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Content Innovation: New Modalities for New Learners

I often talk about today’s multi-generational sales organizations and the challenges presented by millennial learners. I ask clients: “What will it take to engage your learners?”

From London to New York to San Francisco, the answers are surprisingly similar, and whether I’m talking with sales leaders or corporate learning leaders, there is broad consensus about what is required:

To engage today’s learners, training has to be flexible, personalized, bite-sized, relevant, provide meaningful data, and be accessible on demand across a wide range of platforms and devices.

As I discussed in the first post in this series, The Future of Sales Training: Innovation for a Salesforce in Transition, there are more millennials in the U.S. workforce than any other generation. They have a very different relationship with information and technology than previous generations, and they want relevant content delivered to them in ways they recognize and can access easily and quickly.

New Learners Expect Higher Levels of Quality

The answer to accelerating learning across generations is to meet learner’s expectations when it comes to the types and quality of content in training programs. Younger learners have higher expectations about the quality of video content, course materials, and the online learning experience – the same stale training materials won’t cut it for the new generation.

Meeting the expectations of these new learners doesn’t mean throwing away all past practices and changing everything to suit millennials; it means taking what has worked with previous generations and blending it with new approaches, content, and methodologies to engage the entire multi-generational salesforce.

Creating Next-generation Sales Training

For training companies, innovating to meet the needs of future learners requires taking a fresh look at two areas: content and delivery. At Richardson Sales Performance, we are blending adaptive-learning technology, video content, and micro-assessment with best-in-class instructor-led skills training to truly “flip” the corporate classroom. This means that learners can acquire basic knowledge and familiarity online and at their own paces. Once they gain that knowledge, the time that they spend in a workshop can be optimized to focus on skill development and practice with a professional sales coach. This flipped approach saves time and money for sellers and their organizations, and it supports proficiency in learning skills, sustainment of knowledge, and reinforcement of content.

Many training companies talk about having blended-learning solutions, but Richardson Sales Performance is one of the first to truly invest in both the new, modular content required to actually be mobile and adaptive and a new platform to pull all of the elements together into a powerful and configurable solution.

In redesigning Richardson Sales Performance’s sales training programs for the next generation, we are designing each one according to eight specific industry best practices:

  • Curriculum and learning paths: Each program fits within the framework of a specific curriculum, either at the core or advanced level, with a series of learning paths, depending on the learner’s role in sales, such as inside sales, simple field sales, complex field sales, and sales manager.
  • Modular course format: We are incorporating micro-learning opportunities by using a more modular and modern format for programs. This allows content to be delivered in smaller, bite-sized units with greater engagement.
  • Multimedia and video: These elements will be included in every program, with both live action and animated videos to help visualize key concepts and make them memorable.
  • Data and analytics strategy: Dashboards allow users to measure progress, providing views into both what is being taught and how well sellers are learning.
  • New design look and feel: Program materials are being redesigned to have a consistent, updated look and feel, with infographics and other elements to bring the content to life.
  • Updated content and subject matter expertise: Every program is being refreshed with current thought leadership and research, whether it’s the latest thinking about negotiating skills in the 21st century, how millennials communicate, or using social media as a prospecting tool.
  • Neuroscience and learning research: One new and exciting addition shares the cognitive science at work in learning, such as explaining how a sales dialogue works in the brains of the seller and the buyer.
  • Job aids and manager toolkits: An essential supporting element of every program is a complete set of tools to help sellers translate the skills learned in training to actual situations in the field.

The changes we are making to accelerate learning across generations will help clients engage their millennial sellers while also leveraging what already works with previous generations in the salesforce. As a result, the entire team will be better equipped to compete in today’s world of ultra-informed buyers who conduct much of their own digital research before ever engaging a sales professional.

About the Author

Chris Tiné is SVP and Chief Product Officer at Richardson, and leads the company’s product development and innovation activities, including global responsibility for Content, Instructional Design, Facilitation, Measurement, and Digital.Prior to joining Richardson, Chris was VP of Product Development at TwentyEighty Strategy Execution (formerly ESI International and IPS Learning) and Head of Product Solutions at Macmillan Learning where he led a full redesign of the company’s higher education interactive courseware products.Chris brings together expertise in digital consumer and education products with a background in media production. From 2007 – 2013 he worked at NBC News as a digital content producer and digital product leader. He helped launch and NBC Learn – the company’s first digital education businesses – and was tapped in 2011 as Head of Digital for NBC News Education Nation where responsibilities included websites, blogs, social media, interactive journalism and content partnerships.Chris is the recipient of a 2010 Emmy Award for digital video, 4 Emmy nominations, and a 2012 Webby Award. He holds an MBA from Columbia Business School, an M.Phil. from the University of Cambridge, and a BA from Bates College.

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