In our post-covid world, it’s hard to think of a single enterprise that’s planning on returning to a fully in-the-office model. The vast majority of employees, including sales teams, are either fully remote, or they’re working on a hybrid basis that sees them in the office for a certain number of days a week.
Buffer’s State of Remote Work survey shows that working remotely is overwhelmingly popular, with 97% of those surveyed saying they’d recommend it to others, and 72% of respondents saying their company plans to continue some form of remote work permanently.
But that doesn’t mean that everything is easy for WFH sales teams. According to the same survey, 45% of employees are concerned that remote work will make it more difficult to advance their career, revealing some worries about how training, upskilling, and communication will continue when you’re outside the office.
You could say that L&D teams face the same concern from the other direction; namely, how to ensure that professional development continues at the same high standard when the workforce is fully – or even mostly – remote.
The good news is that while remote training and development might require a shakeup in L&D norms and tactics, it’s fully within the realm of the possible. Here are 7 ways to support ongoing professional development for your remote or hybrid sales teams.
It might seem obvious, but it’s worth saying anyway: a remote workforce that’s staying connected through digital platforms also needs professional development opportunities that take place in the digital arena. Your digital remote sales teams are looking for digital, remote sales training solutions.
In-person, instructor-led training (ILT) is a thing of the past; LinkedIn’s WorkPlace Learning Report shows that 73% of L&D professionals expect to spend less on ILT, and 79% plan to spend more on online learning, while in pre-pandemic days only 38% thought they’d lower their ILT budget and 57% envisaged increasing spending on online learning.
Flexible work hours are seen as a key benefit to working from home, so your online professional development courses need to be on demand too. Video courses or on-demand webinars are an obvious choice, but you could also use Second Nature’s artificial intelligence (AI)-powered sales coaching simulations.
Role play practice is one of the best ways for salespeople to improve their selling skills, but it’s difficult to manage that in an asynchronous setting. Second Nature’s AI role play personas are always ready to practice, and sales employees can run the simulation wherever they are.
Although some courses demand more of a time commitment, it’s important to also offer bitesize training experiences that sales teams can fit into oddments of free time. Remote workers are likely to be on the go, so make sure your training programs can go with them.
At the end of the day, every employee bears responsibility for their own professional development, and you can’t force them into completing a certification course or advancing their skills. But that’s even more true in a remote work situation.
When you and your salespeople are all (or mostly) working from home, it’s difficult to encourage, remind, or coerce anybody into completing their professional development hours. The only real way to ensure that training takes place is to have your employees take ownership of it, and generating a practice or coaching culture is a key step.
A sales department that’s suffused with a desire to improve skills, hold better sales conversations, and blast through their quotas, is a sales department that’s going to take training seriously.
Out of sight is often out of mind, and one of the big risks around remote professional development is that some employees might fall through the cracks. It’s important to build a robust system that records employee progress, so you can see who is engaging on a regular basis, who’s seeing their pipeline improve, and who’s lagging behind.
Second Nature generates clear reports and consistent scoring that helps you track employee progress, so that nobody flies under the radar and you can quickly and easily spot salespeople who need more support to hit their professional development goals.
One of the common downsides to remote working is that sales employees often feel remote. It can be hard to stay motivated and connected to your company when you’re on your own at home, in a noisy cafe, or an anonymous remote working hub. On top of that, sellers working from home are besieged by multiple other obligations – their children, partner, dog, etc. – all of which may drag them away from professional development obligations.
The best way to overcome these multiple distractions is to create training programs that employees will actively want to do . You can use Second Nature to gamify sales coaching, for example, into a fun, interactive role play challenge that sales teams enjoy.
Bringing a social connection into your L&D courses is a key way to boost engagement, and it’s more, not less, important when those courses take place remotely.
One of the elements that people most miss out on when working remotely is the social interaction. Even though most people enjoy working from home, Buffer reports that 24% of people say they feel lonely, and 52% feel less connected with their colleagues.
Use interactive training programs like Second Nature to run team professional development challenges, offering prizes for the team, department, and/or region that shows the highest engagement rates, top scores, or the biggest improvement. Encourage employees to share their scores on social media or internal communications platforms, so they can cheer each other on, and display real time leaderboards to stimulate a sense of (friendly) competition.
Last but not least, turn to your remote sales teams themselves to find out what you are doing right – and where you could improve – your professional development programs. It’s important to talk to your employees on a regular basis and check in to see what they need.
Besides quantitative measurements like how many employees engage with the program, number of courses completed, and lagging metrics like number of sales and deals closed, L&D teams are increasingly using employee surveys for qualitative feedback. The number of L&D professionals using surveys jumped from 16% in 2020 to 27% in 2022.
Today’s remote sales workforce deserves effective and engaging remote professional development too. By using AI and other online tools to offer fun, social, and on-demand remote training, ensuring that you track progress, keep your finger on the pulse of seller needs, and cultivate a culture of practice, you’ll be able to deliver the ongoing professional training that your teams need.
Find out more about how Second Nature can support your sales team’s remote professional development needs. Get a demo today!
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