Picture this: you have your entire salesforce gathered in a room for an annual training — and most of them are looking at their phones and sneaking away to make calls. Can you relate?
Here’s the thing: sales reps don’t want to learn, they want to sell. Sales reps are results-driven and hungry for success, and that’s why you love them. At the same time, they need the right training to truly reach their potential, and that means time away from their selling efforts. Often, there’s a built-in tension between sales productivity and delivering training. Training is essential to sales success, but many reps resist it.
What if you could leverage your team’s selling efforts to deliver on-the-job training that doesn’t take away from their selling time? While traditional sales training events tend to overwhelm reps with information, a culture of learning creates informal training opportunities at every turn. The right balance of formal and informal training encourages growth and learning at every stage of development.
Stop wasting your time and money on training that your sales reps don’t want. Here are four ways to get your salesforce learning without sacrificing selling time.
Ever feel like what you’re teaching at sales events isn’t making it into the field? You’re right: on average, half of the content of a sales training event is lost in 5.1 weeks and 84% is lost after 90 days. eLearning helps reinforce formal learning by providing on-the-go, mobile training that keeps up with your sales reps’ busy schedules. Need to deliver product education? You don’t need to get everyone in the same room — you can use eLearning to create a series of short courses that get your reps up to speed. Plus, delivering bite-sized, digestible information boosts retention so that your reps are more confident and knowledgeable.
If you don’t already have an LMS to deliver eLearning, look for a platform that is searchable and trackable. You’ll want reps to be able to quickly search for and find the information they need, no matter what device they’re on. Likewise, managers and coaches should be able to view and track what reps are learning so they can gauge progress.
Traditional sales training events provide all the information your salesforce needs — when they don’t need it. In contrast, micro-learning is all about delivering “just in time” training opportunities. When a rep wants to learn about a new product feature, they can instantly access a video or quick online course to brush up on it. Micro-learning gets your salesforce learning in between sales calls and daily activities, embedding learning into the fabric of your company culture.
Take the approach Zimmer Biomet is deploying: they’re leveraging ongoing and regional training events while supporting their learners through podcasts, marketing videos and mobile friendly learning modules. Micro-learning encourages reps of all skill levels to keep learning by giving them focused, usable lessons on how to make their selling better, one step at time.
Want to make sure what reps are learning is actually sticking? Follow up with a quick video coaching session or a practice assignment that will challenge them to implement what they’ve learned.
3. Timely Feedback
One of the most effective ways to learn is through feedback. That means sales reps need to get in the habit of practicing what they’re learning so they can be knowledgeable and confident in every single customer interaction. Video practice is a great way to simulate a real sales scenario and record and review performance. That’s the easy part, but giving feedback can be tricky — and receiving it is even harder. Here are three ways to give more effective feedback:
Good feedback is actionable. Be clear about what worked and what didn’t, and exactly what they need to do as a next step. It’s also important to deliver your feedback in a timely fashion (within a few hours is ideal) so their perspective is fresh.
Share Best Practices
Did you know that salespeople prefer to learn through knowledge sharing with other reps? Incorporate mentoring, role-playing, or video coaching with peers into your feedback process. For example, if a sales rep is struggling to get their delivery just right, partner them with a top rep who can demonstrate a better way to pitch.
Recognize and Reward
Remember that your sales reps are goal-oriented by nature, and nothing fuels them more than reaching a personal milestone. When a rep implements feedback and makes a positive change, shout them out. Video practice is a great way to amplify successes to the larger team. With the rep’s permission, share their recording as a way to simultaneously recognize them and demonstrate a winning strategy to other reps.
4. Individualized Learning Paths
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to sales training. One rep knows the product inside and out, while the other is a strategy superstar. Instead of taking valuable time away from selling to train every rep on every skill, try creating individualized learning paths. Often, resistance to sales training is rooted in the fact that the material just isn’t relevant to their needs. Reps want to see that what they’re learning will help them achieve their individual goals.
Individual learning plans actually motivate sales reps to fill in their knowledge gaps and improve their skills, because they see the value in what they’re doing. Plus, today’s workforce tends to prefer self-directed learning that is on-demand and tailored to their needs. Assign industry articles, Ted Talks, online courses, and podcasts so that reps can build knowledge without taking valuable time away from selling. When there’s a clear time frame and learning objective, your reps are much more likely to buy-in.
Pro tip: the most efficient way to create individualized learning paths is to find a sales CMS that allows you to easily search for and assign material to individual reps. That way, you can assign and track their learning all in one place.