Reaching Employees in the Long Tail through eLearning and mLearning

Reaching Employees in the Long Tail through eLearning and mLearning

Reaching Employees in the Long Tail through eLearning and mLearning

We all know about the Pareto Principle, which gives us the 80-20 rule. As per the rule, 80% of revenue is brought by 20% of the salespeople and perhaps by selling 20% of the products manufactured by a company.

  • What happens to the 80% of salespeople, who are not sitting idle but generating some revenue to the company?

  • What happens to the 80% of other products that may not have as much demand as the other 20%, but still manage to cater to some customers?

This is where the concept of “Long Tail” becomes relevant. In an article for the “Wired” magazine, Chris Anderson proposed the idea of “long tail”. According to him, the Internet has changed the way products are sold by sellers and the way products are purchased by customers.

The New Market Place


E-commerce has changed the way we look at market space

In the traditional brick and mortar stores, organizations would stock products that fetch maximum revenue. As a result, consumers who are looking for niche products may not find it at a store close by. However, in the day of e-commerce, consumers now have the power to decline the brick and mortar store nearby that does not cater to their specific requirement and order the niche products online.

What one needs to consider here is that in a small area, the number of customers going in for online stores, may be insignificant. However, when you put together the combined numbers across a wider geographical area, the numbers could be quite significant! It would not be prudent for organizations to overlook the potential of this group of customers. They may not have had the logistical options earlier, but now they do with the Internet and e-commerce.

To prove his point, Andersen cites the example of that carries not just best sellers but niche books catering to their customers in the ‘long tail’. Thus, most organizations have diversified into e-commerce making their products available online to tap into the market of customers lost in the ‘long tail’. In a way, they have found a market for the 80% of the ‘so-called’ not popular products online.

E-learning & M-learning can change the way we look at the learning space

Coming to the 80% of ‘so-called’ sales persons who are not among the top, what do we see in a typical organization – let’s say an insurance company? The top performing agents get awards, recognition, and training at exotic locations. Organizations do incur a lot of expenditure in arranging such training programs.

The 80%, who have not performed up to the mark, do not get anything – except for a bit of commission that they would have earned selling insurance policies. All the training that they would have got was the mandatory training that they need to pass to become insurance agents. Does anyone seriously think about the training needs of these people?

Perhaps the training needs of these salespeople are different, requiring a different approach towards training. Some might require training on building communication skills; others might need to refresh their knowledge of different policies from time to time. For some, bite-sized motivational nuggets would work wonders. Others might need guidance from peers, and a little bit of hand holding and guidance by a mentor might be just right to let them give their best shot. So, a one-size–fits-all type of training content would really not be effective when you are trying to address the training needs of such a large group.

Thanks to eLearning/mLearning, and the multitude of learning technologies that are available today, organizations can attend to the training needs of a larger group of their employees. This not only benefits the employee but the organization as well. With technological advancements, they need to spend only a fraction of the costs that they normally spend for instructor-led training or for sales meets and conferences. A well-trained workforce is likely to improve their performance and propel organizational revenue.

Here are some ways eLearning & mLearning modules can be developed to cater to the wide majority of salespeople and even other employees.

1. Convert existing ILT material that has been used to train a section of employees into eLearning modules so that more number of employees can benefit from the knowledge transfer. You already have the content, you just have to publish it online with authoring tools like Articulate and iSpring.

2. Divide them into small modules focusing on a single concept or a message. Create mobile-compatible nuggets that could work wonders as performance support – key customer objections and how to overcome them, key product benefits catering to the specific customer segment, etc. Since salespeople are usually working on field, they would benefit from this just-in-time information.

3. These small modules function as RLOs, that is, Reusable Learning Objects that can address varied needs of employees. For example, senior salespeople do not have to go through the very basic modules involving sales process, detailed information about products, target customers and organizational approach towards selling, etc. They can straightaway go to the module that shares scenarios where crossselling or bundling options are addressed.

4. Upload the training modules on to the Learning Management System, ensure that the courses are catalogued well so that they are searchable with key words, add additional resources such as tips for selling, market updates, competition updates and such other information to make the content dynamic and relevant. In short, the LMS should be the place that salespeople check just before getting on to the field so that they know they are going on to the field with current information.

5. Create collaborative tools, chat rooms, groups for niche communities of practice, links to social media where employees can meet and exchange information, share experiences and learn from peers. Mobile workforce would truly feel empowered having access to information and support in their hands!

Setting up such a system initially requires some amount of time and resources, but once the system is in place, it goes a long way to empower employees with up-to-date knowledge. The advantageous part of eLearning or mLearning is that you don’t have to make huge investments at the outset. Organizations can start small with one course and expand to other courses, based on the response they receive from employees.

Don’t you agree that eLearning and mLearning enable organizations to overcome the limitations of traditional classroom training programs that cater to only 20% of their employee segment? Online training format provides knowledge transfer to the rest of the 80% of their workforce and that too with a fraction of the costs of traditional face to face programs. Please share your thoughts.

View Presentation on Best Practices of mLearning for Sales Staff