Corporate trainers are always on the lookout for effective ways to boost their sales training programs. In fact, according to the Training Industry 2015 report, “an estimated $751,542 was invested in their sales training. The highest priority for training in terms of allocating resources in 2015 was to increase the effectiveness of training programs.” What reasons call for so much money to be invested in sales training alone? The jury is still out. But the ‘ineffectiveness’ can be mainly attributed to factors such as failure to define the business and learning needs or failure to build sales knowledge.
So how do you improve the effectiveness of your sales training? Let’s find out.
1. Keep training short but consistent with microlearning:
Traditionally, sales training (especially online) programs were very lengthy, having an average duration of one hour. And with studies indicating humans’ receding attention spans, it will only exacerbate the overall problem by making it harder for Gen Y learners to stay focused on subject-heavy content. Therefore, the best approach to ensure they stay engaged and pay attention to the training is to keep it short and consistent – that is, by adopting microlearning practices.
Microlearning is a way of offering training in the form of manageable bite-sized content. Learners can access them easily on a Smartphone, and these smaller modules result in better knowledge retention.
If your training consists of teaching your employees a lot of sales processes, then micro learning is the way to go. For example, you can have them take quizzes with multiple choice options on their mobile devices.
2. Gamify the training process:
There may just be whispers about it in the workplace now, but if you haven’t heard much about gamification yet, you will soon (Cook, 2013). Gamification encompasses the idea of adding game mechanics to learning content. Many organizations use gamification in training their workforce to help them solve problems, teach new concepts and ideas.
“Games create engagement – the cornerstone of any positive learning experience.”
- Karl Kapp, author of The Gamification of Learning and Instruction
In 2010, SAP’s global sales team had to quickly transition to sell a suite of mobility products from a corporate acquisition. In order to help their sales reps better sell the products, they needed an effective training approach. This led to the conception of Roadwarrior, a gamified concept.
The SAP Roadwarrior game was designed to help sales representatives confidently engage in mobility conversations with customers. It is a multiplayer interactive learning game available for all platforms that was tracked through their LMS. The objective of the game was to win as many customers as possible by choosing the right strategy to win deals, based on the conversation with customers virtually.
Additionally, sales reps were offered information on their customers’ companies beforehand to better equip them in handling their questions. They were assessed using multiple choice questions, awarding them points/badges for every correct answer, allowing them to progress to new levels.
The game was a huge success because it not only allowed sales reps learn about SAP’s new mobile applications but also brought fun into the mix.
You can easily see why gamification is so effective when it comes to achieving sales training goals. It allows you to craft learning experiences that are engaging, motivational, and lead to increased retention.
3. Give feedback through open channels of communication:
Effective communication and feedback in any organization is as crucial as the training itself. Virtually every aspect of business operations (sales training, product management, employee management) derives benefits from the establishment of communication channels. Creating a feedback loop within your sales training plays a critical role in keeping your employees informed and engaged.
Let’s understand this with a scenario. Say, your employees are undergoing online training on a ‘sales campaign’. Using the LMS (Learning Management System), you can track1 how well they are doing and provide feedback accordingly. This comes handy when you are examining their overall understanding of the training and want to let them know which aspects need more attention.
4. Support on-the-job performance through mobile apps:
“Performance support is influencing the way work gets done. That means learning professionals need support not just from senior executives but from all levels of management.“
- Marc J. Rosenberg, leading expert in training and e-learning
In a typical scenario, when they resume their work, employees who have undergone training are required to apply that learning to their specific job roles. But since knowledge retention is a big problem for our human brains, employees tend to misremember most of the training and fail to recall what they need to do. So what do you do to tackle this problem and support them to work to the best of their ability?
Mobile apps. You can have mobile apps tailored to offer on-the-job performance support, ones which offer quick learning bites about the products they need to sell. Since everybody uses a Smartphone nowadays, these apps can be made available to the employees within their work-flow.
5. Offer virtual coaching to extend the sales training:
Sales management and coaching is often considered paramount when new training is set up in a sales organization. Neil Rackham2, the author of SPIN Selling3, conducted a study which indicated that “post training, if there was no coaching or reinforcement activity, there was a drop-off of 87% of the knowledge acquired.” Employees need to be coached whenever they complete their training. But most sales managers become overwhelmed by this additional responsibility and neglect to undertake it citing time constraints. But when employees are not tutored on what they learned, the training exercise is of no use.
This is where virtual training comes in, giving sales managers flexibility in terms of coaching and management goals. You can extend the conventional online training to your employees if they are on a device connected to the Internet. You can accommodate coaching on new products, marketing strategies and changes, all this while not having to worry about a face-to-face interaction.
Virtual learning is synchronous because it gives both the manager and employees the freedom to interact with each other on the same platform. Also, it is cost effective since everything happens online.
E-learning allows employees to brush up their product knowledge on the go. You can also track their progress/activity to ensure everyone is getting the most out of the training. Besides, it is relatively inexpensive than instructor-led training methods.
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