Online Sales Training and the Art of Kung Fu

I’ve been a fan of Kung Fu ever since I was a kid. I loved all the movies, the David Carradine series, and of course the weekly “Kung Fu Theatre” episode that would drag me into the house on a Saturday afternoon. Now that I’m all grown up—mostly—I see some amazing similarities between martial arts and sales enablement.

To be proficient in sales, it’s not as much about how your body is positioned. It’s about how your relationship with the prospect is structured. It’s also about “learning the right moves,” not robotically but naturally—responding in the moment by knowing intuitively what a prospect is feeling or thinking. That doesn’t happen from watching a PowerPoint—you need better online sales training.

In order to improve (in sales or martial arts), I need to watch, learn, study, practice, and repeat. In Kung Fu, there’s a saying: you don’t learn to be proficient until you do something 10,000 times. Sales is the same. Seeing a sales coach’s or a top performer’s best technique is really important. From that, I can learn great techniques—and the reasons for them. But it’s all for nothing if I don’t make that sales methodology my own. The only way to do that is to practice, get feedback, view other best practice examples, and repeat. Along the way, I’ll need to do some self-analysis of my performance, and get my team members to jump in so we can “practice our moves” together.

If that sounds easy, it’s not. Even if I (or my company) could afford a Kung Fu-style “sales training dojo,” I’d never have the time to go. I’m way too busy trying to sell to really learn how to do it better. I think lots of salespeople are in the same boat.

Online Sales Training — the Right Way

Here’s the good news. It used to be the only way to practice Kung Fu was to go to a physical school and attend classes, sometimes all day Saturday, plus a few hours per week. A Shifu (“skilled person”) introduced ideas and concepts, and demonstrated new moves—which you practiced. Today, you can attend classes for as little as two hours per week, and view best practices online, via on-demand video of a Shifu walking students through the movements step by step. At the next live class, we can show the Shifu what we have been practicing, and he or she offers advice on being more effective.

In other words, a hybrid of live and online lessons is now the norm in martial arts training. Increasingly, it is becoming so for sales enablement. (In fact, with the implementation of online video training systems, the live component can be optional—or at least reduced to a more manageable block of time.)

Here’s how it works. Take an online sales training video course, answer questions within the video, maybe even practice by recording a sales role play. But this is only part of the process, the two most importants steps are to view what best practice is for a given topic/skill and get feedback from a coach. This is how to effectively change behaviors—by mirroring the top performers. An online sales training process would look something like this:

  • Take a course on sales training or professional communication skills
  • Watch a short video on the definition of core selling skills and understand their importance—and the expected outcomes
  • Answer questions (or ask questions) about the skills (In VTS, you can do both—right inside the video.)
  • Record yourself practicing these skills
  • Do some self-analysis of your recordings
  • Get some feedback
  • View a best practice—preferably by one of the top performers in your company
  • Make some tweaks (or overhauls) to your presentation
  • Record again
  • Do some self-analysis
  • Get some feedback
  • Repeat (Remember the 10,000-time saying in Kung Fu. The good news is that sales technique is a life skill. It doesn’t need to be done in a week.)

While sales enablement and Kung Fu are very different, the way you learn them is similar. With both, you need to observe, practice, receive coaching, practice again, and repeat until your actions are natural, automatic, and highly effective.

Break.