Passionate sales trainer, sales coach, sales enablement practitioner and learning & development consultant, George joined us to answer questions from our community about B2B sales training.

Q. Do you think that sales functions sometimes fail to view their reps as internal customers and focus too much instead on meeting the needs of senior stakeholders?

A. If and when this happens, is definitely wrong. But I truly believe that no serious organization does not take in consideration the sales reps needs. However, it is a point that we need to be careful with, making sure that the surveys, focus groups etc that we run for identifying learning needs, should include all job roles and job stage levels.

Q. I know it probably feels like an over saturated area by now, but I'm curious to hear about how your training pivoted since Covid? And any advice words of advice you have for virtual sales kickoffs? This is an area I feel we still haven't quite nailed six months in!

A. Covid found us ready. We had globally rolled out a year back our Degreed learning experience platform, our new SET2WIN sales proficiency program and lots of different virtual collaborative learning initiatives like Peer Coaching Lab, Presenters Club etc. We only needed to rapidly switch all our F2F instructor led training programs into virtual which was not that much of a challenge and today they all run smoothly.

Another thing we did in the beginning of the lockdown was two knowledge sharing sessions. The first one was on the soft side of things for helping our sales community deal with the unprecedented situation, take care of themselves and stay physically and mentally healthy. The second one was on the hard side of things. We helped them learn how things have changed buying wise and what they need to do in the new virtual selling environment. Both sessions had a huge attendance and great evaluations. The latter led us to develop a new instructor-led training that we're piloting now and it's going great.

Q. Would you agree that delivering sales training virtually requires more of a ‘little and often’ approach than traditional, physical training days? What are the best ways of delivering this?

A. Face to face has been blended with online synchronous and asynchronous learnings over the last years. What's actually changed is that we have to replace the F2F interventions with more online and add lots of pre- and post-work. For example, we replace 2 x 8 hours of F2F with about 4 x 2 hours of virtual training and the participants put time before and after on their own.

Q. How often do you run training sessions with your sales team? Are they tied to events or kind of standing sessions?

A. We rarely schedule and push closed training sessions for specific teams. We usually run internally open trainings that people enrol in. So we may see individuals or teams being very regular in trainings and others who are not. I would say though that on average, an Ericsson seller participates in at least one major training event per year and in at least one online knowledge sharing session per month.

Q. How long do your sessions typically last?

A. The knowledge sharing sessions last 30-60 min. The training events used to be of 2 days of 8 hours a day before but now that they are virtual, I would say that participants invest pretty much the same time but half of it is pre- or post-training work that they do at their own time, pace and convenience.

Q. How do you structure your sessions? I've never tried it myself, but things like gamification and roleplay are well-cited; do you have any experience of this?

A. Virtual training needs to be delivered in a way to make it engaging. You need good slides to gain the attention of people. Plan good questions that people can either answer verbally or using the chatbox. Prepare polls and Mentis to add variety. But the most crucial thing is the use of breakout rooms. There you can have roleplays, group exercises etc that will help interaction and integration!

Q. Which digital tools are you currently finding the most helpful?

A. The use of our Degreed learning experience platform has been key. This way we have a single entry point for one-stop shop sales learning in and out of Ericsson (SharePoint, SkillSoft, Pluralsight, YouTube, Coursera etc). It has been extremely valuable!

And when it comes to the knowledge sharing sessions and the training events, we use Adobe and Teams. We're not thrilled with either of them, but we have no other way but making it work.

Finally, we started exploring the use of some internally developed tailored SharePoint power apps but it's a bit too early to tell if they work for us.

Q. What about the fact that sales managers are rarely seeing their salesmen in action, as, quite simply, they have no time for it. I cannot imagine any match I played without the manager being by the court. What is your view on this?

A. It would be great to make time to have some co-visits. This way a sales manager can coach and develop his seller later. But often this is not possible for various reasons. Then the manager has to plan regular formal or informal one-on-one coaching sessions and, using the right questions and perhaps review tools, try to understand whether the seller is managing his business opportunities properly. Has she identified the pain points of the customers? Has she mapped her stakeholders? Has she developed solid insights to break in?

Q. Is diversity an issue in sales enablement? How do you demonstrate inclusion in your training and coaching programs at Ericsson?

A. Yes, it's an issue, very much so, and one of the key success factors of effective sales enablement is that it creates the capability and cognitive diversity that are the key ingredients for both customer and employee success.

We demonstrate inclusion both in the composition of our own sales enablement extended team, as well as through partnering with talent acquisition and talent management to ensure that we are leveraging diverse candidates, hiring them, promoting them, always improving our offerings to attract and sustain and retain them. An example of this is how both coaching and communities of practice are designed to create inclusive groups and sales experiences.

Q. What do you find to be the best ways of encouraging business development reps to proactively seek out learning opportunities?

A. Sales reps either have no time or they think they have no time for learning :). They need easy to access and consume learnings. They need recommendations. They need learnings that are curated right.They need to learn in the flow of work. They need information just in time. They need opportunities to learn with and from their peers. Technology and caring learnings consultants are key!

Thanks George!