What does your organization do for sales enablement? If you are like many sales-driven businesses, you focus on in-person training or on-the-job shadowing. From classroom presentations to day-long experiences where trainees watch more seasoned salespeople in action, there are many ways to push sales enablement through training.
The unfortunate fact is that many of these strategies aren’t working. According to a 2016 study conducted by CSO Solutions, companies spend between $500 and $2,500 per trainee on sales enablement. Nearly a third of respondents said their social selling training needed a major redesign, while half of the respondents said their customer marketplace training was in drastic need of change.
Companies spend between $500 and $2,500 per trainee on sales enablement. (Click to tweet)
Why Traditional Sales Enablement Fails
Given another CSO finding that says only about 54.6% of salespeople meet their sales quotas, it’s clear why businesses are so eager to redesign their sales training strategies. The question is, where should those restructuring efforts go?
There are numerous reasons why traditional classroom and job shadowing training methods are failing the businesses that are trying to turn out effective salespeople. Sometimes, the reason is extremely simple: companies aren’t being selective enough in their hiring processes, and end up with employees who just don’t have a talent for sales. Sales is the kind of job where at least some modicum of natural skill or spark is necessary, and if that isn’t there, training can only do so much.
However, the uncomfortable truth that many sales-driven businesses need to recognize is that their sales enablement strategies just aren’t very effectual. The big problem is information retention. Sales classes, presentations, or day-long job shadowing sessions are only so effective because they usually cluster all the information a salesperson needs to learn right at the beginning of that person’s employment.
Overwhelming Onboarding Processes
This structure is flawed. Starting a new job is a whirlwind even in situations where the learning curve is relatively user-friendly. Onboarding processes throw a lot of information at new employees in a very short space of time. Usually, not all of it sticks.
In education, curriculums are structured to deliver information at gradual intervals and in easily digestible chunks. Most learning experiences also include consistent knowledge reinforcement, to push for mastery and retention. It’s difficult to mirror this structure for an employment onboarding process because you need your people to know a lot of things if they are going to integrate into your organization as valuable contributing members.
All these factors are true of virtually any job. Employers typically have the expectation that their new hires aren’t going to internalize every practice and policy right away. The length of time it takes to reach full information retention is part of the reason that new employees typically don’t reach full productivity until they’ve been with a company for a year or two.
Sales Skills: What Your Team Needs to Succeed
However, these challenges are often compounded in sales positions, where there is more information to internalize and less room for error. Strong salespeople need to carry a vast collection of knowledge around with them at any given time. Sure, it all starts with successful sales strategies—tactics that will typically carry over from one sales job to the next. However, there’s also more to it, including a slew of factors that change from one employer to the next.
Also read: Learning Skills Essential to Every Job
For starters, your sales team needs to know your product line in and out—a near-impossible benchmark to reach with just a few days of training clustered into the onboarding process. Even if you have monthly or quarterly meetings or courses designed to keep sales staff up to date on your shifting product catalog, they’re probably still going to struggle with full retention of that information.
In addition to sales strategies and product catalog information, you also have to educate your sales team on industry trends, client accounts, pain points for customers in your target market, special requirements and regulations within your industry, sales quota expectations at your company, software and systems that your business uses, and more.
No salesperson is going to use all this information right away. That doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable, but it does mean that your team members have another obstacle standing in their way. The chances of your employees retaining information from presentations and other training programs go way down if they don’t have occasion to apply that knowledge to their jobs within a week or two. As a result, trying to cluster everything together—again, either as part of the onboarding process or into monthly or quarterly training sessions—is almost always doomed to fail.
How E-Learning Can Help
So how can e-learning opportunities contribute to improving sales enablement for your business? Unlike classroom training courses, monthly presentations, or job shadowing, e-learning is a self-directed form of training. Self-directed training isn’t the most beneficial thing for every industry, but it’s perfect for sales. Ask yourself this question: who knows best what information your salespeople are going to need for their upcoming sales calls, pitches, or meetings? The answer, every time, is going to be the individual salesperson. Every sales situation is slightly different, so no one can predict what tools, strategies, or knowledge is going to be necessary for a pending deal better than the person taking the sales call.
E-learning is ideal for this kind of situation because it allows your salespeople to access the training they need when they need it. From actual online courses and tests to other digital resources—such as tutorials, wiki guides, FAQs, and more—an agile e-learning system can give your sales team access to all the information and training they might need for an upcoming deal.
Best of all, these resources are easily searchable and instantly accessible. Your sales associates don’t have to spend time sorting through their notes from past training sessions. They can just browse a course associated with the challenge they’re facing or the skill they need, and the system will give them a list of related lessons and content.
Your employees also don’t have to bother managers or colleagues to ask questions or seek advice. Instead, e-learning breeds a culture of self-sufficiency among your sales team, which can drive productivity for every member of your team. While this minimization of wasted time won’t necessarily guarantee that every person meets his or her quota, it will certainly help matters.
Using E-Learning Classes and Resources in Your Organization
In a sales environment, a well-established e-learning program can work in several ways. The first possibility has already been discussed at length above: the idea of using e-learning as an on-demand tool for knowledge and skill acquisition. This benefit is particularly pronounced for sales teams because it allows them to learn new skills or brush up on essential information before they need to use it.
Also read: 11 Technology Trends in LMS
This system is also terrific because it almost guarantees retention. With pre-scheduled training programs, arguably the biggest obstacles to retention are: 1) you are covering too much information in a brief period, and 2) there is no guarantee that your salespeople will need to apply the skills and knowledge soon enough to retain them.
E-learning counters both obstacles. It lets your team members learn or review small pieces of information at a time, through microlearning, which avoids the oversaturation problem. It also allows them to focus on key skills when they are most relevant. Ideally, your salespeople will take advantage of e-learning opportunities and then turn around and apply that knowledge right away—spurring greater engagement, mastery, and retention.
For all these reasons, e-learning is also an effective way for employees to review and reinforce fundamental skills. If a salesperson is struggling to make quotas or needs help to focus on certain sales tactics, they can use e-learning to shore up their knowledge. By having an online hub where team members can consistently go to find answers to any questions, concerns, or challenges they may have, your business can foster a stronger sales team across the board.
E-learning can also be applied as a means of implementing—or adding to—gamification in your sales department. If you decide to use e-learning as the predominant method for sales enablement in your organization, then a gamification system—one with badges, trophies, levels, and leaderboards—can encourage your employees to take fuller advantage of e-learning opportunities. Adding an element of competition to e-learning gives team members extra motivation to complete different courses, shoot for stronger test scores, and aspire to greater skill mastery. Gamification tends to be utilized extensively in sales departments anyway, with different associates competing against each other to win the most accounts, score the highest sales figures, and more. Adding gamification to the training phase is a natural way to start improving your department from the ground up.
Reducing Training Costs with E-Learning
One of the biggest benefits of adopting e-learning for sales enablement is that it can help to cut down on costs. Spending between $500 and $2,500 per trainee on sales training can get quite expensive if you have a sizable sales department or add new associates to your team frequently. If your training strategies aren’t showing terrific returns anyway, then trying out an alternative path like e-learning is a relatively low-stakes endeavor. What do you have to lose?
E-learning provides superior sales enablement at a lower cost compared to most other strategies. Your e-learning resources are always available when someone from your team needs to access them. Every person on your team could feasibly go through every course, test, and resource—some multiple times—with limited added expense.
E-learning provides superior sales enablement at a lower cost compared to most other strategies. (Click to tweet)
Compare this system to classroom training (or perhaps even off-premises development courses), and the cost typically won’t even be in the same ballpark. You’ll spend less per trainee on e-learning development, often with better results and greater ongoing benefits.
In-classroom training and other common strategies for sales enablement are expensive, limiting, and dubiously effective. E-learning opportunities, on the other hand, are affordable, allow for greater flexibility in training, and are more successful in promoting long-term mastery and retention of knowledge and skills. Any organization with any workforce can benefit from these perks. However, for sales, where there is so much information to master and so little room for error, that e-learning can be an especially powerful solution.
Perhaps you have numerous salespeople who have recently lost key accounts or fumbled major deals due to snafus with their sales strategy. Alternatively, maybe your team hasn’t been keeping up with sales quotas as of late. Whatever the issue, it’s worth implementing and trying e-learning as a potential solution. Like with employee onboarding, you might not notice full productivity or other benefits right away. Over time, though, e-learning nourishes sales skills and knowledge in a way that classroom training simply cannot.