It’s no secret that sales managers and sales professionals benefit from real-life training scenarios in which they must confront and manage potential issues to bring about a positive and profitable outcome. Sales simulations are like a dress rehearsal and allow trainees to perfect their approach, build the confidence and nurture the right skills to be effective sales professionals.
There are two types of sales training scenarios: live and computer simulated. Live simulations usually take on role-playing activities in a classroom, sales meeting setting, or on a sales retreat and often involve a case study. The feedback received from re-enacting real life situations is highly constructive.
Online sales simulations allow people to learn by doing what is also called kinesthetic learning. By receiving immediate feedback, the trainee is able to quickly evaluate his decisions and reactions. Many online simulations are designed to be entertaining and often take the form of a competitive game with a set outcome. Sales managers and administrators can easily monitor and review the strengths and weaknesses of the sales professionals in their sales team.
For organizations considering a move to simulation-based training, Shon Bayer of Enspire Learning Corporation suggests choosing a high valued topic like a new product roll out or a change in a company’s selling process. “Find a topic that works well in a simulation-based environment, and do a pilot with some simple branching scenarios,” he advises.
Bayer’s opinion of sales simulations is that organizations are looking at ways to quickly accelerate people’s competencies. “We’ve seen a lot of inherent growth in sales simulations, and it’s driven by organizations as they look at the number of hours spent in traditional training environments – and the often disappointing outcome.” He continues, “Sales simulations are cost effective because companies don’t need to foot the bill for airfare and travel, accommodation or expensive training sessions. Developing sales simulations does not need to cost a lot of money,” he notes.
Since 1976, AlignMark Inc. has been helping companies optimize their human capital. They have successfully developed tools and services like sales and recruitment simulations that help organizations and sales teams function more effectively and train sales professionals to be more productive and successful. One of their inventions, the Real Estate Simulator, has a proven track record. Using simulation technology to recreate the typical challenges in the sales cycle of a real estate agent including building rapport, negotiations, understanding client needs, maneuvering through potential clashes and closing the sale, the simulator assesses an agent’s selling skills, industry knowledge, and gauges his personality to improve their overall performance.
“Soft skills training through simulators is really the future,” notes Paul Kidston, Principal of Sales Training Experts in Halifax, Nova Scotia. While Kidston has developed a game show simulator and a fun sales IQ test on his company’s website, he admits to being surprised by the low popularity of simulators in the sales training arena. “In business-to-business learning networks, e-learning tends to be a part of a much bigger learning suite that involves an instructor, training games, online course content, testing and assessments,” he says.
While sales simulations have proven to be effective methods to enhance skills training, they do have drawbacks. Many sales managers find that they need to tell their sales team that completing the simulation is part of their job performance. Custom simulations can be costly for companies to develop as it takes expertise to create the right architecture to capture the data that sales managers need to properly evaluate performance. It’s also crucial to operate simulators in a non-threatening environment as trainees might feel vulnerable under the spotlight.
By getting immediate feedback through a simulated exercise, sales professional trainees can start to internalize the right decisions they’ll need to make in the real world. If you weigh the cost of administration and development with the end results, sales simulations are money and time well spent.
This article was originally published in CPSA’s Contact Magazine.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author. CPSA does not endorse any of the companies, products and services mentioned within this article.