Victory Lap is Brian Bar's answer to the broken college-to-career pipeline. Since 2016, the program has re-trained and placed over 1,200 new sales professionals in tech roles.
The tech industry continues to experience unparalleled growth — but not the talent pool to match. As new products hit the market and society becomes increasingly reliant on tech, competent sales professionals are going to be critical in ensuring the lifetime of a tech company.
Victory Lap is Brian Bar's answer to staffing tech companies with trained sales professionals. During his time in sales leadership at Groupon, Brian developed a process to train new sales hires faster (and better) that scaled so quickly and so efficiently, it became status quo confident sales professionals at the company. “It definitely proved that you could teach people how to sell and that you could educate an individual that sales is an awesome career, not just a job,” Brian recalls.
With that model in mind, Brian created Victory Lap. 6 years, 68 cohorts, and 1,200 learners later, he's created a virtual learning business that's equally as successful as the businesses that his team helps staff. Let's dive into Brian's experience, learnings, and where he hopes to take Victory Lap in the future.
7 insights from Victory Lap founder Brian Bar on providing unique value, curating a community, and finding the business within the business
Offer value that other education systems can't
In addition to the experience gained from Groupon in sales leadership, Brian's main source of inspiration for Victory Lap and its curriculum is the broken college to career ecosystem. A big selling point of the program is that it will train members in ways that the college system can't.
Brian shares “The biggest scrutiny of the traditional higher ed structure and institution is that it has some gaps and some holes in it. Not for everybody — but for too many people — there's a lack of competency and skills that map to a particular career. It just isn't as fluid. It's not as clear.”
Rather than teach to a test or an archaic curriculum, Victory Lap focuses on teaching what's most employable and most relevant in the industry. That often means the curriculum evolves with each cohort.
“Because the current job front has changed, the entry level point to tech sales has changed over the past several years, and so forth. What we've done a good job of is saying, ‘Don't worry about teaching our students how to close a sale, how to negotiate, how to land $100k or a seven-figure deal.' They're not going to know that for three to five years into their career. What do they need to know in the first few months?” Brian says.
You can't teach competence and confidence in a college classroom, but Victory Lap has managed to do so asynchronously and now virtually after moving to an online-only model.
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Create transparency in your admissions process
Every virtual learning business approaches the admissions process differently; some allow anyone and everyone into their community. Others curate their cohorts by developing a rigorous admissions process to weed out anyone who isn't ready to learn.
Victory Lap falls in the latter category, using their admissions process to find the right mix of members for future cohorts. Transparency is baked into this process by letting folks know they're looking for a specific type of person.
Brian shares “What we're really looking for is a student's desire to learn the content, and achieve growth. They should be a great student because a great student is much more likely to be a great employee and teammate, but we find the true assessment is whether they're looking at sales as a job or a career. It's not just, ‘Hey, get someone a job.'”
The admissions team is equally honest with applicants about how intensive the program really is. That tends to weed out people who don't have all the tools, acumen or aptitude coming in.
But the transparency doesn't end once you're admitted. Even their pricing strategy was thoughtfully crafted with honesty in mind. Brian shares:
“The goal of our pricing model is incentive alignment: if you're successful, we're successful. And if you're not successful, we're not successful. But there are certain costs with getting a student into the program, developing them in the program, and then supporting them in their job search that has to make financial sense for the business, or else we don't have a platform to offer.”
With these factors in mind, the Victory Lap's team pricing strategy has evolved to not only what's best for their members, but in a way that's in line with the sales role:
“The big evolution was moving away from a percentage of income to fixed monthly payments. Because sales are commission driven, it's tough for students to say, ‘Well, how much will I be paying back this month or that month? So now we just have a fixed monthly payment once you land a job, earning at least $30,000 a year. Meanwhile, it's up to us to, again, select the right student, develop them, and help them land a job. We're doing that about eight out of 10 times. Right now we're seeing folks getting to that 80% qualified employment level,” says Brian.
d.MBA founder Alen Faljic shares a similar outlook on admissions process and transparent pricing. Learn how he overcame these challenges in his own business model here.
Focus on both hard and soft skill development
Victory Lap's curriculum continues to evolve and change as tech sales roles evolve and change. From day one, there has been just as much of an emphasis on teaching the soft skills as well as the hard, core job functions.
The hard skill development makes up the foundational curriculum — “the sales skill set is actually very highly teachable. It's sort of a programmatic role within a team, especially that BDR and SDR functions which are the entry points into tech sales. We teach a pretty rigorous competency-based curriculum. The main structure of the program, especially during our live training, is all simulation and role playing,” says Brian.
But in the application of those hard sales skills, and the core functions of the tech sales role, the soft skills are developed.
Brian says “Soft skill development comes in the application. We can really assess certain students by their ability to be self aware. If we give someone feedback, how do they now implement that feedback the next time they roleplay that scenario? How are they actively listening? Where are they drawing up curiosity and empathy from? You can't really give me the excuse of ‘I've never been a CTO before.' Walk a mile in their shoes. What do you think that CTO would want in this case? What do you think they're staying up at night thinking about? That's what great salespeople do. They don't need the experience. They can naturally drive through empathy and curiosity to get to certain results or output.”
Building your curriculum in a way that lets those softer skills develop as they're gaining hard skill experience ensures your members will leave your program better equipped all around than they were when they came in.
Make community integral to your curriculum
Naturally, a sales professional should be really good at developing relationships with sales people and approaching new people with new ideas. This is baked into Victory Lap's course design and is integral to a member's success in the program.
“Our live trainings are all peer-to-peer learning. So that in itself is awesome in terms of being able to really create the initial spark to foster some really good relationships, because community is not built after graduation. It is built during the program,” Brian shares.
In other words, being a community-driven brand isn't just important to helping members develop tight-knit relationships or complete coursework with other peers. It's imperative to their future success as a sales professional.
Brian says “We educate students on your social capital, i.e your network. That's one of the most valuable things you can build, and the best time to build a network is before you need it. So we tell our students, ‘Look around. These people will be the ones hiring you, getting you jobs, making referrals, or helping you close a deal because they're making introductions of potential vendors or partners. This right person is your network.”
Lectures are one thing you won't hear in the virtual Victory Lap classroom. Rather, instructors are there to, as Brian calls it, “facilitate the harvest of knowledge.” Their ability to do that is measured by consistent, in-the-moment, anonymous feedback from students.Brian shares “The beautiful thing about having cohorts is the ability to mix together people from all walks of life and backgrounds, and we think the downstream effect of that is immensely valuable. Whether it be gender, race, or socioeconomic factors, you put everyone in the room and say ‘You all need to get to this point in four weeks or in six weeks or in a week.' That creates this sort of loyalty, bond, and respect for one another.”
Victory Lap began, initially, as a single-week in-person intensive. Now, the course spans five weeks of virtual, asynchronous learning. Not only has this made business better, but it has helped the Victory Lap instructional team identify member needs. Brian shares:“When you're in person, it's a little bit easier to assess student growth and outcomes within the program. As a live instructor, you can start to pinpoint, ‘Okay, these students got it. These students do not.' So virtual really forced us to say, ‘What is it? What are the skills that we want them to know? How are we assessing and measuring these skills?' How we do it has changed dramatically since moving online, but in a good way.”
Another positive of virtual learning as a platform is the ability to curate a cohort of different perspectives and backgrounds. Virtual learning also allows anyone who's got the time and the ability to seek out Victory Lap's education and benefit from it, which has made a massively positive impact on business.
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Find the business within the business
Placing students in top sales roles with immersive, relevant sales training, is only one part of Victory Lap's revenue stream. Over time, they've been able to unlock additional opportunities on the corporate training and partnership side that not only creates profit, but gives Victory Lap students a leg up when they're ready to find a job.
This arm of the Victory Lap business involves three unique elements:
Hiring:“Companies come to us to hire their salespeople, which we've been very successful at over the past six years. 600 different companies have hired from us over the years six, so we've done a really good job of establishing a brand and saying, ‘Hey, this is where I go to hire entry level sales.'”
Corporate training:As an extension of this great curriculum, we're good about teaching it. Now companies say, ‘Hey, can you teach my AEs? Can you teach my sales managers or teach my BDRs?' So now we do corporate training as well.”
Curriculum alignment:“We've created a lot of really intentional digital programming and curriculum, in addition to the virtual live instruction module. It's a very scalable process. They look at this program that's produced these results for this many people and realize they can use the same program that's customized to their business. All of a sudden, Company X has a bunch of our curriculum that they can have white label as their own, and we're seeing awesome, awesome momentum in that area for us as well.”
Regardless of what that program looks like or how it's rolled out to customers, the message is clear: how do we get salespeople to perform better, faster?
Follow up with alumni to perfect future iterations of your course
Brian credits a lot of Victory Lap's continued success on feedback and evaluation from previous alumni. Over 600 companies have hired the 1,200 graduates from Victory Lap's program, so alumni have a ton of experience to speak to about their own pace, competence and capability in their new roles by answering questions like:
What can we do in the program to impact your success going forward?
What can we change?
What do you wish you learned that you didn't?
What's something that makes sense to teach everybody?
What support can we provide on the alumni side?
Should this program be one week? Six weeks?
Through this in-depth, effective feedback loop, Victory Lap has fortified relationships with over 300 hiring professionals. This feedback also greatly informs their course design:“When we assess outcomes and assess feedback from alumni company partners or employers, we have to filter that back to what we change or what we optimize within our program. We have to consider how this feedback fits within what we're trying to accomplish,” Brian mentions.
It's obvious these alumni feel taken care of and heard by the Victory Lap team, because they regularly send prospective students to the course, oftentimes without even knowing that the program offers referral incentives.
Brian explains “Your customer is your best marketer, so we pay $250 for each student that referral brings us. I'll be like ‘Hey, congrats! You just made $1,000 because you sent us four students and they're like ‘What? I didn't know you guys paid out for this.'
The Victory Lap team is currently working on additional upskilling and reskilling programs so alumni can have more learning opportunities and touchpoints to increase the lifetime value of every member:
“Our ability now to offer programming best talent that meets them where they're at in terms of their next pathway is gonna be really important from an alumni or community building piece. I think we've done a very good job of establishing a brand where we are going about finding, vetting, and training people to be successful in their sales career, and being able to do that now across all their functions and roles within this revenue organization is the next step for us. I feel very comfortable that I'll be able to do that pretty quickly.”
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“We have to culturally change our perspective on who we want to fill these open roles with,” Brian shares. “There's an insane amount of buyer bias and hiring and team building — whether it be they need to go to a certain school, or be a certain gender or race. With both conscious and unconscious biases playing out everyday in recruiting, it's having a major impact on not being able to create more equitably distributed teams. I hope the future of work has a much healthier set of different perspectives and different people on these teams.”
In order to achieve this, Brian implores that we assess talent and what skills they really bring to the table.
“I think the natural, easy thing to do there is make it look more skills-based. But I think there's a lot to be said about how we are attacking and eliminating those biases that bleed into the ‘who' we're looking for, how we target people, and how we vet. Otherwise, I don't think we're ever going to really get to that place of healthy equity. The data constantly shows that that's what makes companies and teams better. We're not seeing a major leap in that area, which I think is a huge issue. So there's a huge opportunity around changing the hiring process, and the perspectives we bring to the table today.”
If virtual learning businesses like Victory Lap are any consolation, we're heading in the right direction for increasing higher education opportunities for professionals and creating better frameworks for staffing all industries moving forward. Read how other great minds in learning are creating better opportunities in their respective spaces here.
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