Blended learning approaches are certainly not new, but given the challenges over the past 18 months, we are seeing many opportunities to apply these approaches in creative new ways.
The pandemic heightened interest in hybrid models (a combination of virtual instructor led, digital, collaborative learning, etc.) that already existed — and provided a testing ground for their effectiveness. With the on-demand and collaborative sales training models we’re now using at SRG, we’re seeing outcomes, participant interaction and satisfaction scores improve for our sales and sales management training programs.
But do these benefits hold true for every type of employee training? Specifically, can we effectively onboard new sales reps in a hybrid world — especially when we need them to hit the ground running in an even more challenging selling environment?
In a recent webinar, I explored what the hybrid world means for onboarding new sales reps with Jonathan Carlson of Allego. Allego offers mobile, interactive learning and enablement technology built for today’s distributed teams.
“We all need to be open-minded and flexible in thinking about how we bring teams together when we’re distributed and hybrid — and how we get our new hires up and running even faster than we did with previous models,” Carlson said.
Challenges of onboarding in a hybrid world
Onboarding is more than simply delivering content. It includes learning about the organization’s culture, collaborating with colleagues, and effectively engaging with processes. “So much of working at any company is integrating into that company culture and getting a sense of what motivates the leadership and the employees who work there. Replicating those brief, but incredibly important, informal interactions is a massive part of onboarding in a hybrid world,” Carlson said.
So how long does it take to ramp up a salesperson? The answer is “it depends.” But a good rule of thumb is the average length of a sales cycle plus at least 90 days. One priority to consider is how the reps are receiving ongoing sales team training and coaching throughout the ramp-up period, not just the initial onboard period.
It’s important to analyze and communicate how long it should take sales reps to reach key milestones like time to first meeting, demo, proposal and first closed deal. This will help determine if they are making progress toward being “fully ramped” while they’re still building their own pipeline and learning to close deals within your environment.
According to Allego’s research, it took twice as long on average for new hires to be productive during the pandemic, and sales leaders reported that it was harder to get new hires up to speed. But the sales training industry is already finding ways to address the challenges and accelerate ramp-up time.
Promoting a collaborative environment
Blended digital learning combines features that cultivate collaboration alongside content delivery and other resources. For example, participants can apply their skills through missions and field work. They can discuss topics and share feedback with peers in their cohort as well as with coaches. They can also troubleshoot, access performance support, demonstrate their knowledge and compete with each other through gamified activities.
After the initial training, nothing can replace live coaching interactions for gauging what new hires retained and how they are applying those skills. But companies can also benefit from asynchronous technology (everything from email to videos) because it allows time to process information, reflect and brainstorm without having to have everyone in the same place at the same time.
Leveraging peer-to-peer content to expand training relevancy
New hires need constant exposure to their teams to be successful — but in a hybrid world, coordinating schedules to do this either in-person or virtually can be time-consuming and difficult. Videos can be a solution for this challenge. They’re quick to produce, easy to use and update, and flexible enough to cover a wide variety of scenarios.
Many companies are collecting libraries of video assets to share peer-to-peer content about best practices, success stories, news, job aids and examples of successful sales behaviors.
Using continuous learning and coaching to support ongoing success
Onboarding isn’t a one-time event. The best new-hire training sessions won’t be successful if they’re not followed up with in-the-moment support and ongoing skill development.
When managers offer coaching to reinforce best practices, provide feedback and connect with new hires, the reps’ skills — and thus their sales results — improve more quickly. They also learn how to solve their own problems without managers’ direct involvement.
But managers aren’t the only resource for continuous learning. Teammates can also be fantastic resources for creating relevant examples that new hires can access at their own pace. This could take the form of libraries of win reports and case studies, playbooks for selling scenarios and other skill development resources.
“Make sure you’ve thought through how your reps will access the sales resources and how easy it is to share and collaborate with one another,” Carlson advised. “Those are the things that will have an impact over time.”
As the hybrid world continues to evolve, we’re looking forward to learning even more about how to best accelerate new hires’ ramp-up time so they can hit the ground running.