The first hurdle for any sales training program is to capture and keep your sales reps’ attention. If you bore them, you will lose them. According to Xerox, 87% of sales training content is forgotten within one month of the training.
The good news is that sales training doesn’t have to be boring and unforgettable.
It can be engaging, motivating, and even, dare I say it, fun. Instead of dry lectures and unexciting PowerPoint slides, combine technology with psychological principles about learning. To get better results from your sales training program, use these five strategies.
1) Use gamification
Sellers are competitive by nature. They’ll compete against the competition, their teammates, and even themselves. To harness that effect, use games. Not only do they make learning more exciting, they bring out your sales reps’ natural urge to compete to gain status or recognition as well.
Try incorporating flashcard-based games your salespeople can play on their phones whenever they have five minutes — like when they’re waiting in line for coffee or using public transportation. You can also use gamified quizzes with leaderboards, activity badges, and online contests. These elements both add some competition and give managers visibility into individual and team-wide performance.
2) Incorporate videos
Where do people go when they want to learn a new skill? They look for videos on YouTube. With that in mind, create high-quality “skills” videos to help your sellers learn about key concepts and strategies, remember them, and revisit them anytime, anywhere. Showing concepts in action helps sellers visualize themselves in the situation and even think about how they could do it better.
Two suggestions for using video: First, never simply record a lecture and put it online. If the lecture was boring in the classroom, it’s going to be even more boring online. Second, make sure your videos aren’t cheesy, over-acted, or low-quality. Learners -- especially our millennial friends -- are savvier than ever about quality. At best poorly-executed videos are unengaging, at worst they discredit the curriculum.
3) Encourage peer learning
Have you ever seen salespeople interact at sales conferences? Most sellers are highly social. But the costs of travel and time away from selling quickly add up, so sales teams often don’t meet face-to-face. Technology can help bridge the gap. Build opportunities for teams to learn together and from each other. However, that doesn’t mean doing your sales training on Twitter or Facebook. Use training and learning platforms with social elements that encourage sharing and discussing ideas, then prompt your reps to discuss what they’re learning and what’s working in real customer conversations.
Hint: Nothing drives salesperson participation like getting leaders and managers to actively contribute in the conversation and respond to comments and ideas.
4) Implement real-time progress tracking
Training fails when it puts a higher value on completing the course than developing one’s skills. To shift the focus of your program, use a skill strengths dashboards. This helps participants visualize in real-time where their skills are strong and where they need work, feel ownership over progress, and engage with the program.
You can add an additional layer visualizing how confident sellers feel about what they’re learning. People are less likely to use a skill if they don’t feel confident about it, so seeing where they feel strong and less strong helps sellers focus and review to develop the confidence they need to execute in the moment of truth -- in front of the customer.
These dashboards are also handy tools for managers to decide where to spend their coaching time.
5) Pace your training
In advertising, “effective frequency” is the number of times you must be exposed to a message in order to remember and act on it. Psychologists debate how many times that is: Five? Seven? The number isn’t fixed, but the concept is: We need repeated exposure to messages over time to internalize and act on them. The same is true of skill development. We don’t attend a single day of training and come out having mastered the skill. True learning requires time, application, coaching, and practice.
For the best results, construct your program as a journey. Start with a baseline measurement of your reps’ skills, and visualize the results (see #4.) Next, create short learning modules that can be done during the workday or on the go. A skills workshop is a great way to give people time to synthesize and practice skills with a coach and get the feedback they need to improve. Support in the field is key -- pair your sellers with managers who are ready to coach them. Finally, give them a platform that pulls everything they need into one place (preferably on their phones) and collects the data they need to see themselves improve and measure the results.
Sales training doesn’t have to be boring. It should feel fun, competitive, and relevant. These strategies will get your salespeople excited to bring their skills to the next level.
Want to learn more? Join me at the ATD Conference in Atlanta on May 22. I’ll be talking about “Engaging Multigenerational Learners Through a Blended Learning Approach.” Click here for info.