We’ve discussed the need to develop a sales training program that is effective and increases sales knowledge retention. A well-planned, measurable program keeps track of your sales reps’ strengths and weaknesses, all while they can put their newfound skills and knowledge into practice in real-time.
But even the best sales training programs can fall flat if they don’t deliver meaningful insight to sales enablement and training leaders. The ultimate sales training goal is to ensure your sales reps walk away from the program with greater knowledge, understanding, and motivation to do their jobs. This gives them the tools to close more business, more quickly. One way to do this is through microlearning, which is proven to help sales reps regularly commit new information to memory through constant reinforcement of bite-sized, job-specific sales content. This type of continuous learning is scientifically proven to increase sales knowledge retention better than standard one-off assessments.
The best microlearning solutions also collect thousands upon thousands of learning and engagement data points that allow training leaders to enrich their sales training program with intel on knowledge and skills gaps at individual, team and group levels.
These are just some of the characteristics of effective microlearning solutions. As a sales enablement and training leader, there is an overwhelming choice of microlearning solutions on the market, all claiming to ultimately improve sales performance. How can you cut through the crowd to choose the best technology to support your sales training program and take it to new heights? By selecting a microlearning solution that allows you achieve these five things.
1. Make your data sets as rich as possible
Best-in-class microlearning solutions support custom “tagging” of both learners and content that can significantly enrich post-campaign reporting and analytics. Tagging helps slice and dice proficiency data to identify strengths and areas for improvement within your sales force. Qstream customers use reporting tags to understand cohorts hot spots that need additional training and support. Proficiency can be viewed through the lens of participant tags, like team, region, tenure, and quota attainment. This can also be cross-tabulated content tags, like pricing, competitors, and product knowledge.
Let’s look at an example: By cross referencing region with product knowledge proficiency, it may uncover there are regional hotspots that need more product training than others. This helps sales enablement managers pinpoint and tailor further training where it is needed most.
The results of your reporting demonstrate the effectiveness of your training and provide insights into your teams’ capabilities, trends, and knowledge gaps. However, this data should always be viewed and actioned as positive reinforcement and providing professional development support — not for punitive purposes. The latter will only make engagement nosedive, with the quality of feedback and peer interaction declining precipitously.
2. Don’t forget to explain
Be sure to add explanatory content following each answer submission, regardless of whether the sales rep responded correctly. While tempting, simply restating the question is not effective so these should be kept to a 2-3 minute read as a further microlearning opportunity.
A thoughtful, crisp explanation of why certain answers were correct or incorrect further stimulates critical thinking and helps with the repetitive reinforcement process, which contributes to long-term knowledge retention. If sales reps are keen to know and study more, including embedded links, multimedia, and references to sales content libraries can be an option if you wish to further enrich the learning experience.
You’ll also be surprised at the debate and discussion the challenge answers and explanations create within the team. This healthy discussion cannot only keep the training content “in-check,” but the “correctness” of the content further engages reps and reinforces concepts and improves retention.
3. Add commenting and other embedded social tools
So this is a nice segue from above. The best reinforcement solutions allow reps to share feedback, challenge, or cheer on their peers while also engaging in healthy competition. Encouraging an open dialogue within the learning app provides the opportunity to discuss the learning content and concepts, which can clear up any confusion or lead to a debate regarding accuracy. This then becomes a team-learning exercise that is extremely powerful for engaging and helping reps fill in knowledge gaps. This helps raise the level of everyone for better learning outcomes.
Enabling peer socialization and dialogue within the app is a minimum expectation. It is the offline chatter that is always exciting. If the experience is a positive one, sales reps want them and their team to be atop the leaderboard so there is nothing better than them discussing the questions and answers offline. Is this cheating? Absolutely not, especially when it means reps are engaging and improving their skills and knowledge. This will only have positive effects on knowledge retention, which is the whole purpose of the program.
4. Take advantage of recognition and reward opportunities
Sales reps are a uniquely competitive bunch and, for many, the only thing better than winning is being recognized for their success. Reinforcement solutions that include game-like elements and a creative reward structure will motivate your team and keep them engaged with the program. Be careful to match the style of game mechanics and rewards to your sales team culture and profile.
For example, in the enterprise sales world, sales reps are knowledge workers who need to have finely practiced soft sales skills married with deep technical, market, product, competitor, and pricing knowledge. Think about a pharma rep educating a healthcare professional on the results of clinical studies that prove the positive effects on patient health. Or a fund manager seeking institutional investment from a pension fund into a complex alternative investment product. These are highly experienced professionals selling into customers in highly regulated industries. This may be a serious sales culture, so gimmicky badges, icons, and high fives within the learning app may devalue the serious nature of their business, learning content, and customers On the other hand, a millennial cultured SDR team for a big tech firm may not tire of such gimmicks within the technology.
The best bet is to keep the game mechanics and recognition within the app neutral to all sales cultures. Simplicity is often best, such as point scoring and leaderboards. Doing this at both individual and team levels can also keep reps engaged and driven to do well in microlearning challenge as they want them and their team atop of that leaderboard. Depending on the sales culture, other rewards and recognition can be incentivized outside of the app.
5. Don’t forget to experiment
Depending on the learning objectives of each course within your program, you may want to try different approaches for the execution and time period of the microlearning challenge, or try different question types to keep it interesting.
A course that requires very detailed, technical product knowledge to be retained may need to be rolled out over a longer period of time (6-8 weeks) to ensure that the repetitive delivery of the microlearning content has enough time to be repeated and reinforced to reach the retention levels expected. On the other hand, you may be preparing for your annual sales kick-off meeting and are in a hurry to know what content would be of most benefit to reps. In this case, a lightning round-style assessment of sales skills and knowledge would be more appropriate to help you pinpoint the topics and content that would have the most impact on filling sales proficiency gaps.
Take Your Sales Training Program to the Next Level
The aim of the game is to find a sales technology solution, such as a microlearning app, specifically tailored to the job role and company that offers purposeful feedback, keeps sales reps motivated, and equips them with the tools they need to be successful. This requires a careful assessment of the technology choices available against your sales enablement and learning goals, so be sure to check for proof of success with customers in direct or adjacent markets or business functions.
If you’re interested in taking your sales training program to new heights, contact us to learn about how Qstream’s best practice microlearning platform can increase sales rep engagement, improve sales knowledge retention, instill motivation, and effectively change sales behaviors.
For additional ideas, download our eBook, 10 Tips for Developing an Effective Sales Training Program.