Should You Use Virtual Training for Your Sales Training? – by Sue Schnorr

How do you determine what can be taught online in a synchronous virtual instructor-led training (VILT) program? After you have established your objectives, answer these questions about your learners and content:

Consider the Learners:

Are the learners geographically dispersed?

Then yes, online training may be appropriate. Use online learning to allow geographically dispersed learners to interact and connect with each other. Synchronous virtual programs may be used when you can set aside a specific time to learn. This often makes sense for sales reps.

Do the learners need to have real-time access to an expert or a trainer to learn the content?

If you need to access an expert real-time, you can use synchronous learning when live support is needed. If that expert can work from a distance, you could use a synchronous virtual program. A facilitator who has selling experience and product knowledge can offer great insights to a VILT program.

Would collaboration and discussion between participants substantially enhance the learning?

If collaboration and/or discussion would not enhance the experience, you may have content that could be delivered in an asynchronous environment. If there is not collaboration, discussion or engagement, your program may quickly become a lecture, and that would not be successful in a synchronous environment. Use synchronous virtual learning when there is value in learning from others and to build motivation and excitement. Sales reps are often motivated by each other’s best practices and successes!

Consider the Content:

Is the content stable?

If the content is subject to change and iterations, synchronous programs may be an option, because you can easily change your material. (Developing asynchronous methods for unstable content may not be economically realistic.)

Will the program be taught repeatedly over a long period of time or delivered just a few times?

If you only plan to teach the program a few times, developing an asynchronous method may not make sense because of the time, cost and resources involved.The cost can be justified for synchronous virtual training programs, even if the training is only delivered a few times.  

Can you test the objectives in an online environment?

Even if all of the answers to the above indicate the possibility of online content delivery, make sure you can test mastery of the objectives in an online environment. Often times, mastery for sales training is demonstrated in role-play activities. Breakout rooms provide an excellent method for this type of skills practice and demonstration in VILT.

Hoffman, Jennifer (2004) Live and Online Learning! Tips, Techniques and Ready-to-Use Activities for the Virtual Classroom, Pfeiffer, San Francisco, CA

Shank, Patti (2007) The Online Learning Idea Book, Volume Two: Proven Ways to Enhance Technology-Based and Blended Learning, Pfeiffer, San Francisco, CA


Sue Schnorr is an instructional designer who has a unique perspective on sales. She was a field sales trainer, and carried a bag for 3M. She is a certified SPIN sales trainer and has facilitated sales training for Forum and other national firms. She has designed learning solutions for MasterCard, Beckman Coulter, DuPont, Kodak, Marriott, GM Financial (formerly AmeriCredit) and United Technologies Corporation. Sue has a master’s degree in Instructional Technology from the Rochester Institute of Technology and is an adjunct professor at Walden University in the Instructional Design and Technology program.


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