Imagine you are a new employee in an industry where your success depends on memorization of multiple processes and scripts. You have never done this type of work before and now have a monumental task in front of you: Memorize pages upon pages of different conversational scenarios.

Now imagine you were given this task. Imagine you were told to practice and then role-play in front of your sales coach or, worse yet, before a group of your peers. … Oh, you forgot about role-playing? Sorry to remind you. Just like speaking in front of a crowd, there are very few people out there who feel comfortable being humiliated in front of their peers.

Simple script memorization can be a difficult task. Adding variables makes it extremely difficult to learn quickly. Additionally, most sales positions rely on the speed of the conversation. If one has not practiced it thoroughly, one tends to be left with the most expensive option: practicing on actual car buyers.

The lack of achieving rapid success in sales is one of the main reasons most don’t succeed in our field. These challenges add to the dilemma for auto dealers and other organizations with sales teams. The answer to this learning riddle may be found in new and emerging technologies; specifically, virtual and augmented reality platforms.

Time on Your Side

In my 2,500-plus hours of dealership and classroom instruction, I have found that people memorize and retain information differently. Everyone learns at their own pace. But there is no doubt the majority of sales and F&I pros have a difficult time memorizing scripts. They do not enjoy role-play activities. They struggle with practicing new conversations.

Since most scripts involve dialogue, practicing with another person is crucial to creating a real-life environment, receiving feedback, and verifying the information has been learned. Other questions also arise: Who will spend time with a new associate to help them learn new information? Will their schedule even allow them to attend training?

In many cases, managers are too busy coordinating sales activities to invest time in building productive training programs for new employees. Corporate or outside trainers can help, but their formal training programs are only available at certain times. Online training can be available on-demand, yet it rarely represents an opportunity to role-play or practice. This is where VR technology can be a great solution.

Over the last couple of years, VR technology has been making its way into the consumer world. Early applications were video games and movies. Now, “whole-body” VR activities can replicate certain tasks that lead to skills that might be hard to acquire otherwise.

After significant research, analysts at Science Direct concluded that these activities “lead to significant learning gains and higher levels of engagement.” A University of California study found that “People learned more in the immersive virtual reality system than in the 2D video system.” When it comes to measuring accuracy of skills, a Yale University medical study found that “gallbladder dissection was 29% faster for VR-trained residents. Non-VR-trained residents were nine times more likely to transiently fail to make progress and five times more likely to injure the gallbladder.”

Finally, in gauging the effectiveness of virtual-reality training for soft skills, a University of London study found that subjects experienced the same public speaking phobia when they spoke to live or virtual audiences. The study concluded, in part, “The result was strong in spite of the relatively low fidelity of the virtual characters.”

Based on these results, it does not take a strong leap of faith to see how VR can be a game-changer for sales pros. But is there such a thing?

Hit the Cages, Slugger

There is a group of young developers in Europe that has recognized the potential of a VR learning platform — specifically, its impact on creating a learning environment and facilitating faster learning.

The prototype they built creates a realistic sales environment that, in essence, becomes a “batting cage” for employees looking to gain confidence through unlimited opportunities to practice their on-demand sales skills. Various customer scenarios are designed to simulate real-life situations and provide a healthy dose of reality in a virtual world.

This gamified sales world also allows participants to record interactions with their virtual customers and share those results with managers and sales coaches. The virtual role-play exercises were designed to raise confidence and develop or improve sales skills, regardless of each participant’s skill level. With a consumer version on the way, its application in any sales environment will be a true gamification of learning.

The remaining question for auto dealers is this: Will our industry be open to adopting this new technology and making VR a key element of our training strategies? In a recent survey, vehicle sales professionals were asked whether they would “take advantage of on-demand training through new technologies like VR.” A clear majority (83%) of respondents said “Yes.”

This may not be an indication that VR will be widely adopted by our industry, but one thing is for sure: There will be many early adopters, and your competitors could be among them.

Each and every day, technology is changing the way we live and work. The day is coming when a VR sales “batting cage” will be the easiest way to tackle your green peas’ fear of role-playing. It will help them learn multiple scripted conversations and make interactive learning available to them on their schedule and yours.

Tony Troussov CSP is the director of training for Automotive Development Group (ADG). He is an auto retail and finance veteran, a nationally recognized trainer, and a frequent speaker at industry events. Contact him at [email protected].

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Tony Troussov

Director of Training

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