How Sandler Online is revolutionising sales training

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Mike Montague online
Mike Montague online
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It’s no small feat to create something new and innovative that succeeds; even Coca Cola struggled when they unleashed New Coke on an unsuspecting public. So to take the collective expertise of 50 years and 1,000 people around the world, and put it in the palms of each of their hands, ready to share with anyone, anytime, would be overwhelming for many. But not for Mike Montague and his team at Sandler Training.

Mike is the VP of online learning and development in charge of Sandler Online, a comprehensive online learning and resource platform launched earlier this year to empower Sandler’s franchisees and clients globally. Mike likens it to online learning combined with Netflix – just search what you need, and it’s right there!

We caught up with Mike to understand the power of the platform for Sandler’s UK franchisees and clients, and the impact that harnessing that scale of collective ambition and knowhow is having for them.

What is Sandler Online?

There are two main things we use it for. The first is a complete curriculum of video courses for each of Sandler’s different training tracks. So, if you buy Sales Mastery as a client for example, it comes with a 184-video set along with the printed workbook book. There’s a self-paced learning aspect to walk you through these short two-to-five-minute videos.

The second advantage is the gigantic resources library. It’s like the Netflix of Sandler! You can search terms like ‘LinkedIn’ or ‘prospecting’ to see a whole range of resources related to the subject. Sandler has collected learning assets over the last 10 years in thousands of hours of live training from over 750 trainers around the world.

The home office creates the core training curriculum, while the resources can come from anyone, anywhere that has impactful message for business professionals. Sandler is tapping into its entire global network for their expertise, with a vetting process to ensure the quality and consistency of the training. Franchisees and trainers can also upload anything specific for their own clients’ training needs at anytime.

How did the idea come about, and how was it implemented?

We’ve had a version of Sandler Online for about 10 years. Originally, it was a private platform for livestreaming and additional training resources. Then a few years ago we moved to a resources-based platform to feature the content collection, but the problem was we didn’t have a unifying curriculum for clients to follow. Also, because it was a third-party platform, the cost structure didn’t scale with so many users joining from around the world.

So, we took that money and reinvested it into our own platform over the last 18 months. Starting at the beginning of 2016, our team began building the current version of Sandler Online to reinvent online learning, blended learning, and classroom sessions offered around the world. It’s an open source platform that we customised to build out the curriculum alongside the resource library. We invested a lot of man-hours and a ton of money in making it work for our franchise business owners and our clients. It’s a serious investment, and we are committed to continuously improving it.

Rolling new ideas out to franchisees can be tricky! How did you get them on board?

We launched in January in the States and this summer we rolled out internationally. We’ve had franchisees for about 30 years, so it’s fair to say some of them are used to a certain way of doing things. Some of those more established businesses don’t want to rock the boat or jump into technology too quickly, but some of the older guys love it too! It’s making their lives easier and some are naturally early adopters for technology and other initiatives.

New franchisees can’t imagine life without it, they will say things like, ‘You didn’t have this for the last 10 years?!’ It’s been an interesting mix, but our overall adoption is great. Over 75% of locations so far have clients actively enrolled, and we’re still launching internationally as we have the system translated into more languages. Right now, we have over 14,000 clients actively participating in Sandler Online worldwide, and we expect another 5,000-10,000 by the end of the year.

What’s the standing of Sandler Online in the market, what kind of advantages does it give franchisees locally?

The thing that makes it unique is that it’s really built to serve several different purposes. What differentiates Sandler is we don’t just have knowledge products – anyone can put together a sales course and start selling it online next week. But what they don’t have is a system to get anybody to actually use it; they don’t have coaches and trainers supporting it. That combination of reinforcement assets to assist with knowledge transfer and trainers making sure it’s been received and understood, I think is what has moved Sandler to a higher level of online learning.

Other companies are doing one part of it – gamification for example – but they don’t have the knowledge base we have. They haven’t been doing sales training for 50 years. And on the other side, people who have been doing sales training for 50 years don’t have the instructional design and cutting-edge tools that we have. We’ve built it with several goals in mind from pre-training learning and assessment to blended learning in the classroom and post-work. I think we can serve our clients in any capacity that they need or prefer.

Sandler’s a very collaborative network, even cross-border. Does Sandler Online enhance that collective power even further?

Absolutely. We have 1,000 people – franchisees and their teams – that are training in the platform. We can livestream out our internal conferences, set up discussion forums, and allow franchisees to post and share best practices and playbooks for anything and everything related to business development.

It’s pretty great that we have access to some of the best people in the world, and we can get them involved shooting videos for the platform. Whether it’s prospecting, presentation skills, or closing sales, we have different experts on all those topics, and we can have a global leader in a subject train the rest of our global clients. It’s a resource that nobody else has, that depth of knowledge. There are over 250 training locations that are collectively sharing their knowledge. That’s a very cool thing.