Improve Sales Training – Flip It

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Recently we came across an article about an innovation in our public schools that is getting a lot of buzz – Flipping.

The idea is simple: by using technology, students spend time at home getting up to speed on a given area of knowledge, then instead of lecturing from the front of the room, the teacher spends time in the classroom floating from table to table as the students work on exercises that apply the knowledge they studied before class.

The article took me back to when I was doing some research using Flander’s system of behavioral analysis for observing classroom instruction in public schools.  The major finding of which was that 70% of the teachers spent 70% of the time talking.  So given that population, there is indeed some time available to flip.

Sales Training.

Switching topics to sales training, we do not have the research on the corresponding percentages sales trainers spend lecturing. However, without a doubt it is higher than it needs to be.

Let’s explore why flipping should be applied to sales training and how one might do it.  The “why” is highlighted by a comment we hear time and time again from VP’s of Sales.

“We would really like to do some sales training but I just can’t see spending two-days out of the field for the training. The opportunity costs are just too high. Plus there’s the travel costs. Perhaps we could do something at the national meeting, but it would need to be short, exciting, and upbeat – maybe a day.”

The comment takes different forms but the essence is the same. I think training is great but the time and costs are killers.

Enter flipping.

When it comes to sales training in today’s market you should be doing in the classroom only those things that can uniquely be done in a classroom.

Any type of sales skills training has two components – a knowledge transfer component and an application component involving practice and feedback.  The knowledge component can be done outside the classroom, leaving the classroom time to be devoted to practice and feedback.  In practical terms this means most two-day sales skills programs can be reduced to one classroom day.

Design Example.

Let’s take an example where the objective is teaching classic call execution skills like asking questions, opening and closing, active listening and objection handling.

Keeping with the flipping idea, day one of the program could be an up-front knowledge component exploring the best practices related to the skills and delivered by a self-paced e-learning module.  Day 2 could be a customized sales simulation where the participants apply that knowledge in planning, executing, and reviewing a strategy for developing business in a typical account. Day 2 would be all about practice and feedback.

As history tells us, unless the initial training is reinforced, about 85% of the performance improvement will be lost within three months.  To address that problem we could provide each participant with a phone app chunked into the targeted skill sets for reinforcing the training.  Plus the front-line managers could be provided a customized software-coaching package designed specifically for the targeted skill set.


Today having a superior sales team is more important than ever.  Unfortunately it is also true that in today’s markets salespeople have to know more and know it at a higher level of competency than in times past.  This means that companies need to look for innovative approaches to training and the training needs to be effective, efficient, and affordable.

Given the advances in the last several years in educational technology, great e-learning and coaching software options are now available that are indeed effective, efficient, and affordable.  So Flipping is now a possible strategy well worth considering.

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