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In Dispersed Organizations, Remote Sales Training Should ‘Go with the Flow’

When it comes to sales teams, remote work often presents a unique set of challenges. Sales teams are built on camaraderie and competition, which is difficult to manufacture remotely. These days, sales teams also face additional barriers to productivity: corporate travel restrictions mean less contact with prospects, with the industry, and with the market.

But remote work also creates new opportunities for sales managers tasked with leading geographically dispersed teams. There are several proven tactics that managers can wield to lead their remote teams with the aid of technology. To ensure that your sales reps work at peak capacity despite travel restrictions, focus on actionable ways to boost productivity no matter where they are.

Here’s an old school example of the situation many sales trainers find themselves in today: A lumberjack was hired by a timber merchant to cut down trees. On his first day, the lumberjack felled 18 trees, which delighted the boss. But with each passing day, he was able to cut down fewer and fewer trees. After a week, the boss warned him that if he didn’t increase his output, he’d lose his job.

The lumberjack started skipping lunch and working overtime. But it didn’t help. Eventually, the boss had to fire him. After handing his ax back to the merchant, the boss looked at it and asked, “When was the last time you sharpened your ax?”

“Sharpen my ax?” the lumberjack replied. “I’ve never sharpened my ax. I’ve been too busy trying to cut down enough trees.”

So Much to Learn, So Little Time

Almost every sales force is facing the same dilemma as the lumberjack.

In today’s hyper-competitive business environment, every rep must continuously acquire new knowledge and skills to “sharpen” their selling abilities. At the same time, few can afford to interrupt their busy schedules to attend sales training classes or read stacks of books, manuals and articles.

Consider these statistics:

  • The average employee has only 24 minutes a week for formal learning, according to Josh Bersin in his now famous article, “A New Paradigm For Corporate Training: Learning In The Flow of Work.”
  • A recent LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report found that “getting employees to make more time for learning” was the #1 challenge cited by executives and HR managers.
  • Among the learners polled by LinkedIn, 58 percent said they wanted to learn at their own pace and 49 percent said they wanted to learn “in the flow of work.”

Bersin noted that “the urgency of work invariably trumps the luxury of learning.” Sales enablement professionals and sales managers must find ways to embed ongoing training and coaching programs into reps’ daily workflow. Only by doing this can they ensure that reps will have instant, just-in-time access to the knowledge they need.

Fortunately, mobile video-based learning tools provide trainers, managers and reps with fast, convenient and cost-effective ways to create, manage and access relevant information during the flow of work.

3 Benefits of ‘Learning in the Flow of Work’

One benefit of learning in the flow of work derives from the fact that it’s typically self-directed. Because of this, the process usually aligns with both the schedule of the rep and their immediate needs. For example, a rep who’s having trouble closing a sale due to a customer objection might reach out to a manager for some quick video coaching and feedback, or they might watch a brief video tutorial posted by a fellow rep who recently overcame the same objection.

Benefit 1: Reinforcement

Because the need for the knowledge is usually immediate (“I need a solution for this customer objection now”), it’s less likely that the learner will forget it. Learning is quickly reinforced because there’s rarely much lag time between when it’s acquired and when it’s applied in the field.

Benefit 2: Productivity

Another benefit is the enhanced productivity that comes from not having to pull reps out of the field to attend training classes. Instead, video training facilitates “learning on the go” by your reps and other mobile employees.

Benefit 3: Engagement

Finally, learning in the flow of work increases employee engagement, often encouraging them to learn on their own time, as well as during business hours. In part, this engagement stems from the fact that reps are taking control of the process. Instead of being forced to attend a seminar that may—or may not—offer useful information, they’re opting to spend their own time learning because they’ve identified a knowledge gap they want to close.

People tend to learn better (and faster) when they realize that they have to learn something in order to close a deal, meet their quota, earn a promotion, etc.

Necessity is the mother of invention – and engaged learning.

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