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August 9, 2018

The Era of Modern Learning Has Arrived

At the 2018 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, competitive eater Joey Chestnut set a new world record by downing 74 hot dogs in just 10 minutes.

“Okay,” you say. “But what does Joey Chestnut have to do with sales learning?”

Simple.  If your sales training and enablement strategy centers on sales kickoff meetings, boot camps or classroom sessions, you’re running the pedagogical equivalent of a hot dog eating contest.  At their core, competitive eating and conventional learning are premised on “unnatural acts.”

Bite-Sized Learning Beats Cramming

Without going into too much detail, it’s safe to say that most of those 74 hot dogs Joey Chestnut ate were never digested.

The traditional approach to sales learning produces the same results.

Study after study has shown that when people try to quickly absorb copious amounts of new information, they don’t retain very much.  In fact, the shorter the training time frame, the faster learners forget. Our brains aren’t built to retain all the data we try to cram into them at one or two day training sessions.

Instead, people learn more naturally and retain more of it when training is spaced over time — when they take pauses between “breakfast, lunch and dinner.”  This principle – that training is best delivered in bite-sized portions, spaced over time – is the first of five principles that underpin modern learning.

Don’t Skip Out on Ongoing Reinforcement

The second principle is that modern learning should incorporate some form of automated, programmatic reinforcement.

Every time you run a classroom session or boot camp, you should be asking, “What is my ‘post-game’ reinforcement strategy?”  If you don’t reinforce the material, you’ve just blown the money you spent.

Research shows people forget 80% of what they learn within a month of training.  Modern learning solutions use machine learning and other advanced technology to push automated, daily reinforcement exercises to each rep’s mobile device for 15-20 seconds per day based on individual topic mastery.

In a short period of time, anyone can chip away at learning large bodies of information using this method of spaced repetition.

Informal Learning Predominates, So Invest In It

Today, many organizations devote most (if not all) of their training resources to structured, formal learning even though it’s the least retained – and least valuable – to your average sales rep.

This is the reverse of what should be done. Most of our money and energy should be directed to building and launching informal learning infrastructures and initiatives because research shows that people learn about 10% of what they need to excel in their job during formal learning, and 90% from informal learning.

Much of the time, the latter consists of self-directed learning where the rep finds answers at the exact times and places they need to turn around and use them.  The rest of the time, the rep is learning hard-won best practices straight from their peers as well as trusted home office experts.

Modern Learning is “Just For Me”

If you can afford it, the best way to train is with your own internal trainers, mentors and coaches on a personalized, one-to-one basis. One-to-one training takes account of each rep’s strengths and weaknesses in order to tailor instruction to that individual’s competencies and style.

But thanks to AI and predictive analytics, everyone can now do this on a large scale. We can use software to assess each learner’s strengths and weaknesses to develop “just for me” coaching and learning programs for them.  

Modern learning solutions empower organizations to act on leading indicators like sales stage competency levels and subject mastery so they don’t have to waste opportunities waiting for lagging indicators — like win rate and average contract value — which only surface once deals are won or lost.

Modern Learning Content is Easy to Create, Access and Absorb

Finally, this last principle underpinning modern learning is made possible by three key technologies that push the boundaries of what organizations can provide for learners.

The first is mobile devices.  All those devices we use during almost every waking hour makes it easy for organizations to meet reps where they live.  Reps no longer need to find a laptop, an internet connection, and the right eLearning course to access the critical piece of organizational knowledge that will move a deal forward (like they ever turned to eLearning courses, anyway).  Modern learning solutions make the right content discoverable so reps find it at the right moments throughout the sales cycle right on their mobile device.

The second key technology is video.  The brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text and that’s why reps absorb video content so much better.  And who wants to read a long email? Plus, video makes it easy to capture and share ideas.  Rather than typing up a long email update on some key market shift or competitive entrance, modern learning solutions give subject matter experts and senior leaders the power to capture their thinking on video with one touch on their mobile device while it’s fresh in their mind.  

The third key technology is peer-to-peer networking.  The ability for sales reps to share ideas and information quickly using mobile devices and videos opens the way for collaboration to a degree not possible before. Top reps and home office experts can capture videos demonstrating key talk tracks, competitive responses and objection handling tactics.  Modern learning solutions surface the best of these videos on an ongoing basis for trainers and enablement pros to repurpose into learning content for courses and training programs.

For Sales and Beyond

These five principles are essential to modern learning.  The sales organization happens to have the most acute need for this new paradigm, but modern learning isn’t only for sales.  Already, many cross-functional learning and development professionals are starting to embrace this new way. Modern learning will only continue to spread rapidly throughout forward-thinking organizations of all shapes and sizes.

This blog originally appeared on Smart Selling Tools


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