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7 Ways to Shake Up Your Sales Training

In a recent webinar the audience poll showed that a key sales training challenge was to get reps to complete their training courses. Reps are busy and training is often seen as time-consuming, irrelevant and boring. To get your sales team to enjoy learning, you have to think beyond the traditional approach.

Here are 7 ways to boost completion rates:

1. Make it as convenient as possible – To keep reps up-to-date continuously, you can’t rely on live training. Even scheduling everyone for a webinar is a challenge. And although it might seem more efficient to book training sessions in long blocks – “Let’s knock out as much as we can in a two-hour meeting, or multi-day event” – studies actually show that people prefer learning in shorter bursts. For these reasons, it’s important that you offer training that fits into your reps’ schedules, and can be viewed wherever they are. Break up your content into short, bite-sized chunks to account for today’s microscopic attention spans and busy schedules. Then, any downtime in your reps’ day becomes an opportunity to consume training content – during a train commute, at the airport, waiting for a child’s soccer game to start.
2. Deliver training on whatever device is available to the rep – There’s a reason Google just changed their search algorithm to reward mobile-friendly websites. In fact, the search engine mammoth officially announced that mobile searches have overtaken those performed on a desktop. It’s not only web searches that are happening on mobile devices. According to a Gartner survey conducted in June of 2014, of the 40% of U.S. employees at large enterprises using personally owned devices for work, 66% are using a mobile phone or tablet. In order for your reps to take their learning on the go, your training content must be mobile-ready and responsive. That means that when you design training, make sure it’s as easy to consume on a small screen as it is a desktop or laptop, and don’t try to fit in a lot of text or small graphics into your presentations.
3. Add interactivity and multimedia elements – On average, people forget 70% of what is taught within 24 hours of the training experience. When it comes to creating training content that will not just be consumed but remembered, gamify. Try adding quiz questions, asking for comments, or having users click on a link. If you have your reps do something every few minutes, it’s harder for them to settle in to passive listening/reading. Visuals and a little bit of humor won’t hurt either.
4. Make it relevant to what the rep is experiencing right now – If learning is not applicable and put into practice right away, it will not be retained. While there will be some generic training that has to be delivered across the board, add prompts to help your reps make the connection to their real-life experiences in the field. Make sure you are creating content that is specific and actionable – if a rep is working with a prospect in the healthcare industry for the first time, suggest that they watch a video on “How to sell to healthcare professionals.” Think of learning as a journey – given the experience and the courses already taken, what skills should the rep acquire next?
5. Ensure that training content is quick and easy to find – IDC reports that 90% of selling content is never used in selling, most likely because reps can’t find the content they need, when they need it. Don’t make your reps waste time hunting for resources. Develop an organization strategy, keeping in mind topics and categories that align with how reps already work (i.e. are they organized into territories, industries, along product lines) and their sales process (i.e. how are sales stages defined in their CRM system).
6. Track it, optimize it – Content intelligence is the key to unlocking training ROI. You won’t know how well your training program is working unless you have a system for measuring and tracking results. Make sure you know who’s taking each course, and how many of your reps are “completing” it. Build in a feedback mechanism, adding the ability for reps to provide comments and/or a rating for each module. Then use these results to optimize your program for maximum success. Another idea: Determine what training the best reps are using and suggest those courses to under-performing reps to see if it helps improve their results.
7. Use a carrot AND stick approach – Most salespeople are inherently competitive. Use this trait to your advantage by turning your training into a competition. Offer up points for each module completed, and make sure high scorers are rewarded with recognition and awards. You could also divide the reps into teams – whichever team gets the highest score wins. For the most important courses (especially if you’re in an industry where compliance is important) make course completion a requirement to go to the kickoff or club trips.

Incorporating these seven ideas into your training program won’t just ensure your reps are completing their training – by making learning fun you will see higher knowledge retention and a more motivated team, which translates into more deals closed. If you need more evidence about why most sales training fails, check out our infographic on The Current State of Sales Training.

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