This is the Way Your Reps Really Want to Learn

By Mark Magnacca

A recent survey, co-produced by The Sales Management Association (SMA) and Allego, suggests that many sales reps and sales managers have very different views about the fundamental issue of sales training.

The Importance of Selling Skills: Where Do Reps and Managers Disagree?
The study, “Salesperson Learning Preferences,” first looked at nine different topics related to the development of selling skills and asked respondents to rank their priority as well as their firm’s training effectiveness in those topics.

On average, the following selling skills were cited as important:

  • Knowledge of company offerings
  • Ability to address customer objections
  • Securing customer commitment
  • Crafting solutions

The survey found that managers rated all topics higher in importance than salespeople did, and assigned significantly different relative priority. For example, managers are more likely to consider a rep’s ability to communicate their company’s value proposition as important, while reps are more likely to prioritize tactical skills, such as presentation effectiveness.

When it comes to the importance of role playing with manager feedback, managers rated the practice 38 percent higher than salespeople did, suggesting a disconnect.

Perhaps most important – and a key example of the divide between reps and managers – management respondents ranked their firm’s effectiveness in every sales training topic lower than sales reps did, suggesting that managers take a dimmer view of sales training than salespeople.

How Sales Reps Really Want to Learn: By Sharing Best Practices
The report also found that salespeople consider a greater portion of their overall learning to be self-directed, suggesting that managers may underestimate the degree to which salespeople seek out learning without managers’ involvement.

Additionally, managers and salespeople both share an interest in decreasing the amount of learning and development associated with company-generated objectives, as well as increasing learning associated with self-directed and manager-directed learning objectives.

According to both reps and managers, the most widely used training tool – and the one with the highest effectiveness rating: salesperson best practice sharing. Therefore, providing reps with a way to not only share best practices among themselves, but also to practice on their own time, may be an important way to improve training effectiveness.

Bridging the Gap Between Reps and Managers with Mobile Video Learning
The report indicated that managers and reps see eye-to-eye in certain areas. For example, they agree that microlearning, salesperson practice, and the use of sales enablement platforms are the three most important sales training practices. (In fact, millennial sales reps value ongoing practice even more than the norm.) Interestingly, however, managers and reps also consider these same practices as among the least effectively leveraged by their company. Why is this?

A recent webinar co-hosted by the SMA and Allego suggested that the common thread to explain this discrepancy is a lack of mobile access to training content. Among survey respondents, only 10 percent of companies have fully implemented mobile-enabled training content. Without a way to accommodate the on-the-go nature of the sales function, these valuable training practices aren’t feasible – and don’t allow reps the ability for self-directed learning.

Mobile video sales learning platforms bridge the gap between traditional training approaches and the needs of today’s sales teams. Consider the following data from the research report:

Ninety-two percent of respondents (including both managers and reps) view best practice sharing as a key salesperson development practice, and mobile video platforms provide the means for distributed sales teams to communicate their knowledge more effectively.

For managers, best practice sharing was seen as particularly important, as 73 percent noted they experienced high ROI on peer learning investments.

Mobile video sales learning solutions equip salespeople with instant access to situation-specific best practices – right when reps need it. Additionally, they provide foundational training courses while reinforcing key learnings with video practice, coaching, and flashcard quizzes. The result is accelerated onboarding, improved sales certification, and enhanced customer conversations.

Mark Magnacca is co-founder and president of Allego.