Matt Iveson, Business Development Director
The Sales Engine team recently had the pleasure of delivering a course on effective and persuasive business writing to the sales reps of a global software company via their in-house Sales Academy.
We have been delivering this course for the last three years and it has consistently enjoyed a great turnout and is always well-received, producing measurable improvements and results. Pre-pandemic we delivered in person in the U.S. but now it’s all virtual, which works, given the international nature (and time zones) of the various groups.
For me personally, this was the first time I’ve delivered the course.
It was very enjoyable, but not without challenges.
Here’s a snapshot of what I learnt.
Firstly, there’s the issue of connection, and by that, I don’t mean having decent broadband.
We teach in the region of 130+ students split across six groups.
So, how to maintain engagement among a cohort of young sellers who have already attended other sessions on the same day?
The first rule we found that always works is that everyone in the session must have, and keep, their cameras on. It’s simple but effective. Students need to be present and participate throughout the session and we need to be able to see each other, plus, it is (literally) visible accountability. We always invite a member of the Sales Academy management team to be on the call too, which has the effect of a head teacher in the room when you’re in a school assembly. At least here you can mute yourself when you get the giggles.
Engagement and Learning
For the content itself, we pack a LOT into two x two-hour sessions. This course is for a very specific type of content within the final stages of a selling/buying process and could easily take two days, but we don’t have that. So, to make it work we have distilled the art of creating impactful written sales content into a set of core principles. These include how to effectively communicate with your audience, how to structure your writing and how to make your message resonate on a factual and emotional level.
To build rapport and sustain enthusiasm we incorporate exercises to keep our ‘students’ engaged. These take place in live breakout rooms where small teams work together. We, the ‘instructors’ then drop in to answer questions and give pointers.
This part is invaluable in breaking down barriers remembering that, for many, English is not their first language and it is a multi-cultural audience so features some subtle (and other less subtle) differences in the way people like to communicate and take on board information. It’s like Myers Briggs meets Jenga and it is very important to be attuned to this. Having the chance to interact in smaller groups is really effective in enhancing confidence, which then allows participants to get the most they can out of the sessions. This is most noticeable when we return to the main group, as the overall engagement increases as questions become more frequent and thoughtful.
We also set a pre-session task that we offer feedback on and then assign further tasks to be completed after the sessions where the students are required to use the skills and knowledge they have (hopefully) acquired. As these are scored, this provides a level of gamification. Most have a desire to achieve a high score and beat their colleagues. There’s nothing like a bit of competition to ramp up attention and yes, that still works.
Reflecting on the week having personally delivered it to two groups of students, I found it to be a lot of fun. It is intense and can be tiring but extremely rewarding to go from a group of very shy students at the start of the first session, to a group of engaged learners who ask intelligent and challenging questions. The hardest thing is managing our desire to ensure that every question gets the time it deserves, while trying to deliver learning within the (tight!) timeframe we have.
The most enjoyable part is seeing the quality of the student submissions go from something very basic in the pre-course task, to a much higher quality of professional sales writing. You can see via the words on a page how they have immediately leveraged knowledge from what we have taught.
What also makes a huge difference is the quality of the students. They are selected to be part of the Sales Academy on the basis that their team leader believes they can genuinely achieve better results for the business from these sessions. This has been proven to be true from the feedback we receive from the client.
Kudos to our client for not only having an academy of this nature in the first instance, but also ensuring that the professional development of their brightest sales stars is supported in this carefully managed way. They also focus on one of the most essential parts of writing a sales person needs to do and given the breadth of their teams, this is a wise move. Get that right and you’re in pretty good shape.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable experience for all involved and I’m already looking forward to the next one.
In the meantime, if you would like to talk to me about supporting your BDR, Sales, ABM or Customer Success teams, with similar knowledge sessions, team or leadership coaching or any kind of business writing for any part of the sales cycle, please email me email@example.com or find me on LinkedIn.