Microlearning and the Sales Industry



Sales Training is Unique


Every industry is different, and each has its own specific challenges and KPI’s.

In this series of articles we explore how different industries can benefit from short-form microlearning.

The Sales industry is uniquely placed to benefit from microlearning and other innovative learning delivery methods.

The challenges of training in sales are rather unique – the majority of sales and service staff are mobile, client-facing, and are the key to building quality relationships with your customers.

This demands a fundamental shift in the way training is designed and delivered to these kinds of employees.

And remember to add those specific issues to the general headaches of delivering and managing a training program such as:

  • High cost of content production.
  • Complicated distribution to multiple devices.
  • High cost of monitoring progress.

It’s no wonder the sales industry lags behind other industries when it comes to almost all training metrics.

Sales Training Challenges


One of the unique challenges of a sales training program is that it is more content centric than most other industries.

Excel tutorials, videos, and chat messages are one thing. But how can microlearning fit in when we’re helping staff learn about subjects as broad and complex as, say, aerospace and defense, or oil and gas?

Is there an approach to microlearning that will get sales reps up to speed quickly, and embed the depth of knowledge they need to be able to understand their clients’ industry issues, their role-specific responsibilities, and be able to “swing from branch to branch” as the sales conversation develops?

Research from Towards Maturity (2014) supports the view that sale straining is a particular challenging are. While a massive 80 percent of respondents view online learning in a positive light:

  • 53 percent cited location or IT as a barrier to training

  • Only 42 percent think their company provides relevant online learning for their job

The value of industry specific training lies in helping companies move their sales force away from talking to clients in terms of their own products and services, and toward talking about business outcomes and solutions.

IDC research indicates that less than half of the buyers they interviewed considered their own sales reps to be very prepared for an initial meeting.

So, there are plenty of salespeople constrained not by sales skills, but by lack of knowledge of their prospects’ industries.

They range from new hires who need to hit the ground running, to the experienced reps assigned to a new account in an industry they’ve never worked in before.

Both of these learner types are ideal candidates for ‘rapid onboarding’ – the content presented to them may be different, but the microlearning method and improved time to competency are the same.

Microlearning & Sales – A Perfect Match


Microlearning isn’t a silver bullet – but it is a very effective learning technique that can be used in several different ways.

Of the executive buyers asked to discuss their experiences of meetings with vendor salespeople:

  • 57 percent said meetings with sales reps often failed to meet expectations because they weren’t knowledgeable enough about their industry.
  • 77 percent of buyers said sales reps didn’t have a deep enough understanding of their business issues to properly articulate the value of their products or services.
  • 76 percent said sales reps fell short on knowledge of the role and responsibilities of the executive they were selling to.

Want better training engagement, faster onboarding, and deeper understanding for your sales staff?

Microlearning can:

  1. Support formal training For starters, you can use microlearning to supplement your formal training. This ensures that the reinforcement provided in the form of Microlearning helps learners retain the learning from formal training.
  2. Engage your learners According to Spherion Staffing’s 2016 Emerging Workforce Study, as many as 45 percent of employees said their current internal training offerings are not relevant to their daily responsibilities. That’s not good. To better engage modern workforces, meet their career development needs and achieve competitive business results, organizations must become digitally omnipresent for their learners. A key feature of Microlearning is that it is short and learners will usually finish going through a Microlearning ‘nugget’ within a 1 to 5-minute window. This helps negate the impact of the “Forgetting Curve” and offset the attention span challenge. Short training also means faster completions, improving your completion rates.
  3. Keeps knowledge front and center Cognitive studies support microlearning in entrenching knowledge for recall, and increasing knowledge retention from three months to two years. This is important for sales staff who depend on the rapid recall of knowledge when engaging with clients.
  4. Continuous Improvement Microlearning only takes up a few minutes of each day but also occurs regularly. Therefore, learners can implement knowledge gained almost immediately into their workday, establishing a culture of continual learning and improvement.
  5. Combat Turnover, and Onboard in a flash Microlearning makes recruiting new employees smoother as the induction process is quicker. This also reduces the cost of HR as there is less need for new staff training or induction sessions. In addition, employees get up to speed quicker. A speedy induction for new staff is also especially important when they are required to start immediately, rather than waiting for the next training session to take place.
  6. Reuse existing content simply and easily Decrease your preproduction costs, by optimizing and delivering existing content to your users on any device:
  • Maps.
  • Audio podcasts.
  • Wikis (Wikipedia, Quota, etc.).
  • Articles from newspapers, magazines, blogs.
  • Videos from YouTube, Vimeo, etc.
  • Embeddable external pages and content.

Microlearning will Make Your Salespeople Happy


It is not just your sales business that will benefit from microlearning, employees benefit too.

Here are some of the reasons why microlearning is good for your sales employees.

  1. Consistency of training If you have sales offices in a variety of geographical locations it can be difficult ensuring everyone gets a good quality learning experience. Some areas are visited less often than others, and the quality of training can vary from place to place. Having a structured microlearning course solves this issue. This type of course is not restricted by distance, and everyone gets the same information, tools and tests.
  2. Suits a salespersons time In sales, appointments can be at any time. For example, it might be slow in the morning and then get busy from mid-afternoon, before slowing down again in the early evening. As a result, salespeople experience periods of downtime. These quiet times are perfect for making progress with a microlearning course. All they need is a few minutes to complete a module and progress
  3. Less time at the desk, more time on the road As microlearning can be completed in various moments found within a typical day, salespeople can complete learning in between busy periods or immediately before/after their work, very compatible with the varying schedules and demands of the sales role.
  4. Easy Segmentation of Learning Microlearning is the easiest way to segment the topics covered in a course so that employees can concentrate on areas they need most. For example, an employee might have a good understanding of one product but not of another. It is not efficient if they spend an equal amount of time learning about both. In addition, microlearning is an excellent tool for delivering information on a new product to your whole team quickly, and with the same level of information.
  5. Content is highly accessible The rise of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) provides easy access to training as sales employees can complete learning on their own device.
  6. Learner-centric Microlearning nuggets can be embedded in a learning path in a flexible way, letting learners choose what they want to learn and when on the device of their choice. They also help address the different learning styles and preferences that learners have and bring an element of personalization to the learning.
  7. Just-in-time. Microlearning nuggets make great Performance Support Tools (PST’s) to help learners apply the learning precisely at the moment of their need.
  8. Less time-consuming Microlearning nuggets can be completed quickly. The learning, as a result, is more effective and beneficial for learners.

For advice on how to leverage microlearning into your sales training solution get in touch with us.