June 15, 2018

New Ways to Make Sales Training More Engaging and Effective

By Bryan Naaz

These days sales teams face a barrage of new information and technologies. Anyone in sales enablement, or who has worked with sales enablement, knows there will never be a shortage of learning to develop and deliver. While sales enablement professionals may be guilty of forcing mandatory, one-size-fits-all training because it seems more efficient, there are times when a tailored approach will be more effective, especially when the information focuses on a very specific group of reps.

There are three fundamental challenges to take into account anytime you consider mandatory training:

  1. Is the content relevant to everyone?
  2. Is the content new to everyone?
  3. Is the content easy for everyone to consume?

If you answer no to any of these, consider targeted or individualized approaches to disseminate learning. Every business is different—and a healthy mix of the modalities and styles that best meet the needs of your business will lead to the most success.

A Targeted Approach to Learning
Training segment groupings within your company allows you to make some assumptions based on the needs of that smaller group. Most importantly, you can leverage the wisdom of your managers to find out exactly what is plaguing their team—and solve for that targeted group. And, as a bonus, you’ll quickly find that this training approach is easy to rinse and repeat for teams that are running into similar challenges. You’ll also receive sales management buy-in which is key to the success of any training program. Your managers will be an extension of the enablement team and become key stakeholders in the creation and delivery of learning.

Three tips for promoting targeted learning in your organization:

  1. Leverage management to discover the challenges of segments and individual teams in order to develop training that meets their needs.
  2. Avoid adding training time to rep calendars by utilizing existing events like team meetings. Then, enable managers to execute the training using manager guides.
  3. Make training predictable with a standardized structure so reps can focus on the content as opposed to the format.

A Personal Approach to Learning
Personalized learning is often considered the holy grail of sales enablement. Imagine if you could look at past performance, skill competency, behavior, and practice scenarios, then assign and manage personalized training to each person on your team right when they need it. While we aren’t quite there yet, we’re getting closer all the time.

In the meantime, let’s focus on individualized learning. The triggers are similar, but we rely on the personal engagement of individual learners and managers. Then we let the data influence the decision—as opposed to selecting content in a vacuum. With those ideas in hand, there are two key factors to making individualized learning work for your organization:

  1. An engaged team of reps who are ready to take responsibility and own their development with the support of the organization around them.
  2. A library of on-demand content organized to match the skills and knowledge reps need to be successful. This includes online learning and live/regular coaching opportunities in small group and one-on-one scenarios.

Think of this as the “teach them to fish” approach. Each individual and their manager has a good understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Based on this knowledge—and their needs—reps self-select learning opportunities to build on their skills.

One key idea to make this tactic work is a consistent approach to the content that’s provided through an on-demand learning library. Reps need confidence that the enablement that helps them succeed is available when and where they need it. Or else, they won’t return and will fall back into a routine of asking their peers or manager for help.

Three tips for promoting individualized learning in your organization:

  1. Have reps create and write down regular (monthly and/or quarterly) learning goals that coincide with their regular performance goals.
  2. Encourage and model daily learning where reps start every single day by taking a step toward the learning goals.
  3. Make learning goals a part of every manager 1:1, alongside forecast and pipeline discussions, to encourage rep development and engagement.

Start Small
This may all seem overwhelming, so start small to give your team the best chance for success. Replace one mandatory all-org training with a targeted training for the team most affected by the change. Then, leverage that same content for individuals at their point of need. As you continue to build this muscle, you’ll find that your reps are more engaged and your training is more effective than ever.

With more than 15 years of combined experience in sales and learning design, Bryan currently drives strategy and execution as the Director of Sales Enablement at Lessonly. Connect with Bryan on his blog.