Is sales the best place for microlearning?
When I first asked myself this question, I thought, “Well, sure, salespeople are a great target audience, but are they the best?” I have come to a conclusion that they are indeed the best target audience for microlearning.
Let’s start by reviewing the key attributes of top sales performers. They are self-motivated and driven to succeed. They learn and adapt quickly. And they are all busy. Time is their most important commodity. From a sales enablement point of view, it is essential to provide sales with the tools that allow them to focus on their craft and their goals.
We must filter, curate and deliver content to engage. In sales, it’s easier to target small improvements and provide easy access to a wide knowledge base.
Quickness, efficiency and drive – all great reasons that sales people are a prime target for microlearning. But what is the secret sauce to drive results in sales enablement using microlearning? Let’s look at some examples where microlearning is a key ingredient.
The Annual Sales Meeting
A mix of motivation and information, the annual (or even quarterly) face-to-face sales meeting faces increasing cost cuts. Last year, I worked with a Fortune 25 company to provide content and exercises for their global sales meeting. Leaders presented, customers spoke, and participants listened and played games over three days. Total costs were in the millions. All of the content was at the event and had little effect.
Later, a division created a similar event but changed the dynamic. Prior to the event, they held two webcasts: one on product updates and one with leaders inspiring participants and starting a game. At the event, they grouped participants into teams for a case study that positioned product rollouts with role-play competitions. After the event, organizers sent reminders with short video reinforcements. Overall, the training included up-front microlearning, action learning and micro-reinforcements. That blend of micro- and macro-learning drove a result that was twice as effective.
Product updates and product knowledge are the center of much sales learning, especially in the technology industry. Product knowledge spans a wide spectrum but without requiring much depth. Microlearning fits that paradigm, with video, audio, animation and games in bite-sized pieces.
Take, for example, a new product from a technology company. The product marketing team creates sales tools like PDF files, competitive pieces and collateral. The engineering team creates a short video on the features and functions. Sales enablement pulls all the resources into a pathway, featuring an animated, responsive PowerPoint that sums up all the details, followed by more detailed information.
In the field, a salesperson can pull up that overview for a quick reference. Prior to meeting a customer, he or she can quickly discover the content they need. Sales has many moments of need, making it perfect for bite-sized content.
Sales Skills, Reimagined
There are many vendors with great sales skills courses, like whiteboard concepts, discover needs, questioning tools, negotiating and closing skills, and many more. Skill-building today can use a blend of microlearning in different modalities. Microlearning lets us create a flow of solutions, from flipping the classroom to providing reinforcements and reminders.
I have heard many people say “You can’t build a skill in two minutes!” Perhaps not, but you can in a group or pathway. The best way to effectively build a skill is to create a blend of “learn” and “do.”
Take whiteboarding, which is a method for selling a concept or a new technology using visuals to describe a solution. One vendor that I know works with its marketing team to create a specific visual and teaches salespeople how to draw the concept. They build the visual and the talk track, creating videos of leaders doing the pitch and providing discovery and job aids. All of that content can be delivered in microlearning.
Lastly, Respect For Time
Regardless of your job, today, time is a challenge. Work has changed to the point that one person often does the work of many people. Expectations have changed; we do more with less. The result is that we do not have the time or the patience to sit in class or to wait for a class.
In our private lives, we have Netflix, Google and Amazon serving our needs with easy-to-find results and personalized content. We do not need to go to a cooking class when we can use YouTube to learn how to cook a dish. We expect that consumer experience at work. It’s not about technology; it’s about providing answers immediately, in consumable pieces.
Salespeople are the ultimate example of today’s distracted and time-crunched worker. As such, I believe that sales is indeed the best target for microlearning. Leadership, another time-stretched part of the company, is a close second.
Microlearning is now a big piece of today’s learning puzzle. The full puzzle contains the right blend. More on that later!