Smart Training with Video

By Henry Canaday

Budget pressures remain intense, but there is no letup in the demand for improving sales skills. That means finding affordable ways to train without yielding an inch on effectiveness.      

Video can be a highly useful and economical aid in sales training if used correctly, according to Jeb Brooks, executive vice president of The Brooks Group. The key is recognizing the limitations of video and choosing the best application. “The disadvantages are that video tends to be too generic and may not be interactive,” Brooks emphasizes.

Managers who hope video alone will boost sales numbers are in for a major disappointment. “The kiss of death comes when salespeople are forced to watch a video lecture,” Brooks says. “To be effective, video – or any training – has to show salespeople how they can sell more in their unique selling environment. Everybody’s selling environment is different. Training has to reflect that.”

First, trainers can use video clips in face-to-face sessions to make a lesson humorous and memorable. “We use clips from popular movies like Tommy Boy and Glengarry Glen Ross to drive home a point,” Brooks explains. “YouTube can also be a great source of ideas.” But he warns against some YouTube clips that advocate manipulative selling.

Second, trainers can use video tools to deliver sales-skills training to a dispersed sales force or set of channel partners that they cannot afford to bring in for classroom training. Brooks stresses that these online sessions must be interactive and energetic, just like a live session. “Salespeople demand a dynamic training environment. They must be able to ask questions and interrupt to say that they do not understand a point or, ‘I had this problem, so what should I do?’ And you must be able to quiz them.”

The Brooks Group uses a Second Life virtual-world platform to make online video-learning interactive. Salespeople have microphones and on-screen avatars to represent themselves in the virtual classroom. Brooks has also found Adobe Connect Pro to be very effective in supporting interaction. But even with the best tools creatively used, these virtual sessions should last no longer than one hour.

Third, video can be used to reinforce main lessons, whether these were given live or over the Web. Reinforcing and sustaining best practices is the main challenge of any sales-training program. Video can help meet this challenge economically. “You can’t bring [your team] back together too often,” Brooks notes.

Finally, video is a highly economical option for training a dispersed sales force in product knowledge. This is the kind of knowledge transfer that video does best. But here, too, the best training is interactive, interesting, and time-limited to make sure the points stick.