By Véronique Anxolabehere, Guest Blogger
When it comes to sales training, there’s an age old quote from Albert Einstein that often comes to mind, “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” While the interpretation of what he meant by this statement may vary, what I take away from his sentiment is that conventional or formal training is only one small element of learning.
So why does this matter for sales professionals?
Having a sales team lacking sales training or knowledge hurts everyone. Sales professionals on the front lines are put in a position where they struggle to communicate the value proposition or competitive differentiation and thus fail to reach their sales goals. Organizations therefore fail to reach sales goals, thus impacting a company’s bottom line. And customers lose because they waste time speaking to sales representatives who can’t answer their questions or help them come to a buying decision.
In fact, an IDC Executive Advisory Group report found more than 50 percent of salespeople are ill-prepared for meetings with prospects and 47 percent of buyers are dissatisfied with the quality and value of information from IT vendors.
The reality is that many sales training programs today are ineffective and/or outdated.
- A prime example: the intensive, multi-day training event. I’m assuming if you’re a sales professional reading this blog, you know what I’m talking about – sitting in a conference room for back-to-back meetings trying to absorb the latest tools, tips and tricks to help you be a more effective salesperson without taking you out of commission for too long.
- But these cramming sessions without any reinforcement after the fact are not an effective way to learn. In fact, studies show that 50 percent of learning content is lost within five weeks. Worse yet, 84 percent of what is initially learned is lost within 90 days.
Furthermore, the dynamic of the workplace is changing. Most studies show that 80 percent of what we learn is through informal learning. And Web 2.0 tools we use every day such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and Instant Messenger are making it easier for people to work together and share information. This coupled with the increasingly global nature of business is making collaboration even more necessary and prominent than any other point in history.
As a result, there’s an immediate need for a paradigm shift in the way sales organizations approach training methods. Companies can no longer just focus on the old ways of formal training (I’m guessing Einstein would back me up here). For learners to acquire and retain knowledge and skills, they need immediate access to context-relevant sources of informal learning in addition to formal training sessions. This is where “social learning” comes in.
The theory of social learning, which contends that learning occurs through four main stages of imitation (i.e. close contact, imitation of superiors, understanding of concepts and role model behavior) is not new. However, its application in today’s workplace is.
The advent of social networks and Web 2.0 technologies are changing the ways in which workers gain information and learn from superiors and peers. A social learning approach embraces both formal learning as well as the Web 2.0 tools that facilitate informal learning, and allows for sales professionals to not only retain information longer, but also ensure the organization is able to deliver training at a faster rate not possible through traditional learning programs alone.
By adopting social learning and allowing sales professionals to access what they need, when they need it and through the method that works best for them, organizations are able to on-board, educate, and develop their sales team members more efficiently and easily. And this ultimately leads to better sales and happier customers.
I’d be interested in hearing from you – how much of what makes you a successful sales person is based on informal vs. formal learning? What would make your sales training process more effective for you? (Please add your comments to this blog post.)
Véronique Anxolabehere is Director of Marketing for the Saba People Learning division. With her strong international experience with start-up and Fortune 500 companies, and over twenty years in product management and marketing of Information technologies and applications, she helps organizations increase their competitive edge by improving the management of data, optimizing communication, and sharing knowledge and expertise. Veronique can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.