Improve sales training – flip it


Sales Training

Recently we came across an article about an innovation in our public schools that is getting a lot of buzz – Flipping.

The idea is simple: by using technology students spend time at home getting up-to-speed on a given area of knowledge, then in the classroom the teacher, instead of lecturing from the front of the room, spends time floating from table to table as the students work on exercises that apply the knowledge they studied before class.

The article took me back a number of years to my dissertation using Flander’s system of behavioral analysis for observing classroom instruction in public schools.  The major finding was this:  70% of the teachers spent 70% of the time talking.  Given that population, there was some time available to flip.

Sales Training.  Switching topics to sales training, we do not have the corresponding percentages as to the time sales trainers spend lecturing but whatever the percentage – it is higher than it needs to be.

Let’s explore why flipping should be applied to sales training and how one might do it.  The ”Why” can be highlighted by reviewing a comment we have heard from Senior VPs of Sales time and time again.

“We would really like to do some sales training but I just can’t see two-days out of the field for the training plus travel.  The opportunity costs are just too high – perhaps we could do something at the national meeting but it would need to be short, exciting and upbeat.”

The comment takes different forms but the essence is the same.  I think training is great but the time out of the field is a killer.

Enter flipping.  When it comes to sales training today you should and can be doing in the classroom only those things that can uniquely be done in a classroom.  Any type of sales skills training has two components – a knowledge transfer component and an application component involving practice and feedback.  The knowledge component needs not be done in the classroom.  Leaving the classroom time to be devoted to practice and feedback.  In practical terms this means most two-day sales skills programs can be reduced to one classroom day.

Design Example. Let’s take an example where the objective is teaching classic call execution skills like: asking questions, opening and closing, active listening and objection handling.

A program configuration could be an up-front knowledge component consisting of the best practices behind those skills delivered by a self-paced e-learning module followed by a customized sales simulation where the participants apply that knowledge in planning, executing, and reviewing a series of sales calls for developing business in a typical account.

Providing each participant a phone app chunked into the targeted skill sets and best practices could reinforce the training.  Plus the front-line managers could be provided a customized software-base coaching package designed specifically for the targeted skill set.

Final Note.  With the changes that are occurring in sales, there will be a increasing need to make sales training more effective, more efficient, and more affordable, leveraging e-learning and other educational technologies and reserving classroom time to that which can uniquely be done in the classroom is one answer worth serious exploration.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2013 Sales Momentum, LLC


About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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4 Responses to Improve sales training – flip it

  1. Brian MacIver says:

    Thanks Dick, great article with a worthy core idea.

    I have taken this across to the Sales Training Group on LinkedIn, as it’s always good to have a look at ‘ourselves’, as others see us!

    I spend hundreds of hours per annum observing salespeople,
    but I probably only TEN hours ‘observing’ me [on video] giving Training.

    All Sales ‘trainers’ could well do with some effective ‘Training Behaviours’ feed back.
    One FIAS tick sheet can be far more revealing than 12 ‘happy’ sheets 😉

  2. Ian Adams says:

    Interesting concept Richard. I remember thinking education would be delivered this way 10 years ago. What a great way to maximize value as a trainer.


  3. Richard Ruff says:


    Yes, it is interesting. When I did the work with Flander’s system observing teaches it was particularly interesting that the teaches had no idea that they lectured so much.

  4. Richard Ruff says:


    It is a great way to maximize the value of the teacher. It also maximizes the time in the classroom to do that which one can do in a classroom.

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