Building Strong Remote Leadership



Many businesses are offering flexible work arrangements or completely remote capabilities. With this, a need arises for different recruiting, training, and leadership skills. Remote leaders are responsible for creating a common vision everyone can follow, allowing for team cohesion even at a distance. From providing remote negotiations training to conducting company-wide sales training, remote leaders inspire unity when adhering to four specific rules.

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Set Clear Expectations 

As opposed to working in a physical location, remote employees are scattered throughout the country (and perhaps the globe). To keep everyone on the same page, remote leaders must establish a set of clear expectations. While performing individual tasks is the responsibility of the employee, leaders are expected to clearly outline the following:

  • Work hours. When a team works remotely, it’s important to get everyone on the same page regarding expected work hours. If employee improvement, such as negotiations training, must take place, clearly specify when trainings are held.
  • Regular meetings are essential to keep communication flowing. Establish expectations for company meetings, including when they will take place, the protocol for missing a meeting, and recurring topics to be discussed.
  • Leading from afar requires confidence in a team member’s ability to work independently while meeting productivity goals. Remote leaders are responsible for setting clear guidelines outlining expectations.

Don’t Hide Behind the Screen

Being available to remote employees is one of the best ways to keep workers engaged, motivated, and informed. When leading a team of remote employees, don’t hinder your availability by hiding behind the computer screen. Particularly when conducting sales training, leaders need to be accessible to workers to address questions and concerns. If time constraints are a concern, establish set hours of availability during which employees can contact you and receive a prompt response.

Leverage Technology to Facilitate Training

Most companies operating a remote workforce lack the option to conduct business free of technology. Between collaborative online tools, productivity tracking programs, and digital communication, technology is the conduit that facilitates ongoing dialogue, training, and employee improvement. Use digital solutions that bring remote employees together and increase access to members of your leadership team.

Extend Trust and Confidence to Employees

All employees benefit when leaders extend trust and confidence in their abilities. When managing remote teams, it’s important to clearly communicate this level of trust. Provide remote employees with confidence-boosting compliments, but don’t stretch the truth. Focus on an employee’s strengths and how those strengths contribute to the company’s goals, and offer positive feedback on recent projects. Communicating your belief in an employee’s abilities will inspire them to work harder to reach established goals.

Excerpt 3: Benefits of Role-Play in Corporate Trainings



Last Week Training Magazine posted an article written by SNI’s John Buelow. Read below for a brief excerpt and find the full article here:


Benefits of Role-Play

Here are just a few of the benefits of making role-play a part of your business training:

1. Build confidence: When your team role-plays, you can throw any number of situations at them. Role-playing provides a safe environment to encounter these scenarios for the first time, which builds confidence in team members that can help them in their day-to-day roles.

2. Develop listening skills: Good role-playing requires good listening skills. In addition to understanding the words the other person is saying, it’s important to pay attention to body language and non-verbal clues. Better to have your team develop these skills while role-playing than when they’re trying to perform in the real world.

3. Creative problem-solving: No matter how outlandish a situation you create in a controlled environment, generally, something even more bizarre is bound to happen on the job. Role-playing will at least give your team the chance to get some experience in handling difficult situations and in developing creative problem-solving skills.

Are Virtual Environments the Future of Leadership Training?



Businesses are searching for a more effective way to conduct leadership training using virtual environments. Learning in virtual environments has many benefits, as training sessions can be led completely online and a wide range of simulations can be created for more effective lessons. Read on to learn more about how virtual environments are being used in leadership training, why companies and organizations are benefiting from this new movement, and how you can implement these strategies at your organization.

 Effective Leadership Training & Virtual Environments

A recent study conducted by ON24 and Training Industry, Inc. uncovers the importance of effective leadership training for organizations and discusses how virtual environments allow them to create more effective, efficient leadership training. Overall, leadership training is an estimated $2 billion industry in the U.S., which means maximizing ROI in this area is critical. While the organizations in the study were investing about $684 in leadership training per employee, the largest obstacle to the effectiveness of that training was sustaining its impact over time.

However, for organizations that use virtual environments for leadership training, those undergoing the training rated it as more effective. Furthermore, the study found that effective companies invest 44% more in leadership training than ineffective companies. This study shows that effective leadership training is important for business success, and using virtual environments leads to more effective training.

How Virtual Environments Are Being Used

When virtual environments are used for leadership training, this training is most commonly conducted through simulations. In the military, simulation-based training is used to both practice and develop the skills that soldiers need to succeed. There are many advantages to using such simulations in leadership training. Simulation-based training is beneficial because it can be completely customized to meet the needs of the trainee. Furthermore, research shows that it is helpful for those undergoing such training to watch themselves perform tasks in the virtual environment, as this allows for greater reflection on the process.

Building Virtual Teamwork

When it comes to virtual leadership training, the most important element is building virtual teamwork. However, there are a few challenges faced by virtual teams that are important to keep in mind when implementing these strategies at your organization.

  • Communication: While virtual communication can be difficult, there are a number of tools that your organization can utilize to alleviate this challenge. The key is to ensure that you are using the right tools for each individual situation.
  • Trust: Building trust can also be a major challenge in building virtual teamwork, particularly when team members come from different cultures. It is important to ensure that the manager in the situation invests in relationships with the virtual team and is prepared to work with individuals from diverse backgrounds.
  • Management: Finally, managing virtually can also be a significant challenge. Fortunately, studies have shown that employees who work from home actually work harder, which means that less management is necessary.

Top 3 Sales Training Trends



As an authoritative training and consulting firm it’s our business to be up on trends that directly influence our clients. Because we travel all over the world to provide training, our perspective on where things are going as we head into 2014 is rather unique. Here are the three most important sales training trends to keep an eye on.

Trend #1: In-depth Ideal Customer Models

Welcome to the era of big data. Sales trainers today can show their trainees how to get digital mountains of information on ideal clients and customers that simply wasn’t there 3 years ago. This emerging ability of sales forces to learn about their customers and deliver product/service information in new and creative ways is fueling a more inbound sales model.

  • Capturing leads and new accounts these days has less to do with outbound techniques, and more to do with using the power of information to draw ideal clients into sales funnels.
  • Vast tracking data makes it easier to pin-point customer needs. This in turn allows companies to see drastic improvements in upsell and cross-selling numbers.
  • Teams can use this customer information to approach them for more than one angle at a time.

Trend #2: Social Media Integration

Social networking platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and especially LinkedIn are making their way into sales training as a matter of course. Where does social media begin and the sales funnel begin? Internally and externally social media is playing a bigger and bigger role in modern consumerism.

  • Social media connects sales representatives with each other, with management, with all the varying departments within the organization and with customers.
  • Externally social media is a battlegrounds where brand expansion takes place. Sales training increasingly teaches business leaders and sales people how to leverage thse networks.
  • Social media is an incredible resource for customer insight and analytics. In the right hands this information translates into higher performance and a more effective sales team.

Trend #3: Efficiency Focused & Bottom Lines

Speaking of effectiveness. That’s the name of the game across the board. This is an age of ultimate efficiency from the way we run our businesses and fuel our cars, to how we heat our homes and expand a bottom line. Nearly every conventional sales training technique has been sliced and diced to suit a fast-paced hypercompetitive marketplace.

  • According to a CSO Insights Trend Report that came out in 2012, revenue is the absolute #1 concern moving into 2014 on the minds of sales executives.
  • Effectiveness used to mean the sheer amount of customers who could be reached through traditional methods. Now, it’s about the quality (efficiency) of these connections. It’s about conversion rates. Rather than 10,000 worthless leads, what matters are the higher converting 5-10%.
  • To grow revenue, modern organizations and enterprise are investing vast sums of capital into training. So far the broad market ROI speaks for itself. There’s no question that quality training leads to unprecedented performance for most outdated sales models.

Complimentary Webinar Invitation




training magazine free webinar series

Give The Sales Team What They Need…When They Need It

Date: Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Time: 10:00 AM Pacific / 1:00 PM Eastern

SNI, in conjunction with Brainshark, Training Magazine, and Sales and Marketing Management will be conducting a complimentary webinar: “Giving The Sales Team What They Need…When They Need It!”

To make training stick and actually drive results, it must be practical, customized, and accessible when needed. How can you leverage on-demand training and tools to improve your sales team’s ability to execute?

Join as our EVP of Design and Production, John Buelow, and Brainshark’s VP of Sales Enablement, Marc McNamara, present examples of training content that it can be easily created, consumed, and tracked. They will share:

  • A systematic approach to sales and negotiation that increase accountability and drives results
  • Tips and tricks for delivering training content to boost engagement
  • How to measure and track results

To register for our webinar, please go to:

Optimizing Your Corporate Training Program



High turnover and worker attrition rates in the recent economy have left many businesses short of staff or working with a bunch of new hires who lack a grasp on the business. In addition to this, the last several years have produced some significant changes in the philosophy of worker training. Applying these new tips and techniques for training your workforce can get your business working more smoothly and make your employees more confident that they understand their roles.


Cross-Training Isn’t Just For Fitness

In order to deal with the high turnover rates of recent years, many businesses have on-boarded a group of less experienced employees to fill those roles. What may make more sense for many companies, however, is to cross-train existing employees. Many individuals already on your team can handle more responsibility, and more time on the job will have given them a clearer sense of how those responsibilities fit into the larger corporate scheme. A group of cross-trained senior employees will outperform a group of new employees tasked with a single role.


Training Is A Game

Gamification is one of the new tricks in employee training that has come about in the last few years. Turn training into a large-scale game, with tasks and quests that your employees must complete. This element of fun helps to keep employees engaged and motivated to participate in training activities. In this respect, training employees can be like working with children – learning needs to be fun for workers to engage enthusiastically, which is why turning training into a game is so effective.


Embrace Technology

More and more training can be done on an individual basis using technology, rather than in group settings. Employees today are increasingly comfortable using technology in all parts of their lives, and work training should be no exception. eLearning and other digital formats may hold the attention of workers who spend much of their time using technology.


Understand Their Goals

There is a large psychological element to training techniques today. If you better understand the goals of your employees, you will be able to motivate them more effectively. Helping your employees to pursue their own goals gives them an incentive to engage fully with the training process. Other psychological tools utilized in best training practices in recent years include providing positive reinforcement and embracing different learning styles. If you provide employees with training materials best suited to their learning style, they are more likely to retain the information.

Training Expenditures are Decreasing



Training Magazine has just released their annual “Salary Survey,” and the figures are a little disheartening for the training industry. According to the report, “Total 2012 U.S. training expenditures – including payroll and spending on external products and services – fell 6.5 percent to $55.8 billion.” The report also mentions that 65% of organizations either decreased their training budget or kept 2011’s budget.

While the current trend is going against training, many business owners are coming to realize the impressive ROI of professional training services. If you are one of the companies in that 65%, consider these affordable options:


“Learning Teams”

Donna Flagg, writing for the Huffington Post, advises that employers encourage “Learning Teams” in the workplace. A “Learning Team” can take on the form of a business book club or an arranged weekly lunch. Essentially, diverse groups of employees in your organization get together to discuss an idea or share experiences. This is a great way to supplement your current training curriculum.

We believe that this strategy works best in a mature organization that employs leaders who are willing to take charge in discussion. Otherwise, these “Learning Teams” can turn out to be nothing but wasted man-hours. If you choose to start “Learning Teams” within your organization, encourage younger employees to share new strategies with top leadership, in addition to having top leadership share about their experiences.


Formal Mentoring Opportunities

Mary K. Pratt, a Verizon employee writing for Computer World, suggests that employers set up in-house mentoring programs. Pratt cites an example in which a Prudential executive selected 10 of her best leaders and 10 of her best new employees, and paired them together for nine months. The process was entirely voluntary (a huge factor in its success), and took place off-site, outside of office hours. The mentored employees were encouraged to share their goals and objectives, while senior leadership provided guidance and made suggestions.

This is a great way for the senior leadership on your team to share formal training experience with newer, younger members.


Online Training & Blended Solutions

Even if your budget is down, that doesn’t mean you can’t afford professional training. Many companies (SNI included) offer blended training solutions with strong online components. If you want your employees to have the best training experience possible, without breaking the bank, consider exploring one of these blended training options.

Training your employees doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. All it takes is a little bit of creativity and strategy!

Have training ideas of your own? Share them in the comments section below.

How to Get Your Sales Team to Buy Into Your CRM System



How to Get Your Sales Team to Buy Into Your CRM System

Do you have a great new CRM system? Does it provide answers to all – or most – of the challenges that your sales team is currently working through?

Then why aren’t they using it?

Selling your sales team on a new system might be one of the hardest sales you have to make. Sales teams can be stubborn in their ways and slow to accepting change. But, chances are, your problem isn’t really with the sales team. The problem is with how you’re selling them.

More Than the Sales Team

Sure, a CRM system is most likely to be used by a sales team. If you work in a small company, then you know perfectly well that the sales team doesn’t account for the only users of CRM software. Upper management and the marketing department are just two of the groups that might dabble in the CRM system from time to time.

Focus on selling to the senior management of your company before selling to the sales team. When senior management is doing it, your sales team is going to be more likely to want to do it, too. (Also, give special attention to the new hires at your target company. New hires are less set in their ways, and more open to change.)

Present a Need & Drive Pain Points

In B2B sales, pain points are everything. It turns out that pain points go a long way in getting your employees to buy-in, too. If you’re struggling to sell your CRM system, it might be because you aren’t demonstrating the need to your sales team very well.

Present the sales team with real problems in the company, and ask how they’re currently addressing those issues. Then, tell them how the new CRM system would help them more effectively address those issues.

For example:

“How do you remember the lead channels through which your major, long-time accounts were secured?”

“We’ve integrated our lead tracking software with the new CRM system so that our clients’ lead information is automatically attached to their profiles in the CRM system. No more forgetfulness!”

Offer a Solution

The bottom line is this: your CRM system should offer a solution to specific problems that are currently not addressed. Even if the sales team you’re pitching to is change-resistant, you will have a breakthrough when you offer a truly innovative solution.

When you offer solutions, get specific. If you know that your sales team has a propensity for losing valuable information, demonstrate how your CRM system can capture and retain that information. Show how effortless and easy it is. Then, attach dollar figures to what your solution means for each salesperson in gained commissions.

Does E-learning really make the grade?



E-learning sales training has become quite popular and the new trend in staff training.  With globally-dispersed teams, and decreased time, dollars and resources to spend on sales training, more and more companies are investing in versatile e-learning strategies to train their sales staff.  According to Bersin & Associates, approximately 20% of training programs now involve e-learning.

There are a wide variety of formats to choose from — self-paced audio and video webinars, podcasts, interactive simulations, or live video classrooms.   These formats are extremely convenient and flexible.  They can be easily downloaded and viewed anywhere and anytime by all their staff.  No longer do salespeople have to waste travel time, hotels and travel expenses, all to meet up at a particular location for the training.  They no longer have to come off the road or away from the phone, and be tied up in meetings all day.  They can fit the training in when convenient.

This flexibility is extremely advantageous, but is it as effective in providing solid, traditional in-person sales training?  There are many pros and cons to consider.

Some feel the personal element is lost.  Many experienced sales professionals are more comfortable in the traditional formats, doing one-on-one role-playing and scenarios.  Passively watching others, on a small screen, discussing such scenarios is not the same as personally being in the room and taking an active role.  A great example of this can be found in a study conducted by Corporate University Xchange.  They studied 4,148 online learners and in regards to retention, the e-learning drop-out rate was about 70% percent compared to only 15% for classroom training.

But for others, especially those new recruits who have grown up along side electronic technology, their comfort levels and engagement are greater.  They expect these formats and find it unusual for companies not to invest in them.  They view the traditional methods as outdated, regardless of how relevant or up-to-date the information being presented is.

Another key consideration is that not everyone learns from watching.  Some learn more effectively from doing.  For example, watching a video of a sales demo about the operation of a complex piece of equipment you are actually required to personally demo and sell yourself to customers perhaps is not the best way to learn how it works.  For proper learning in this situation, it would be more practical to be able to physically touch and operate the equipment.

Thus, the effectiveness of the e-learning format is dependent and bound by the type of product or service being sold, and the type of information being presented.  For example, a quick podcast would be best suited for market updates or a new success story.

Sales departments traditionally are big on being cohesive, tight-knit teams.  With the personal, team-building element lost when the employees undergo training solo, how does the sales department maintain or build that cohesive environment they strive for?  It is important that this is not lost, and that other forms of team-building are implemented and encouraged.

Many companies struggle with this challenge and hire specialized consultants, like SNI, to assist in developing better designed training programs.  E-learning sales training is continually evolving and being incorporated into sales departments existing training programs.  It is an important element and should be continually and carefully evaluated to determine its overall ROI, effectiveness and relevance, and not just viewed and used as a cost cutting measure.