Every 6 months or so we bring together the thought leaders from our largest customers to get their perspective on future market needs, to solicit feedback on our future directions, and to give them the opportunity to network with other leaders in their field and share ideas.
Our last event was in the beautiful Four Season in Miami, and while the weather wasn’t the best for those members of the party who golfed that day, the event was a tremendous success and the insight we received from our customers continues to inform our direction.
One of the areas that provoked much discussion was the nature and shape of the traditional sales training workshop. To varying degrees, each of our customers seems to be facing a similar challenge; the changing demographic of the sales organization. The GenX sales person has different learning needs, habits and tolerances that his predecessor. One of our presenters even had data that suggested that anyone under 38.5 years (yes, he was that specific) doesn’t want to sit in a training classroom, doesn’t want to do meetings, thinks IM and texting is as relevant as as email and voicemail, conducts many of their sales interaction through these media, believes in an always on, always connected world, and specifically needs to gain knowledge, and learn its application in a just-in-time, totally personalized way.
This led on to a discussion of the role of the traditional training class. What’s the right duration? What really is the purpose of the sales training class? Is it to disseminate concepts and knowledge? Surely Sales 2.0 tools can be used to do that. [Disclosure – This is one of the roles of The TAS Group’s TAS:Pedia online sales knowledge porta]. Is it a networking event for the sales team to learn from each other? Of course, there is value in that – but should it be called sales training? Or is the real value in having an experienced facilitator with her own experience and war stories that can be used to illuminate the concepts and elaborate as neccessary on how to apply the knowledge – or can that also be done virtually?
The opinions varied around the room, and I got to thinking about how far we could or should go with automation. We demonstrated our new Account Management software application at one point, and one of our customer’s piped up and said that he felt that as all of the knowledge and concepts were embedded in an easy to use software application, he didn’t see the need for a workshop at all – and that of course started the conversation all over again.
So, here are my questions – and the reason for the title of the post – In today’s world, what’s the best role for the traditional classroom in a sales training context? How long should the training class take, and – in an ideal world – what role should sales 2.0 technologies play in supporting (or even replacing) some part or all of the program?