Much has already been said about the importance of sales enablement, the value of using mobile technology for just-in-time access and the contribution effective coaching makes to sales performance. But what happens when all of those elements are combined? Providing a continuous learning experience, supported by technology, boosts sales rep readiness and shortens sales cycles.
A new partnership between Allego and Wilson Learning uses Allego’s mobile-first training platform to provide customers with Wilson’s portfolio of sales and leadership content to provide that continuous experience. Using a mobile platform to provide access to a library of content enables companies to share relevant information “where and when reps are most motivated to learn,” according to Mark Magnacca, president and co-founder of Allego. That time, he says, is usually at deal time.
Just-in-Time Sales Training
Traditionally, Magnacca adds, salespeople were trained using a “just-in-case” method, which provided a large amount of information that they were then expected to draw from later. “Remembering that information took up an enormous amount of mental energy,” he says. Now, technology enables “just-in-time learning, which provides a similar experience to watching a how-to video on YouTube – when you want it.” The next iteration will be “just for me,” using tools like machine learning to deliver specific content for sales reps to consume at just the right time.
That’s the real value of technology to sales training, Ed Emde, president of Wilson Learning, says: “It enables us to get the right content out to the learner over time.” Only 15 to 20 percent of training investments actually lead to changes in performance, Emde points out, because organizations don’t support reinforcement and application of that learning. Continuous learning means that training doesn’t happen only at predetermined workshops or courses but is reinforced and applied over time through practice and review.
“We believe that both a push and pull approach is necessary to ensure engagement and application of learning and sales tools,” Emde says. That means being proactive about sending content to salespeople and managers throughout the sales process and building a library of content and tools that they can find quickly and easily when they need them. Magnacca recommends developing a content calendar that includes content from other groups, such as marketing, product management, outside partners and even user-generated videos.
Developing Effective Sales Coaches
According to Emde, “research shows that adding manager coaching to a learning initiative can increase sales performance by as much as 42 percent.” Coaching, therefore, is critical to developing a sales workforce that is continuously learning. To be effective, though, organizations must focus on three elements of successful sales coaching: the sales manager’s mindset, skill set and tool set.
Sales managers, says Emde, cannot view coaching as an extra task in addition to their other work. Rather, they must develop a coaching mindset that views being a coach as an integral part of their role. It’s not something they do; it’s something they are. Developing a coaching mindset starts with learning how to coach effectively.
Helping managers develop a coaching skill set can help. Emde says the best approaches include three elements: curbside coaching (two- to four-minute conversations before and after sales calls), frequency and simplicity. It’s more effective to have frequent, short coaching conversations, Emde says, than to have one hour-long coaching session. And, “the simpler the coaching process, the better.”
Finally, providing a coaching tool set will make it easier for managers to use their coaching skill set. This tool set could be in the form of an e-book, a print book or a portal, and it should include “a series of coaching activities linked to the specific skills the salespeople learned.” Giving coaches specific tools to use will help them reinforce what their salespeople learn from training programs, extending that continuous learning cycle.
Putting it Together
“Continuous learning is the model of the future,” Magnacca says. It’s already proving to improve sales results, and “technology,” according to Emde, “is a critical enabler” of that model, which is too expensive and inefficient to implement without platforms to deliver content. However, technology is ineffective without “the right content, solid instructional design, engaging delivery, and a larger learning architecture context.”
Allego and Wilson’s partnership demonstrates that the pairing of content and technology can provide the reinforcement and sustainment necessary to ensure continuous learning throughout a sales organization. Other firms may develop similar partnerships, and internally, sales organizations should look to their own capabilities to make sure they’re delivering the right content at the right time and with the right technology to provide continuous support to their salespeople.