Improve The Performance Of Your Sales Team: 9 Trends For Learning And Development

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks
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Improve The Performance Of Your Sales TeamWhat are you doing to make your sales training more innovative and effective? Big Data, gamification, real-time learning… These are all key tips, trends, and opportunities that I took away from hundreds of top sales enablement leaders at the Chief Learning Officer (CLO) Symposium. More importantly, they are also best practices that Learning and Development departments are applying today. Here’s a breakdown of what I learned:

1. Big Data Is Going To Be A Huge Wave In L&D

More and more, L&D departments are aligning themselves with their organizations’ Chief Information Officers. This means that they’re no longer seeing themselves as just a rollup to human resources. Aligning themselves with the Chief Information Officer creates a great opportunity, because great L&D departments are also some of the biggest purchasers of technology. From learning management systems, to content libraries, to gamification tools, to engagement tools to identify and survey the value of their curriculum, they’re embracing technology.

What does this mean for sales enablement? It’s definitely an eye opener, because it shows how sales enablement teams will keep on top of the growth of data and all the information they’re being flooded with in future. This will help them determine learning paths for sales teams and determine predictive analytics around the sales team’s success of sales teams. This is becoming a huge wave, and sales enablement teams need to ride it.

2. Ask Me Anything

Kimo Kippen, Chief Learning Officer at Hilton Worldwide, discussed one of the most important and cost-effective tools that Hilton Worldwide has implemented—Ask Me Anything. Kimo believes that sales professionals need regular access to subject matter experts (SMEs) and the C-suite of their own organizations. This means allowing sales reps to continue their learning in real time through webinars or conference call lines where they can ask CEOs or SMEs any questions they may have. Many of the organizations at the symposium also host Lunch and Learns, where they bring in experts to enable employees to have continuous learning.

And I wholeheartedly agree. At Sales for Life, our training programs include the Ask the Expert feature, which has been highly successful! Every day from 12pm-1pm EST Monday to Friday, sales professionals can call in and have any questions answered.

3. One System Of Truth For Learning

Rita Buffington, Senior Director of Learning at Qualcomm, discussed one of the most important challenges facing L&D departments today—sales reps aren’t using the curriculum available to them. Why? Because curriculum is being stored in multiple learning management systems at the enterprise level. In fact, a poll of sales professionals revealed that sales reps were just going to Google for their research! Google is a system that has great indexing and searching capabilities—in other words, it has one system of truth. And this is what sales reps need.

As a result, enterprise organizations are making a big shift. They’re now storing all of their learning in one central place. This doesn’t mean the end of learning management systems, but it does mean that all learning will be housed in one place.

As an aside, learning must also be user-friendly and have a front-end interface resembling that in the social world, such as Facebook or Instagram.

4. Real-Time Learning

Sales professionals need information immediately and in real time. This means that information has to come to them via email or into their But there’s a caveat. When sales reps access information out of the portal, the meta tagging needs to be dynamic.

They also need to be able to find courseware or tips within courses immediately or through social media channels such as LinkedIn or Twitter. This is a great idea! Making these tips and course modules searchable will save sales reps time and allow them to find the information they’re looking for quickly and easily.

5. LMSs Are So Freakin’ Complicated!

I’ll be blunt here. The user interfaces of most LMSs are garbage. I’ve seen first-hand the trouble people are having with their organizations’ Learning Management Systems. People want the Apple or Amazon experience. But their user experience with typical LMSs aren’t matching those expectations. Search capability needs to be stellar, and sales reps need to be able to get tips easily and on demand. Online learning is also becoming mobile. Tablets are replacing PCs and people want to be able to access their learning with their smartphones.

6. Gamification

Gamification is another important trend. It’s what’s keeping students engaged, and making the sales world much more competitive. Gamification allows organizations to analyze performance among sales reps, and the department’s implications. It also allows outside vendors to compare one organization to another.

What does this mean for sales enablement? Sales professionals want to follow people who are providing valuable tips, tricks, and tactics. At Sales for Life, we already crowdsource our content. But by gamifying those SMEs or contributors into our crowdsourcing, we can highlight specific people and create a list of who is the most active at providing new tips.

Companies are also beginning to create review and rating systems for their curriculum. Think Yelp. This means that students can rate a particular tip or module. Sales professionals are actually going after 4- and 5-star tips, and having a rating system will allow them to find the best tips.

7. Learning Needs To Be In Bite-Sized Chunks

With more millennials entering the sales profession, learning needs to change. Millennials need their learning in bite-sized chunks. This means no more than two to 10 minutes of learning at a time. The new generation wants to be able to access a video, which gives them all the information they need in three minutes.

The learning also needs to be spaced out. After an instructor-led session or after learning a concept, you need to drip campaign the learner to reinforce the learning.

8. Feedback And Engagement

Another interesting trend from the CLO Symposium was the fact that many organizations are now investing in feedback tools to help them understand learner engagement. From IBM Kenexa to Survey Monkey, businesses are constantly asking sales professionals important questions about their learning experience and their enjoyment of it.

Organizations are also conducting impact studies on their own training programs to understand the impact of the learning. A great example of this is our own client, Thomson Reuters. Using both their data and our data, they’re conducting a deep analysis of their data to understand how they can continue to invest in further training programs.

9. Engagement Equals Performance

Another discovery was that no matter what the department in the organization, great L&D departments have determined that the higher the engagement, the better the performance. This means that the level of engagement with whatever type of training program you’re enrolled in—whether live instructor-led calls, e-learning, or a combination of both—is in direct correlation to higher performance levels.


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