Traditionally, organizations have delivered sales training in the form of long sessions in a classroom or as e-learning modules on a LMS. While this method might have been effective in the past, today’s sales teams need a more dynamic and agile format of learning and enablement. For example, MindTickle research with over 100,000 sales reps found that training decks with over 20 slides have less than half the engagement of training decks with 10 slides or fewer. There is a wide range of compelling evidence that now is the time to rethink your training programs with more dynamic sales readiness. Here are some tips to shift from sales training to sales readiness.
Shift from sales training to sales readiness.
To be successful, sales teams must create an ongoing outcome-oriented enablement process that builds reps’ capabilities to win deals and, more importantly, a process that adapts to both internal and external changes. Learning is both ongoing — perhaps even weekly — and an iterative process, paired with structured, on-the-job coaching. The goal is to continuously develop sales reps to ensure they are effective and continually challenged, while working closely with managers to close the loop of learning and performance.
To engage your sales representatives, use different learning methods, including bite-sized content, quizzes, mobile alerts and role-plays. To ensure your sales team is retaining knowledge, provide them with the opportunity to practice and receive feedback in a safe environment. Then, they will be better prepared to speak to customers and address their needs quickly.
Make content easy to consume and relevant.
Attention spans have shortened to the time it takes to read two sentences, the length of an average tweet. Based on user engagement data, videos that are less than seven minutes and content in bite-sized portions (optimally, fewer than seven pages) are best when relaying information to sales teams. Also, training modules that incorporate quizzes increase engagement and time spent on that module by 38 percent.
For example, one enterprise implemented a sales readiness platform and began pushing product updates and other information to sales reps via mobile alerts every week instead of waiting to gather them for their biannual in-person training. This process has reduced their in-person training preparation, driven adoption of new content and ensured that representatives are always ready with the most up-to-date information — effectively making quarterly in-person engagement sessions redundant.
Millennials and the soon-to-be employed members of Generation Z are mobile-first generations. By moving training online and enabling access on mobile devices, you can enable them to participate in training at any time. Managers can even share updates and new information via mobile notifications, preventing emails from getting lost in reps’ mailboxes. One pharmaceutical company with over 20,000 sales reps was surprised to find that 36 percent of training happens outside traditional working hours. Their reps see training as important but want to engage with it on their own terms, when they have time to focus.
Create a coaching culture.
Left to themselves, most managers focus on and coach around pipeline. However, companies with a culture of coaching do significantly better than others. Over 62 percent of reps meet or exceed quotas when a formal coaching process is in place, compared to just 50 percent when training is left to individual managers.
Managers should use both proactive and reactive coaching. Using role-playing as a proactive tool, reps can practice and perfect their demos and pitches with coaches before speaking with customers. Reactive coaching is useful for managers to immediately address concerns they observed during sales calls or outreach. This type of coaching is a useful tool when the concern is still fresh with the rep and manager. Tracking these interactions and coaching sessions can show managers exactly what impacts each rep’s efficacy. This data-driven approach means coaching impacts the most important capabilities that drive revenue and develop prepared sales reps who demonstrate expertise and put customers at ease.
Leverage your salespeople’s competitiveness (and collaboration) to make the learning stick.
Gamifying your sales readiness program encourages learners to engage with the content by creating healthy competition and rewarding desired behaviors. Using game mechanics such as badges, levels, challenges or leaderboards, you can motivate your sales professionals to actively participate in sales readiness activities, help each other on quests and hit their training targets.
By creating channels and forums for your salespeople to discuss the training, you allow them to learn from each other’s experiences and not just hypothetical examples. Enabling different teams to create their own knowledge base and collaborative information repository provides each team with a specialized archive to learn from. Sales professionals who comment or ask questions can create a digital “footprint” that guide a new salesperson (or even an experienced one in unfamiliar territory) to quickly absorb the knowledge and wisdom of his or her peers and superiors, cutting down on learning time and saving money.
Sales readiness enables stronger and more engaged teams. Readiness equips your sales reps with the right combination of knowledge, skills and execution and empowers your sales managers with the tools they need to guide their teams to success. As sales representatives’ learning preferences have evolved from classrooms to mobile devices, make sure to revive training to meet them on the screens where they learn best, provide them with the information they need in an easily-consumed format and motivate them to engage with the content.