On Board With Online Training

By Malcolm Fleschner

Across nearly all industries, online sales training offers the same three critical advantages over traditional bricks-and-mortar training, something training expert Keith Cox refers to in shorthand as TPP or time, place and pace.

“The value is that you can train people when and where it’s most convenient for them and let them have control over the process so they have some sense of ownership and empowerment,” says Cox, general manager of IC Axon (www.icaxon.com), a sales training organization focused on e-learning solutions for the pharmaceutical industry.

Reflecting on the history of sales training in the pharma industry, Cox notes the general antipathy trainees feel for the ubiquitous 3-ring binders they typically have had to grind their way through.

“I’ve found that if all you do is take the content of the 3-ring binders and put it in an interactive format, there’s an immediate pickup in terms of retention because people don’t fall asleep,” he says. “It’s as simple as that. Reps often are doing this training at home after the kids are in bed and after they’ve had a long day. I’ve had many people in the pharmaceutical business say: I just can’t keep my eyes open with these incredibly dull 3-ring binder briefing books.”

Because online is more engaging, he adds, and because end users get to control the pace and how they navigate through the content, online training works better simply because users can match it to their own learning style and conceptual framework. With the ability to reuse content, training organizations can save precious budget resources by not having to endlessly reproduce materials.

Not that online training is cheap. Cox admits that with upfront costs, Web-based training solutions are more expensive to implement than traditional training avenues. For training organizations looking to assess costs and benefits, he suggests a 250-person tipping point where value begins to exceed costs.

“What we find is that you typically hit the breakeven point or get a payback on the extra development costs of interactive online content if you’re training 200 to 250 people,” he says. “Admittedly, that includes a whole range of assumptions about how many live classes you’d have to run to cover 250 people and so on. But over the past 12 years that I’ve been doing it, whenever I’ve done the analysis the number came out to somewhere between 200 and 400 people. So as a ballpark figure, if you’ve got more than 250 people you’ll likely see the benefit from incorporating online training.”