“Knowledge isn’t power until it is applied.”
– Dale Carnegie
When we founded Kiite, we did so with the vision of helping every employee be an expert, starting with sales teams. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished alongside our customers and our partners; together, we’ve built the most agile sales enablement platform on the market, we now power over 5,000 sales Playbooks™, and hundreds of sales teams use these Playbooks™ every day to better serve their customers.
But the state of expertise in tech sales is far from the future we envision. Too many tech companies under-invest in ongoing skills development, and many of these well-paying roles often seem inaccessible to those outside the industry. At the same time, sales talent continues to rank among the most sought-after roles in tech companies.
As we saw this pattern repeated in company after company, we realized the scope of the problem we were facing required more than software alone— it required a completely reimagined approach to enabling sales professionals. We began stealthy work on this solution last summer and, after many long days and multiple iterations with customers, partners, and stakeholders, we’re ready to announce the results: the Uvaro tech sales career accelerator. More than just a training program, the Uvaro technology platform delivers work-integrated learning in a business model that better serves the students.
The Path to Uvaro
Our origins in software made us uniquely suited to launch Uvaro. Through our success at fixing knowledge transfer issues within revenue teams, we’ve had the chance to work with hundreds of organizations and gain access to training best practices from some of the top sales trainers in North America. This opportunity has allowed us to uncover a deep and widespread problem: Sales professionals at technology companies have skills gaps which companies are struggling to close, and it’s hurting the bottom line. And, because of our work with trainers and technology companies across North America, we know which skills gaps hurt most and which training works to overcome them.
Over and over, we hear the same specific challenges:
- Relevant Experience — Companies and students agree that hands-on experience in tech sales is of paramount importance. And it’s not just about roleplay, but practice achieved through work such as prospecting, delivering demos, and handling objections.
- Deeper Understanding of Tech — A common concern with existing sales training is the lack of focus on technology. Most of the popular sales methodologies (and the associated training programs) were designed before the internet existed, and every tech sales rep will need to use a vast number of tech tools. This juxtaposition is proving problematic.
- A New Model — The training programs available on the market all require the company to simultaneously train large numbers of employees in person (which doesn’t allow for training new hires as they come on board), charge the company a large recruiting fee (reinforcing high turnover rates), or charge the student a large upfront fee, without any commitment to actually delivering the career transformation the students seek. These options aren’t enough.
It quickly became apparent that we could work with our customers and training partners to craft a training program with a compelling new model that provides students with the skills and experience they need to flourish in a tech sales career.
Technology at the Core
When we speak about leveraging technology, we’re thinking about it throughout the entire journey: The way we design the curriculum, the way we select students and deliver the curriculum, and even the way we match them with employers. By keeping technology at the core of the Uvaro program, we’re tackling the issues of diversity, scalability, and quality.
When we designed the curriculum, we started with the insights generated by the Kiite platform. For example, although it’s true that tech sales employees need to use tools like Salesforce and LinkedIn, our data shows that the top three skills gaps for tech sales reps are in Customer Stories, Competitive Objections, and Discovery Questions. There’s a hidden language to selling technology, and the Kiite platform gives us a unique view into deciphering that for our students.
We’ve also leveraged technology to deliver a training experience that’s 100% online, allowing us to support students from coast-to-coast from day one. This allows us to scale more efficiently than a traditional training institution, while simultaneously giving our students the opportunity to leverage the technologies they’ll be using day-to-day in their work.
New Learning Models
Being founded in the Toronto-Waterloo corridor, we have the good fortune to work alongside education pioneers every day, and it’s easy to be inspired by the world’s largest cooperative education program and by the Future of Work and Learning Coalition. As we prepared to launch Uvaro, we worked closely with instructional design professionals to look closely at how we most effectively include applied work experience and leverage technology.
The first thing we identified was that leveraging technology would allow us to better implement a flipped classroom model, which better aligns the resources students need with the times they need them most. In traditional classrooms, it’s common to introduce new concepts in class, then assign homework to be completed by the students independently. However, we heard “real experience” was the biggest challenge—if students need help doing the work rather than being introduced to the concepts behind the work, then a flipped classroom solves this dilemma by reversing the pattern.
With Uvaro, our students’ independent work introduces most of our concepts and ideas, saving valuable classroom time for active work, practice and coaching.
The second challenge we needed to overcome was how to help our students acquire real work experience. The solution we came to is a power combination of employer-driven projects and a paid internship.
Go to the Source
While we came up with the idea for Uvaro organically, based on the insights we were gleaning from the Kiite platform, we also felt it was important to go to the source, and talk to the people who were feeling the pains of scaling with a limited pool of sales talent to draw from: Sales leaders.
We worked with our employment partners, such as SchemaApp, Miovision, and Plum, to refine and tailor projects, assignments, and the curriculum, to create a smooth on-ramp to working in a tech sales role. Our partners’ candor about some of the real challenges in tech sales helped us create a program that not only covers the fundamentals of tech sales, but also allows students to tackle the problems they might see in their new roles, and develop strategies to overcome them.
During these conversations with our employment partners, we also discovered that there are some things that can’t be learned in a classroom environment, like being measured on real targets, and staying on top of the many tasks required to manage a pipeline. We wanted to make sure that Uvaro graduates are prepared to handle all aspects of their next role, so we offer an optional internship to our students, to give them hands-on experience.
The internship, which runs concurrently with the Uvaro training program, allows students to benefit from both practical experience in a tech sales role, and a place to bring work challenges to a group of peers and coaches for feedback and improvement. Creating an environment where students can safely receive coaching to help them improve at their internship helps them build the confidence and competence to handle challenges when they land a role, and ultimately allows us to fulfill our commitment to our students.
Future-Proofing the Economy and our Students
A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that, as of 2019, student debt now accounts for more debt in the US than credit card debt or auto debt, to the tune of $20 billion dollars. And according to CNBC, the average graduate in the US leaves school with $30,000 in student loans, often without a clear path to a job to ensure that debt gets paid off.
On the one hand, it’s becoming challenging for traditional educational institutions to keep up with the requirements of a rapidly changing economic and industrial landscape. On the other, academia is becoming increasingly frustrated with demands that they train workers, instead of teaching students to pursue knowledge.
Technology isn’t going anywhere and together we need to better equip individuals to keep up with an evolving definition of ‘workplace’, to strengthen and protect our economy.
Case in point: We had over 800 people, the vast majority existing professionals in shrinking industries, along with veterans and athletes, express interest in our first cohort. There are personal and market forces prompting individuals to reset their careers, but upfront tuition costs and the threat of lifelong student debt create a barrier to up-skilling and cross-skilling.
When we structured the fees for Uvaro, we recognized that cost could be a roadblock on the path to a new career, so we implemented an Income-Sharing Agreement (ISA), in place of upfront tuition. The ISA allows students to defer their tuition until they land a role in tech sales, and the 10% income share (compared to 17% with other similar programs, or $30,000 upfront) is calculated only on base salary, so students retain any performance-based or bonus pay they earn. Implementing an ISA has ensured that we stay aligned to both the needs of the students and the needs of the market, and holds us accountable to consistently evaluate, measure, and refine the effectiveness of the Uvaro program in creating competent, employable graduates.
Our Success is Student Success
While we value and appreciate the trust, support and collaboration from our employer and curriculum partners, the ultimate measure of success is the success of our students. Every day I learn something new from them and I continue to be amazed by their drive, their acumen, and their enthusiasm.
Could I share the impact, but our students’ own words say it better than I possibly can:
“I went into this class without any prior sales knowledge. I was nervous, but it’s been an amazing experience. The instructors are wonderful, and I’ve been impressed by how the class is taught and organized. Uvaro has taken me from zero sales knowledge, to giving me the tools I need to be successful. Now I not only know how to build a prospect list, an outreach cadence and cold call scripts, but I actually feel confident in my skills to reach out to prospects. This class has been invaluable to me.”
We’ve only just started the journey, and we’ve already seen remarkable transformation! Despite this explosive growth, I’m exhilarated by the fact that we’ll have the chance to follow these students as they go on to accomplish amazing things. Their best is yet to come!
If you’ve made it through this lengthy introduction to the next phase of our growth: Thank you! Moreover, if you’d like to join us in this journey as a student, an employer, or a partner, let me know. I’d love to have you along for the ride!
And, of course, you can always learn more at https://uvaro.com/ 🙂