Redefining Sales Training: Technology to the Rescue

Posted by Mary Hiers, Guest Contributor on 1/18/18 8:03 AM

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Learning decay has been an issue for as long as people have been teaching and training other people. The human brain can only absorb so much at a time, and it’s not always easy to pick and choose which concepts really “stick.” Some information never gets converted from short-term to long-term memory in the first place, and other information fades away over time because it is not used. 

Sales trainers have always had to fight against the “forgetting curve,” but today they have more tools with which to counter learning decay than ever before. Technologies not only use methods designed to help people assimilate, use, and refresh information, they also generate massive amounts of data so that trainers can analyze what works for their trainees and what doesn’t. 

Sales Training That’s Engaging, Personalized, and Proven

First and foremost, sales training must engage learners, or they won’t learn concepts to begin with. Therefore, it’s essential for trainers to carefully combine techniques and technologies to ensure that the maximum number of learners are engaged the highest percentage of the time. It isn’t always easy, because what engages one learner may not engage another. 

That’s why so many sales trainers are developing customized blended learning programs that account for their particular learners, their preferences, and what has proven to work in the past. One of the best properties of technology is that it empowers trainers to personalize learning to a greater degree without an unreasonable investment of time or money. 

Furthermore, trainers have access to more studies and data than ever that can let them know exactly what works and why, and they can collect their own data from training programs to help them fine-tune future training. 

Immersive Training for Geographically Dispersed Sales Reps

One example of technology fulfilling a major need for sales trainers is immersive training. This type of training incorporates augmented and virtual reality to bring content to life via special headsets, or even employee mobile devices, wherever employees may be located. One of the biggest expenses involved in traditional training is the expense of gathering everyone in one place at one time, but immersive training can reduce or eliminate this expense because training goes to where the learners are. 

Immersive training provides learners on-demand access to training content and helps them improve key skills like sales and communication techniques, and it can all be done on learners’ mobile devices. What’s more, the content used in immersive training can be updated as needed, without the expenses (and time) associated with updating traditional training materials.

Mobility, Video, and Gamified Learning Content

Mobility isn’t just for immersive learning, either. Essentially everyone has a smartphone, and many businesses provide employees with laptops or tablets. Delivering learning technologies through these devices only makes sense in a fast-paced world where a sales team may be widely dispersed geographically. Mobile devices are perfect for small, self-contained learning modules that can be completed within a relatively short time.

Video is also well-suited for mobile devices, and video-based training no longer has to be presented inside a classroom. It’s an engaging and effective medium too, with Forrester Research reporting that employees are 75% likelier to watch a video than to read documents or emails. 

Gamified content is another terrific option. Trainers and teachers have long used games to teach concepts, but today it’s easier than ever, particularly with younger employees who are used to playing games on their mobile devices. But don’t discount it for older learners: gamified learning is a hit among all age groups

Strategy, Content, and Technological Expertise: All Necessities

Of course, technology is of little use when the content is low-quality, or when it is presented haphazardly, without an underlying strategy. In other words, simply adopting all the innovative technologies is short-sighted unless you do so after having established your strategy and defined your requirements for content. 

Strategies must be outcome-based and goal-oriented. What do you want from this learning program? Whether you are prepping your sales reps for the release of a new product they will sell, or whether you are refreshing sales or communication skills will help determine your strategy and the type of content you employ. Only after goals and content types have been identified do you need to choose the technologies that are best-suited to deliver the content and make the strategy work. 

The Data Is There: Use It

One of the best things about eLearning is the data. Not only is there ample data showing that eLearning delivers good results, more data is being created all the time, and your own learners using eLearning technologies will generate data that you can use, without the hassle of manually grading papers or searching for trends based on written work or classroom interactions. 

A mobile eLearning module can tell you right away which sales reps have completed the modules, how long it took, what they got right, and what they got wrong. As a result, you can spend less time on the drudgery of grading and evaluating and more time modifying content and individually coaching your learners so they lock down skills and become ready to put them to work. 

A Custom Blend of Technology for Your Crew

Learning technologies will be different for instrument technicians than for dog groomers and pharmaceutical sales reps, and furthermore, the technology that is right for one pharma sales rep training program won’t be right for all of them. Ultimately, it is up to trainers to develop the right blend of technologies to ensure content is imbibed, retained, practiced, and put to use in the field to get results. 

It isn’t easy, but it’s easier than it was in the days of traditional in-classroom training and manual evaluation of learners. And it’s faster to make course-corrections and fine-tune learning modules in a digital and mobile world. And finally, you can (and should) let the data collected from your training programs inform you as to what you’re doing well, and where you have an opportunity for improvement. If you’re interested in diving deeper into training technology, we invite you to learn more about our areas of training expertise.  

Topics: Tools for Sales Trainers