I’ve always had a lot of respect for John Chambers, CEO of Cisco. He’s clearly made a lot of very clever strategic moves, and managed to grow Cisco into the behemoth it is today. However, my faith was shaken recently when I read Cisco’s announcement that they were canceling their Global Sales Meeting to save costs. Surely not! Given John Chambers came from a sales background, could it be he had lost his magic touch? He can’t have forgotten how important it is to keep investing in education, knowledge and motivation for the team that faces the customers every day. But then I read further …
Instead of GSM, a Cisco spokesperson said Wednesday the company plans to host a virtual event for its sales force using voice and video technologies. So, maybe all is ok with the world. (You might recall in a previous post – A Glimpse of the Future? – I referenced Cisco’s telepresence capability). Cisco is clearly better positioned that most to leverage the Internet to replace physical sales events. But what do the rest of us do?
There’s only one answer: Sales 2.0 technologies.
Now, virtual events are never the same as physical events. The value of human interaction in a face-to-face environment cannot be replicated fully in a virtual world. But that doesn’t mean the virtual event is worse. It just means it’s different, and in many ways leveraging S20 technologies can make a learning event far more effective. When well constructed you get self-paced learning, sustained effectiveness, and embedded best practices that become part of how the salesperson operates every day. It’s just a matter of structuring things differently.
Firstly you need to consider how people like to learn. In my earlier post, 70/20/10 – Is this the optimum sales learning mix?, I discussed the learning preferences of sales people. The essence of that post, is that we generally prefer to learn on-the-job, and that means separating out Knowledge Transfer from Knowledge Application. I should be able to learn new knowledge concepts at my own pace, remotely or virtually, independently from learning how to apply that knowledge. Then you supplement that with on-the-job tools, and as required expert remote coaching. There’s not an airport in sight – but sales still fly. At The TAS Group, we’ve been providing those capabilities to our customers for about a year now and with about 10,000 users we’ve seen it work well.
Now, in this travel constrained world, it’s even more important to consider how to leverage the available technologies to continue to improve the productivity of the sales team. The alternative … well that’s just not an option. Just like in a selling situation, with sales learning the immutable fact is; If you’re not going forwards, you’re going backwards – and that’s just not a sustainable alternative – not if you want to make your numbers in 2009. It’s going to be hard enough, and the sales team deserves all the help it can get.
If you want to learn more about this, there’s an educational webinar we’re providing next Wednesday (December 3rd) [Updated Dec 10 – the link now takes you to the archive of the webinar] that you might find of value. I know that’s a plug for what we do, and I try not to do that in this blog, but I don’t know anyone else who is doing this effectively so I can’t point to anywhere else.
And just in case you think your company is the only one that cutting travel expenses, this recent article, Bye Bye Business Travelers, might provide some solace.