Last week one of our larger clients asked if I would do a web seminar for some of their US-based and European distance trainers. I knew the request was coming because for some time they had been pulling back from the expense of traditional sales training. Web seminars, podcast and other distance learning approaches were quickly replacing face-to-face interactions.
First, I applaud their efforts. There are many kinds of sales training that can be conducted at arms length and on demand with great effectiveness. But as managing executives attempt to eek out profitability at any cost and from every business process, there will no doubt be an unintended consequence on many company’s long-term sales efforts.
For years we’ve admonished sales people to create deeper relationships with their customers. Now, an often unbalanced approach to sales training threatens to undo our previous guidance creating greater distance between sales professionals and those who are so critical to their future.
Training is not a check in a box – it’s an outcome.
Someone once said that when the only solution we have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. And too often we compromise outcomes because we’re determined to make virtual sales training work at any cost. As an example, we get this request on occasion… “Is there some kind of presentation skills training we can do virtually? It’s so costly to put 10 people into a room and work their personal communication skills in high stakes sales settings.” I find myself at a momentary loss for words.
Making the wrong decision at this critical moment can have the unintended consequence (and risk) of giving people a false sense they’ve “been trained” when they really haven’t.
I could do an energetic web conference on presentation skills and the attendees would all feel they’ve been trained only to tank an important customer presentation the next morning (costing their company millions of dollars). In that case, the inappropriate application of learning carried a heavy cost indeed that far outweighed the training expense difference by a factor of 1,000x or more.
There’s certainly a case to be made for not wasting money and resources, but when the stakes are high, when the implications for me and my company are significant and far reaching, real human interaction at a reasonable cost will always produce more consistent results. It’s how we are wired as human beings because first and foremost the art of presenting is a relational skill, not a technical one.
We may have won the cost battle for the moment in sales training. But many will lose the overall revenue war in the longer-term to others who still understand the value of human interaction.