Virtual Sales Training vs. In-Person Sales Training

Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

Life in the glowing box: it’s our new normal. 

We’ve grown accustomed to remote work, virtual team building, and digital-first culture.

Most sales organization leaders have accepted the fact that some training will be virtual. But should it all be?

Now is a good time for leaders to step back and consider:

  • Does virtual sales training work best?
  • Are there pros and cons (and what are they)?
  • What’s the secret sauce that makes sales training “work,” regardless of the context?

Let’s explore.

At ASLAN, we teach sellers to serve, which is a huge paradigmatic shift from the hard sell, the home-plate drive, the relentless (and, let’s face it, cringe) onslaught of traditional approaches. Get your copy of UnReceptive: A Better Way to Sell, Lead, and Influence by our CEO, Tom Stanfill, and reach out to us anytime to learn more.


Can You Deliver the Same Sales Training Virtual or In-Person?

First, an analysis of parallels:

Can our team of sales training experts deliver the same content virtual and in-person?

The short answer is yes, we can deliver the same content whether virtual or in-person.

But it isn’t consumed in the same way.

With the transition to virtual delivery, most sales training companies took their existing courses, chopped them up into modules, and delivered them online. The results? An epic, pull-your-hair-out, boring failure.

When you are communicating through a computer or tablet, it is not the same energy. You can’t interact in split seconds. You can’t connect eye-to-eye. It’s a different vibe.

In the tech bubble, everyone’s easily distracted. Just out of frame, right at their fingertips, is their phone, computer, iPad, you name it. They can pull up a side by side window and check email, check ballgame scores, check social media; they can turn off the camera and go make a cup of tea or switch the laundry. 

Learning just isn’t going to be the same when you’re competing against these distractions.

Sending out a blanket mandate to attend in-person training workshops isn’t the solution to the challenges of virtual. We’re living in a world of new employee demands, and some of them simply aren’t showing up to work on time in “business casual,” much less giving three days for on-site training in another city or state.

As industry leaders evaluate their best options for sales training move forward, it’s pros and cons time.


Cons of Virtual Sales Training

A quick clarification: virtual sales training should never be a pre-recorded, talking head video with a few quiz questions. That’s not only boring and ineffective, it’s boring and ineffective (yes). 

What you should be doing is virtual instructor-led training (link to more info at the end of the article).

But even with the most masterfully designed and executed instructor-led virtual program, there are some cons.


These include:

Ease of distraction — The amount of time and effort it takes a facilitator to keep people engaged and interacting is pretty immense. They need to constantly be using people’s names, creating movement, incorporating breaks, utilizing graphics and video clips, asking participants to engage via the chat, using polls, and exercising creative tactics to keep people on-screen and paying attention.

Lack of human interaction — Not every worker is an introvert, and generally, people who gravitate towards sales tend to be more sociable. This makes learning sales skills in a completely virtual environment a bit of a challenge for people who want to shake hands and shoot the breeze with colleagues.

Tech difficulties — Video conferencing software requires all types of capabilities, and a single wi-fi connectivity issue, power outage, or software fluke means major disruption. To combat these tech challenges, you also need staff that can help produce, troubleshoot, edit, etc.

Time constraints — In a conference center, we can go 10 minutes over and take a working lunch later. But on a computer, everyone’s a clockwatcher, and that meeting link is going to expire so you better wrap it up on time. This can undermine the natural development of ideas and exchanges.


Pros of Virtual Sales Training

There’s one big ole’ pro to virtual sales training that your C-suite knows and loves:

Cost savings — Seriously, virtual sales training is probably about half the cost. Just cut it in half. One of our clients has said they want to do “virtual forevermore” for this reason alone.

Above and beyond $$$, there are some additional pros of virtual sales training:

Time savings — Virtual sales training suffers from time constraints, but it also benefits from recovered time. Your team doesn’t have to lose a day or more traveling. This leaves more time in the field.

Diverse delivery for learning styles — The amount of information a brain can absorb in any one setting is limited. The “key takeaways” someone actually walks away with (we’re talking about retention), can be maximized when sales training is delivered in bite-sized pieces. This includes microlearning opportunities and training stretched out over a number of smaller sessions, even over the course of a few weeks.

Conquering logistics challenges — Most enterprise organizations operate globally. This can make gatherings not just cost-prohibitive, but a huge logistical challenge. Meeting virtually is something many global organizations have already mastered, and this unlocks more possibilities for developing a worldwide pool of great talent.


Cons of In-Person Sales Training

As you’d expect, some of the cons of in-person training are the inverse of the pros of virtual training.

Cost — The first is cost. In-person sales training is your most expensive option. (This doesn’t mean the decision is signed and sealed, because we’ll talk about the pros in a minute.)

Time — In-person training is also the biggest time commitment. Your team has travel time, sessions and training, then travel time home.

People’s preferences — Currently, about 42% of workers in the U.S. enjoy a hybrid schedule. While it is still unclear whether that will continue, many people prefer the flexibility of a virtual training arrangement.


Pros of In-Person Sales Training

Digital learning has taken the world by storm, but some companies will never abandon the power of in-person gatherings, especially for training salespeople. That’s because there are a good number of pros.

It’s more fun — Plain and simple: in-person experiences are more fun for the learner and they’re more fun for the facilitator. 

Personal and connected — Facilitators have the best possible opportunity to make personal connections with in-person sales training. They can read body language. They can adjust responses on the fly. They can customize and adapt.

Attention on every individual — The big weakness of virtual training is attendees can so easily hide. In-person, there’s nowhere to hide. You can have your name called. If you’re distracted, the facilitator will notice. For some company leaders, investing more money for in-person training is worth it for this reason alone: people take it seriously and will pay attention.

Flexible — There is less time constraint or rigidity with in-person training. What we mean is that the facilitator can flex up or flex down and focus on what that specific group needs to hear and learn.

Let’s put it this way — it doesn’t matter if you’re the first person streaming a song on Spotify: it’ll never replace a live concert.


Pros and Cons of Virtual vs. In-Person Sales Training

For the chart-lovers, here’s a visualization:

Virtual Instructor-Led Training, With In-Person Opportunities

Most companies are going to settle on a hybrid training approach. This probably means offering virtual instructor-led training for your won’t-come-in staff, and offering in-person opportunities at strategic times to support culture growth, build togetherness, and deliver a mountaintop experience.

For our money, nothing rivals the compound energy of gathering in a shared physical space. It is transformative, and you shouldn’t rule it out. But for all of the other times, finding the right program will keep your people sharp, honing essential skills that generate revenue for your business.

For many enterprise organizations around the world, “the right program” is found at ASLAN Training and Development

Connect with us to learn more.


Up next: Dive deeper by reading 10 Virtual Sales Training Tips: Transitioning from In-Person to VILT

As ASLAN's Co-Founder and VP of Training, Tab is responsible for developing our team of facilitators and blowing the minds of our workshop participants. Find him on LinkedIn.

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