Learning, Coaching, and Content:
How Agile Sales Enablement and Readiness Boost Performance: 2023 Guide
How Agile Approaches to Sales Readiness Boost Performance
A sales rep is driving to one of the biggest meetings of the year when a jolt from under the car forces a change of plans: The car has a flat tire. The rep does not have time to wait for AAA—and they’ve never changed a tire before. Not to mention the fact that anything they might have learned during driver’s education has long since been forgotten.
What can they do?
With today’s technology—smartphones, 5G internet, and online how-to content—the answer is in the palm of their hand. They pull up YouTube on their phone, watch a user-generated video demonstrating how to change the tire on the exact make and model of their car, then grab their tools and change the tire. Within 20 minutes, they’re back on the road.
That is what it’s like to handle any situation in which you need immediate instruction on how to do something.
Agile Learning: Information at the Moment of Need
The same applies to sellers’ meeting readiness. For example, a rep could find out at the last minute that a CFO will be joining a meeting, but the rep has never called on a CFO before. With only minutes before the call— and no colleague to help them understand the pertinent points to use— the rep could pull up a video created by one of their peers that provides all the information they need.
In the video, the salesperson would demonstrate how to talk with CFOs, discuss the type of information they need, and explain how to position the solution. The sales rep would watch and absorb internal best practices while scanning recommendations for supporting collateral and other prospect-facing content that scroll by throughout the video. In just 10 minutes, the rep could prepare and then deliver an information- packed presentation, articulating value to the CFO. Then after the meeting, they can create a two-minute recap video to share with their team.
Such agile approaches to sales readiness ensure reps are prepared even when most would say they are not. With a little bit of additional context from colleagues, a rep can walk into a meeting confident in their skills and knowledge of what the buyer needs. “Winging it” is a thing of the past.
Further, an agile sales enablement approach empowers reps with learning in the flow of their daily work. Reps don’t have to try to remember what they were taught from their first week on the job.
Disadvantages of Formal Learning
When salespeople are hired, they typically go through a formal learning and onboarding program that lasts from a few days to several weeks. After that, they are released to their territories and don’t receive any further systematic training until the next national sales meeting six to 12 months later.
Such formal learning programs fail to address how professionals learn: through experience and by accessing learning resources as needs arise.
Other common disadvantages of formal learning programs include:
- Sales reps receive too much information during a short period of time. Research shows that retention goes down as the volume of information goes up. Information at onboarding boot camps and national sales meetings is shot through a fire hose, so to speak, and it’s too much for sales reps to remember.
- People forget what they’ve learned if it isn’t used right away. Hermann Ebbinghaus’s famous forgetting curve tells us that 80% of learning is forgotten within 30 days if learning is not reinforced. When formal training is given only at the beginning of employment or only periodically, sales reps forget what they’ve learned by the time they need to use it, rendering the time and resources of this training a lost investment.
- Formal training is one-size-fits-all, which works about as well for training as it does for pants. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, but most formal learning programs do not account for individual competencies.
- Time and distance barriers make salespeople feel like they’re on their own once their formal learning is done. Hybrid and virtual workplaces mean that today’s sales forces are rarely located in one place, and even when they are, scheduling limitations make it tough for salespeople to communicate with one another, and even with their bosses.
- Formal training programs are the opposite of how people learn effectively. Research shows that professionals learn best when they receive 90% of their learning informally and experientially, and only 10% from classroom training or eLearning—the exact opposite of the ratio that most companies offer.
Advantages of Agile Sales Readiness and Learning
Agile learning, on the other hand, reflects the needs of today’s learners and delivers vastly better results. Advantages of agile sales enablement and learning programs include:
- Content is continually produced and updated in bite-sized chunks, giving your salespeople consistently up-to-date information that is easy to consume.
- Agile learning includes a comprehensive approach to reinforce initial learning. Reinforcement is critical to a modern, agile learning approach. Without it, your learning investment is destined to be a waste of time and money.
- Agile learning incorporates informal learning, which is how people learn today.
- Learning is personalized. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses that one-size-fits-all training cannot address. Using AI-powered tools, sales coaches can identify individuals’ skill levels and coach to their particular weaknesses.
- Content is easy to create, access, and consume on desktop and mobile devices, wherever you are and whenever you need it—even if you don’t have internet access. Examples of this kind of easy-to-create content are video, podcasts, voice over PowerPoint, and screen captures.
- Agile sales learning enables collaboration between sales reps, managers, and subject matter experts (SMEs) who can capture best practices and work together in complex ways asynchronously.
Agile sales learning and readiness is the opposite of those long, boring compliance videos and other eLearning content that salespeople are forced to watch every year. Agile learning provides the dynamic content and delivery mechanisms that reflect how people learn today—online and on the go. By combining agile learning, agile content, and agile coaching, you can drive measurable behavior change and business impact.
High-performing sales reps say in-field observation of others, on-the-job informal learning, and peer collaboration are their top three sources of learning.
Research Supports Agile Learning, Coaching, and Content
Sales reps whose organizations provide agile learning, agile content, and agile coaching consistently hit quota. Research shows the benefits:
- SiriusDecisions’ 2018 Sales Talent Study revealed that high-performing sales reps— those who made quota for at least the past two years—say in-field observation of others, on-the-job informal learning, and peer collaboration are their top three sources of learning.
- McKinsey & Company research found sales outperformers are 57% more likely to tailor their learning programs and 1.3 times more likely to outperform their peers in revenue growth. It also found experiential learning combined with ongoing coaching empowers sellers to be more effective.
- A Deloitte report found organizations that implement learning in the flow of work regularly experience greater business outcomes because they are better able to adapt to changes in the environment.
- Research from learning industry thought leader Josh Bersin showed individuals who find themselves “learning in the flow of work” will be a step ahead. They will be able to make more informed decisions faster because they have embedded access to information at the precise time of need.
How Companies Use Agile Learning, Coaching, and Content to Improve Sales Readiness
Companies today use a new breed of sales enablement platform to deliver an agile approach to training, coaching, and content.
Allego, the platform that ensures sellers have the skills, knowledge, and content they need to optimize success in a hybrid world, is the choice of sales teams around the world. And their results are remarkable:
Read on to explore five real-life examples of companies in the financial services, life sciences, manufacturing, and technology sectors that use Allego’s platform to combine agile training, coaching, and content for better performance. Use these tactics to optimize your readiness strategy.
How Nuveen Uses Agile Learning to Keep Wholesalers Informed
For large organizations that have geographically dispersed sales forces, ensuring sellers’ skills and knowledge remain current is a constant challenge. Global asset management firm Nuveen knows this all too well.
Market-disrupting events such as new tariffs, Department of Labor rules, and tax reform regularly create panic among investors. So, Nuveen’s wholesalers need timely insight to cut through the noise with their financial advisor customers.
Instead of overwhelming its wholesalers with too much information at once, Nuveen’s sales development team takes an agile approach by delivering bite-sized content spread out over time. Whenever markets hiccup, portfolio managers (PMs) and other internal experts use Allego to share short videos about products, messages, and position strategies, arming wholesalers with fresh talking points to quell client fears.
Wholesalers then collaborate with one another remotely by sharing videos with key messages that resonate with advisors. Nuveen’s training organization can also access this shared content to better understand client questions and objections as they arise in the market and respond with appropriate training.
In addition, high-performing sales reps and subject matter experts share their knowledge and best practices via video. Those videos, as well as the market update videos, go into a sales content library that wholesalers can access anytime, anywhere, and from any device.
Since implementing the sales enablement platform, Allego has “become part of the vernacular” of the entire sales team. And they regularly create and deliver timely, customized content that accelerates sales.
“The reps are actually able to see what the top sellers are doing, using Allego to learn from each other,” said Mike Ianni, Nuveen’s sales development manager.
“The reps are actually able to see what the top sellers are doing, using Allego to learn from each other.”
How Agile Training Gives Veritas a Competitive Advantage
At Veritas, traditional videoconference training calls were not cutting it. The method did not deliver the level of training needed, nor did it pertain to everyone, said Matt Miersen, sales enablement leader at the data protection company.
For example, all sellers would attend a live video training session on competitive intelligence, but some reps weren’t yet in the field. So, by the time they were out selling, they would have forgotten everything they learned.
To gain a competitive edge in its extremely crowded marketplace, Veritas adopted an agile learning approach. The first step was enabling the sales force to begin “learning in the flow of work” using Allego. This allows them to acquire new knowledge and skills, through virtual learning and coaching, whenever and wherever they have the time.
Training became more “just in time” rather than “just in case.” In addition, frontline managers can provide coaching and exercises for their teams on their own schedules.
Veritas applied the same agile sales enablement method to its new-hire onboarding. When the pandemic hit, the company switched from an in-person, week-long onboarding event to an asynchronous virtual event. They used pre-recorded Allego videos to deliver many presentations, while reserving “live” sessions for role-playing exercises and coaching.
As a result of the changes, Miersen said, “Engagement with training content is going way up, and … our sellers are comprehending better. They’re internalizing the content better.”
"Engagement with training content is going way up, and ... our sellers are comprehending better."
How DJO Orthopedics Uses Allego to Create Just-in-Time Learning
In 2019, DJO Orthopedics was struggling. Sales were down, morale was shaky, product messaging was inconsistent, and the company’s learning management system (LMS) was not delivering what the sales reps needed.
“It wasn’t meeting the reps’ need for more just-intime learning,” said Anne Lindley, director of bracing and supports sales training. “We’ve got reps coming on board that are right out of college, and we have reps who have been with us for 25-plus years and are in their 60s. Trying to find a learning tool that can help all of these people is not easy.”
Allego provided the agile, just-in-time learning the company needed. Lindley’s team now has one tool to provide reps with sales content, product information, and messaging, and reps can access it when and where they need it.
In addition, sales reps— without being instructed— create their own best practice videos for their colleagues. Through these videos, others on the team see and hear how to sell against the competition.
“The reps can … learn about what they want, when they need to learn it,” she said. “It’s not necessarily us pushing something out that they have to do. It’s more about them taking their own journey. And they don’t have to be connected to a VPN. They can do it right on their phone.”
Allego also enabled DJO to take an agile approach to sales coaching. Using the platform, sales reps practice and record video of their pitches. They do it on their own schedule and submit the videos for review. Coaches, also on their own time, can then review the videos and provide in-line comments.
“The reps can … learn about what they want, when they need to learn it.”
How Arco Improved Sales Performance Using Conversation Intelligence and Agile Coaching
When you have a large team of sellers who make 100 calls each, monitoring calls and coaching sellers is impossible if you don’t have the right tool and coaching strategy. Arco, a safety equipment supplier, knows firsthand how challenging it is.
Creating a sales content libary of top performers’ calls, allows reps throughout the company to watch, listen, and learn, so they can work on improving performance on their own.
Without a central repository for call recordings and technology to listen to calls and catch sales reps’ mistakes, detecting coachable moments is a long and laborious process. Coaches simply don’t have time, nor are they able to personalize the coaching.
Everything changed for Arco’s sales coaches once they implemented Allego’s Conversation Intelligence. Conversation Intelligence uses artificial intelligence (AI) to record, transcribe, and analyze sales calls to generate recommendations—powering every aspect of sales enablement with datadriven insights into performance.
With access to data from Conversation Intelligence, Sales Performance Coach Ethan-Jak Anderson identifies skill gaps, prescribes personalized training to fix the specific behaviors that lose deals, extracts best practices for their entire team, and keeps deals moving through the pipeline. And he does it on his own schedule; he doesn’t have to be on every call with his reps.
Conversation Intelligence helped Anderson cut the time needed to prepare recordings for coaching sessions in half. Plus, he gained visibility into sales calls, allowing him to detect things he would have had trouble picking up if done manually, such as the pace of the conversation, the number of questions a rep asks, and overused stock phrases.
Anderson also added recordings of top performers’ calls, along with the evaluation of those calls, to the sales content library. This valuable resource allowed reps throughout the company to watch, listen, and learn what good looks like so they can work on improving performance on their own.
Agile Sales Content Management Key to High-Tech Company’s Sales Success
When your sales content management system is in disarray, sales reps are at a loss, as this high-tech company discovered. Their content library had no structure, and sellers weren’t using the content that marketing created. With Allego, the company created an easy-to-access library of sales and marketing content. It filled this with content reps could use in the moment of need, such as videos of sellers sharing best practices.
Tapping into sellers’ competitive nature, the company launched a contest to encourage sales reps to create best-practice videos. The reps submitted short videos of their best elevator pitches, and the winning submissions were used in marketing campaigns.
It didn’t take long for the library to become a one-stop source of sales content.
“What started as, ‘Let’s manage the content we have today and use this as a repository for live training recordings’… evolved into, ‘Let’s build a go-to-market playbook with marketing material, video explanations of the content, and referenceable documents,’” said the company’s director of global sales enablement and development.
The company then expanded its use of Allego and developed an agile training program. With this format, they created bite-sized training courses composed of video created by sellers, concluding each with a quiz. They rolled out the courses over several weeks instead of having one long, live training session.
“This gave our leadership insight that the team was grasping the things they needed to know to sell effectively, and also better time management for the reps,” the director said.
The company also supplemented Zoom training with Allego content, freeing up resources and enabling employees to learn and find sales resources much more easily. Now, content is utilized more broadly, and new-hire ramp-up times decreased from eight weeks to just three weeks.
Agile Approaches Boost Sales Readiness
When it comes to sales readiness, formal, rigid training will not work. Learning must be agile and delivered continually to ensure salespeople remain equipped in an ever-evolving world.
Agile content allows organizations to provide their salespeople with an ongoing stream of product information, messaging, peer-created best practices, and personalized coaching. All of which enables just-in-time learning, which sellers often crave.
Empowering managers with agile coaching allows them to provide personalized coaching at scale, reduces the number of hours required, and significantly improves sales reps’ performance.
The best approaches to sales readiness incorporate all three elements—agile training, agile content, and agile coaching. This flexible, comprehensive approach drives measurable improvements, positively impacts business, and produces compelling ROI for sales organizations.
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