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Training Without Travel Contingency Planning for Flu and Recession

Activatum is exclusive partner of Imparta Our solutions within Sales & Leadership Effectiveness Programmes are based on Imparta’s award winning and globally researched concepts and tools. Our Sales Methodologies and Academy Processes are based on proven approaches within Blended Learning and we work in close partnership with Imparta and their global team of consultants.

Imparta White Paper distributed by Activatum – Training Without Travel

Executive Summary This White Paper explores a robust, travel-free altenative to tradtional classroom-based training, allowing mission-critical training to go ahead even if travel is restricted by the recession or a possible flu pandemic. In summary: • Sales teams need training to help deal with new situations and customer behaviour, and specific account or opportunity coaching to help them defend revenue, and avoid gaps developing in the sales pipeline; • However, classroom sessions may become impossible if cost-cutting or flu outbreaks lead to travel restrictions. E-learning and webinars would seem to offer an alternative, but fall short of achieving real skill improvement;

• A “blended virtual” approach, piloted with companies like HP, goes beyond webinars and e-learning to recreate the full impact of the best classroom training. At Imparta we are strong believers in the power of face-to-face learning as part of an integrated capability-building approach, which is one reason we have over 50 accredited trainers around the world. We’re also aware, of course, that most organisations already have training plans in place. However the blended virtual approach may offer a way to meet critical needs when travel and congregation become difficult, or a backup plan for more traditional workshops.

Sales Training in a Crisis - Should You Bother? In a recession or flu pandemic, your sales managers, sales people and account managers may well be struggling to build sales momentum. They’ll be trying to defend accounts from attack by credible competitors offering lower prices, or worse – from budgets being diverted or even cut. They may also be facing a travel ban. Is this any time to be running a training course? Certainly not, if you’re convinced that your team has the skills to be successful even when the bar is raised, to deal with changes in customer behaviour, and to sell, manage and pitch effectively without the luxury of meeting in person.

However, the answer is yes if you want to help your teams protect, expand and win specific accounts and opportunities. Similarly if you feel they may need to develop skills to deal with the new environment. For example, in a no-travel situation: • Field-based salespeople and account managers may have to adjust to running pitches and significant meetings over the telephone. Building rapport is much more difficult when 70% of body language is lost and active listening, and questioning need more emphasis. Indeed, communication overall needs to be more effective and succinct;

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Imparta White Paper distributed by Activatum – Training Without Travel

• Salespeople and account managers may need to perform carefully-judged triage on their accounts and prospects, to decide where to focus their time; • Defending existing accounts and revenue streams becomes as important as building new ones – and that requires a different set of skills; • Sales cycles will be longer. In a crisis it becomes massively more important to build real urgency around changing the status quo, rather than relying on the customer to do that for you; • Customers will become more transactional - especially when dealing with less sophisticated salespeople. Salespeople need – more than ever - to suspend their own agenda and become trusted advisors; • Decision criteria will change significantly, and the biggest competitor will be doing nothing at all, rather than another vendor; • Alleviating risk becomes more difficult as the risks themselves increase in number and severity. In a crisis such as a flu outbreak (or even the recession), salespeople and account managers are a first line of defence against cancelled activity and gaps in your sales pipeline that could cause significant damage even once the crisis has passed. Many companies we work with are seeing this as a time to increase investment in their top line, rather than the opposite.

Training Without Travel? The classroom has always been the mainstay of corporate learning, and with good reason. Although e-learning has made knowledge transfer more efficient, skillbuilding still depends on practice and interaction, and that is often best achieved either on the job, or in the classroom. Even Imparta, which pioneered and still leads the field in business simulations, relies on face to face training as a critical component of improving performance. However, there are two threats currently affecting the classroom-based model: • Recession. Pressure on costs has led to many companies cutting their travel and accommodation budgets. In L&D, a training budget can go twice as far if it’s all spent on professional fees rather than hotels and airlines; • Flu. Imparta drew up contingency plans 18 months ago in case bird flu became a widespread issue, and the same plans are relevant today. There are two main scenarios if a pandemic were to develop: ◦◦Amber – no travel between regions/countries, making it difficult to bring teams together, and ◦◦Red – no meeting face-to-face, internally or externally except in controlled situations.

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Imparta White Paper distributed by Activatum – Training Without Travel

The recent outbreak of Swine Flu may or may not develop into a pandemic at the time of writing, but the question remains: how do you continue to drive performance improvement if travel and even gathering in groups becomes difficult or impossible? Traditional approaches to virtual training, from webinars to pure e-Learning, are not fully effective as they do not allow the practice/feedback cycle that takes place in a good classroom session. They are better at transferring knowledge than they are at building skill or helping people to solve real, immediate problems. Some forms of e-Learning do perform better. Computer-based simulations, for example, match the natural learning style described by David Kolb in his Experiential Learning Cycle:

Fig 1: Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle

However, even the best technology struggles to provide a full learning experience, especially in disciplines such as sales where interpersonal skills are critical. In particular, peer discussion, interpersonal roleplays and the application of new skills to live situations are difficult to accomplish without a live instructor.

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Imparta White Paper distributed by Activatum – Training Without Travel

So no single approach covers the whole spectrum of learning needs. The following table summarises the strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches to virtual learning: “Show and tell” e-Learning


Webinars/online instructor-led

Knowledge transfer Practicing strategic/ analytical skills Practicing interpersonal skills (roleplays) Group discussion Application to live situations



Fig 2: Strengths and Weaknesses of Learning Approaches

The blended virtual approach we have been developing (we call it Blended Virtual) seeks to combine the best of all the worlds in this grid: the efficient knowledge transfer form elearning and online instructor-led sessions, the analytical/strategic practice that can be achieved using simulations, and the group discussion and application that is possible with an online instructor. The Virtual approach also uses advanced technology to enable one important ingredient that is missing in most online training: breakout rooms. This technology allows participants on a call to be split into sub-groups, which the facilitator can visit in turn, calling people back into the plenary group when ready. This advance is critical, as it allows three main types of interaction to take place in a virtual setting that have hitherto been restricted to the classroom: • Roleplays (typically with two roleplayers and one observer); • Multiple simultaneous working groups that then report back to the main group; • Application work in small teams. The next section describes the Blended Virtual approach in more detail.

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Imparta White Paper distributed by Activatum – Training Without Travel

Blended Virtual Training Imparta first pioneered this approach to training in the late 1990s, building strategy skills for clients such as PWC and Rabobank. Online sessions were mixed with offline simulations and application in the field, with significant impact. We have continually refined our approach (leading an interactive online session requires different skills to those needed in the classroom!) and more recently have worked closely with clients such as Hewlett Packard (HP) to develop a fully modular, virtual version of our core sales training programme, Creating Client Value (or CCV). The Virtual CCV programme comprises up to five modules, generally run every 2 to 4 weeks. Each module includes a virtual classroom session, a simulation module and a period during which participants complete specific tasks to apply the learning and tools in the field. This consistent structure ensures maximum impact.

Kick Off (Virtual Room Session)

Practice and Coaching Session

Application to own clients

Virtual classroom (approx. 2 hours) using a conference call that can be subdivided into “breakout rooms”

Theory practice and coaching using modules from Imparta’s award winning Sales Mastery Simulation

Learning applied to own accounts or prospects

Introduction to the module (and feedback of key learning and best practice from the previous module)

Knowledge assessments may also be used

Coaching available online

Introduction of core concepts Application exercises and roleplays Discussion and questions Signpost of next steps

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Imparta White Paper distributed by Activatum – Training Without Travel

The Virtual Classroom The design of the Virtual Classroom sessions allows for: 1. Debrief and review of the Simulation and real life application activities from the previous module 2. Exploration of subsequent key concepts in the CCV Buying Cycle process. In addition to presenting the core content for each module, the technology within the Virtual Classroom allows instructors to utilize many of the features they would normally incorporate during a face-toface classroom based session, including Small Group Breakout Sessions, Flip-Charting and Role Play Activity. Far from being a one-way vehicle used simply to present information, the Virtual Classroom therefore offers an engaging and interactive learning forum.

Practice and Coaching Session Each section of Imparta’s Sales Mastery Simulation has been designed to reflect the CCV content covered in the associated Virtual Classroom session. The Simulation provides the safe environment of a case study customer organization for participants to practice applying the concepts they have learned. Lasting around ninety minutes per section the Simulation is completed independently by each participant, adding flexibility to when and where it is completed. In addition, the Simulation mentor provides ongoing coaching to steer participants along the correct path. At the end of each section the mentor provides detailed feedback to the participant. Benchmarked against CCV best practice, this feedback can be used to identify specific areas of strength or development need.

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Imparta White Paper distributed by Activatum – Training Without Travel

Application to own Clients Once participants have explored the concepts via the Virtual Classroom, and practiced using them within the Simulation they then apply their learning to their own customer accounts. A series of real life activities are completed ahead of the following Virtual Classroom session, during which the activities are then debriefed and reviewed. This helps to ensure linkage between the modules and that momentum is maintained between Virtual Classroom sessions. The activities and tools required to complete the ‘Application’ phase can be hosted on a CCV Learning Community website.

The Virtual CCV modules are continually updated to take account of topical issues, as well as being tailored to the specific issues facing each sales role in the organisation. (It is perhaps also worth noting that the materials and delivery of the Virtual CCV programme are available in 12 languages).

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Imparta White Paper distributed by Activatum – Training Without Travel

This mixture of learning, practice and application has proven to be a strong driver of improved performance, but to ensure sustainability it is also supplemented with other change elements, including: • Best practice capture from the workshop; • Online access to a resource centre including application tools and templates, tutorials, tests and a forum for sharing best practice; • Ongoing reinforcement and coaching; • Optional measurement of before and after skills and business impact.

Comparative View for Jonathan Bloggs

The measurement tools are well-developed and permit detailed tracking of individual and team performance, as well as tracking overall business ROI.

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Imparta White Paper distributed by Activatum – Training Without Travel

How can we help you? Please contact us for further inspiration as to how we can help you grow your business further. Or please contact Managing Director Gitte Ravn directly on Mobile +45 4038 4949

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Training Without Travel  

Contingency Planning for Flu and Reession

Training Without Travel  

Contingency Planning for Flu and Reession

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