales forces that succeeded in the recent past and are most prepared for the future are agile, adaptable, and creative—combining hard skills such as data literacy and market analysis with well-developed soft skills such as communication, persuasiveness, and teamwork.
At the same time, many companies have cut back on learning and development (L&D), with 59 percent of the U.S. workforce reporting fewer workplace learning opportunities since the pandemic began.
If only there were a way to capitalize on this new work environment with a distributed sales team, which has already learned how to work remotely but is tired of Zoom training seminars; a way to motivate a sales force through immersive, gamified learning, and boost engagement while also improving a sales department’s data literacy, and thereby increasing future revenue. Well, there is. Computer-based training simulations can do all of this and more.
Dynamic, Immersive Experiences
Training simulations are not new, but they are fast developing from once clunky, limited tools into dynamic, immersive experiences that provide participants with a chance to enjoy sharpening their sales skills. They also create responsive decision-makers who use real-time feedback of data to refine each step of their process, both in-game and in the real world.
As Jeanne Meister highlights, the workforce of 2022 is looking for flexibility, mentorship, and collaboration. Exactly these attributes are the strength of modern training simulations. Once only affordable to multinationals, training simulations are now easily scalable and adaptable to companies with limited L&D budgets. The best training simulations are also cloud based, so they can be delivered remotely—reducing the logistical costs of on-site delivery and capitalizing on a workforce’s fluency with remote working skills.
Another reason training simulations will motivate your sales team during this period of “return-anxiety” is their focus on experiential learning, or learning by doing. This is the opposite of a remote seminar led by an expert talking over some slides. Instead of being passive learners, training simulations place sales professionals back in the cockpit, challenging them with a simulated environment that puts all their knowledge and training to the test. They can run a business or manage a sales department while applying different strategies and learning from their consequences without the fear of committing costly mistakes with real-world implications.
Simulations also use engaging techniques such as gamification to motivate learners while developing critical hard skills such as data literacy and data-driven decision-making. As Stephen Dioro and Cam Tippings highlight, trainers face key obstacles when trying to instill these skills in sales forces, meaning they should look toward game-based modalities, such as business simulations, which combine the energy and competition of a workshop with the scientific discipline of a test, learn, and iteration cycle.
No matter how working environments evolve throughout the year, the need for training that can energize the competitive, collaborative spirit that is in the DNA of every successful sales team will remain. As such, learner-led, collaborative, and engaging training modalities such as computer-based simulations are likely to play an increasingly vital role in preparing sales forces for a data-driven future.
Case Study: HFX Training
Challenge: HFX Tech partner Cam Tipping, together with Professor James Henderson from IMD business school, conducted a SABRE Competitive Market Driven Strategies Program with a group of 40 globally dispersed executives. Cam, based in BC, Canada, and James in Lausanne, Switzerland, used a combination of Zoom and a new technology called “Prof Behind the Glass” to deliver the computer-based simulation program.
Solution: In order for this type of online training to succeed, there are a couple of factors we consider essential. At HFX Training, we are dedicated to ensuring these so-called “key success factors” (KSFs) are characteristic of all of our solutions:
KSF 1: Business Simulations
While it is possible to train learners of management disciplines using classic chalk-and-talk, lecture-based training, we know gamified, simulation-based learning is a much more effective way, not only of teaching concepts and skills, but also of driving learner engagement.
KSF 2: Cloud-Based Games
At the heart of successful online simulation-based training are sophisticated, cloud-based simulation games. Cloud-based games mean learners can access the game from anywhere and via any device. By being able to access the game interface directly in this way, all members of a team, even when geographically dispersed, get to more deeply engage with the game-play.
KSF 3: Expert Instructional Support
Simulation games can be fun when played in isolation, but they are best used in the context of an instructed course, to help bring curriculum concepts to life. As such, it is essential that the games come with expert instructional support. With HFX Training, this support is offered—depending on the instructional context—via:
- Digital courseware (such as teaching videos, exercises, case studies, and worksheets).
- Remote help desk
- Live instruction (as was the case with this particular client)
KSF 4: Leverage the Latest Communications Technology
The final key success factor is this: effectively leveraging communications technology to benefit the user experience (UX) and keep participants engaged, even from afar. Some key tools we use at HFX include:
- Course Delivery Platform
- Videoconferencing software
- Presentation technology
Result: Although the group missed the social interaction that comes from an on-site training program, the rewards of this training format were several:
- For the students, no long flights to Switzerland, and being able to connect with so many people while staying safe and learning valuable strategic planning and management skills
- For the company, savings on transport and accommodation dramatically reduced overhead while delivering practically identical learning outcomes.