According to researchers at Gartner CEB, an average tech buyer is 57 percent through the purchasing process before speaking to a sales rep. Further, when it comes to complex purchases, there are typically seven decision-makers to convince, covering at least three different functions. Sales Performance International also reports that, while companies in the US spend $20 billion on sales training every year, employees forget 84 percent of those lessons within 90 days.
Consider The Learning Pyramid, which illustrates how different learning approaches affect what people are able to retain. The hands-on, practice-by-doing method increases “stickiness.” Aside from direct, in-person instruction, people are most likely to retain information this way.
You’re selling to a lot of people in different business areas who already pretty much know what they want. After all, it’s easy to read product information, user reviews and third-party evaluations online. Can you expect a presentation deck and video demo to make that memorable of an impression, especially when salespeople are so quick to forget their training?
As for direct teaching, no prospect has the time to gather their team together to sit in a classroom. No sales pro has the bandwidth or resources to bring one to their location at scale, either.
But practice-by-doing? That has real potential. And that’s what virtual training labs offer.
The days of winning sales with hard pitching are over: Prospects no longer live in an information vacuum where they have to rely on your claims. Companies spend millions to create sophisticated solutions only to lose prospects because they’re unable to powerfully demonstrate value.
Prospects want to experience your product firsthand, and a scaled-back demo can’t convey the real-world challenges they have to overcome. A full-product demo on-premises would work, but that’s not practical. Can you ship equipment to every prospect site, bring in an IT crew to open firewalls and make sure you’re good to go without a hitch? Can you quickly and easily create a customized approach for the next four situations that week?
That process doesn’t scale; it requires too much expense and time for each prospect.
True, there’s no shortage of technology claiming to help sales with this move toward education. The problem is, most of these tools don’t directly teach in a way that connects with customers or provide the practice-by-doing experience.
Virtual IT labs, or virtual engagements, do enable you to connect so you can provide a real experience cost-efficiently, which is especially critical when selling complex, costlier products like software and other technology.
Put it in Their Hands
With virtual IT labs you can replicate a production environment in the cloud and give prospects a link to an easily accessible, full-featured test drive. That gives sales teams the flexibility to launch demos on-demand and leave proofs of concept (POC) in customers’ hands, no matter the location, worldwide.
With a cloud-based salestech approach, hardware and shipping costs are eliminated. Sales teams can move faster. What’s more, Gartner CEB advises connecting buyers to each other as early in the sales process as possible – before they’ve cemented a decision based on their own findings. The ability to easily provide all decision-makers with access to your POC accomplishes that.
The result is a stickier practice-by-doing experience that leaves a real impression. Giving your prospects the chance to try your technology without you around also shows confidence.
What’s more, integrating the right virtual lab solution offers analytics that provide visibility into POC usage. Salespeople can understand how a trial is going and ensure prospects experience full value. Trackable invitations show who in an organization is using the POC. You can see how much time a user has spent on a feature and what grabbed their interest. And if they run into problems, you will be able to step in with assistance.
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Virtual IT labs provide the “wow factor” that software sales requires today, while simultaneously accelerating the sales cycle, quickly expanding addressable audiences and reducing IT costs. If your sales engineers can give demos on a replica of your actual product, it only stands to reason their own knowledge and retention will grow, too.
Yes, there’s a lot of sales technology out there. But with the prevalence of resources today, you’re not just up against other vendors, you’re trying to cut through a massive clutter of electronic information.
Virtual IT labs provide the ability to give prospects that hands-on experience, and it comes with a slew of other real benefits that translate into real sales.