Listen too closely to rumours and you might start to believe that automation has taken over sales, or that the human touch is now obsolete. But don’t be fooled. Having spent over 3 decades at the forefront of these critical business functions, it’s clear to me that it’s living, breathing humans who make the industry tick.
Rather, what has changed markedly in recent years are the dynamics and characteristics of a high-performance sales team. Remote work is now a norm, churn rates are climbing, and product portfolios are becoming more complex and technically sophisticated.
Together, these changes are exacerbating the challenges that Sales Managers and Trainers have grappled with for years: how to quickly and efficiently scale up teams whilst guaranteeing optimal future performance?
As CRO at Virti, it’s my prerogative to look for solutions to sales pain-points at the cutting-edge of tech innovation. And right now, that cutting edge is being dominated by immersive technologies: Virtual and Augmented Reality tools designed to overcome today’s barriers and facilitate highly rapid onboarding and training across remote, and often global, teams.
If you, like me, are committed to reducing the length of your onboarding process without sacrificing the quality, here’s what you should know about using VR to upskill new recruits at lightning speed.
How does VR onboarding for Sales Teams work in practice?
Research by Glassdoor found that organizations with a strong onboarding process improved new hire retention by 82 percent and productivity by over 70 percent. With up to 20% of staff turnover occurring within the first 45 days of employment, a standardized onboarding process is essential.
Typical onboarding programs are build around 4 main objectives:
- Alignment with company mission, values and culture
- End-to-end understanding of the product
- Understanding the customer and their needs
- Learning the company’s unique sales techniques and practices
Typically, trainees use a mobile phone, laptop, tablet or headset to access bespoke learning content, grouped into modules, or courses, that can be accessed at any time and from any location.
For example, one module might teach the trainee how to give a virtual ‘hands on’ product demonstration to a potential customer. Another module might make use of an AI-powered ‘Virtual Human’ programmed to mimic a customer and generate data-driven insights to improve the trainee’s communication skills.
Why are VR platforms so powerful for sales onboarding?
Have you ever sat through a tedious online webinar, struggling to engage with the material or to process the information overload? Have you ever despaired at the thought of struggling through another complex e-course, user manual or training PDF? If you’re a sales professional, I’m willing to bet that the answer is yes.
The truth is that traditional sales onboarding programmes are broken. Those that rely on stale online content fail to engage and motivate learners, but those that are face-to-face are impossible to scale and unsuitable for multinational or remote-work companies.
The reason why VR platforms are becoming increasingly popular for training and onboarding is because they provide a solution to the exact headache-inducing problems that hit companies’ bottom-lines hard.
- VR training immerses learners in interactive content, free from distraction
- The learning material can be customised by the employer, accessed on-demand and on-repeat
- VR onboarding programmes can incorporate reinforcement techniques like retrieval practice, reducing skill fade
- When used consistently, users experience a 61% higher retention of information during the first 30-days after initial onboarding and achieve a 27% faster time to productivity
- Inbuilt progress tracking helps learners and managers understand where the areas for improvement lie
How I get Virti’s new salespeople pitch-ready in under four weeks
As Virti CRO, the product that my sales team takes to customers is Virti’s unique immersive training platform and package of solutions. This is an industry-first B2B offering, with many exciting nuances and cutting-edge features for salespeople to get their heads around.
It’s common knowledge that the best sellers are experts in their products. And at Virti, we want everyone in the team - from HR to Developers - to be an expert on Virti. But typically, companies don’t have time to get their sales teams up to expert level - the costs and time involved are just too high. And salespeople want to be interacting with customers and converting leads, not stuck in endless training sessions.
But what if attaining expert status could happen in just 4 weeks? After months of iteration and refinement, that’s what we’ve achieved through using the Virti platform as a primary tool to onboard Virti’s own sales team.
The new fast course has a different focus for each of the 4 weeks, broadly aligned to the core onboarding objectives mentioned above. But every training module and exercise can be completed asynchronously and repeated on-demand, offering an average knowledge increase of 13.7% on the second completion. The importance of human oversight is not ignored; each employee is assigned an ‘onboarding buddy’, who, in partnership with the team lead, uses the platform’s data analytics to monitor progress and identify any areas requiring additional support.
The feedback which we’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive; markedly so from veteran salespeople comparing our VR onboarding with their previous experiences of low-tech, low-efficiency onboarding in previous roles.
A fad or the future?
Whenever I hear of a new tech tool deemed to be ‘the new gold-standard’ or ‘the future of sales training’, my first instinct is to be sceptical. Before I buy in, I need to see quantifiable evidence, successful case studies, and I need to understand exactly how the tool is going to help my sales team succeed. Virtual Reality is a technology that I can confidently say has now ticked all of the boxes for me as a CRO, as a manager and, most importantly, as a salesperson.
What’s more exciting is that our successful internal integration of VR tech for onboarding and training at Virti can be almost exactly replicated by sales teams across a spectrum of industries. When I look to the future, I imagine VR tech becoming an essential tool for passionate and motivated salespeople, supporting them as they innovate, connect, problem solve and help customers to succeed.