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Part 2 - Nine Trends in Sales Force Effectiveness and Learning & Development for 2013

What are the key trends in sales force effectiveness and learning and development to watch for in 2013, and how can they impact your business?

(Part 2 of 2)

In an earlier blog post, we listed and described the first four trends:

  1. Mobile (Smartphones and Tablets)
  2. Social
  3. Cloud/Integration
  4. Big Data and Metrics

These trends represent outside forces helping to shape employee and buyer behavior. In considering the remaining five trends, the fifth represents a primary audience on which to focus your attention while six through nine can be viewed as the response to the convergence of the preceding factors. More specifically, they are strategies to employ in leveraging the first set of trends.

5)       Millennials

Millennials (born 1980-2000) are entering the workforce as Baby Boomers retire. This generation of workers has different behaviors and expectations for their jobs and careers. They are often categorized as the digital generation that is highly tech savvy and possessing different values, expectations, and learning styles than Gen X (1964-2000) and Baby Boomers (1946-1964).

These nuances impact training, learning, and development across the group. There’s a perception that if you put a big, thick manual in front of them, they’re not going to take to it very well. That’s not to say that older workers haven’t been using technology and altered their behaviors and expectations — but for Millennials, that’s all they know.

What are your clients’ demographics? If their number of Millennial employees is on the rise, then you need to be able to help them connect with them.

Find a way to look at this issue objectively so that you can meet the needs of your own Millennial employees and your clients’. “Seasoned” managers and execs from older generations are the ones making the decisions and investments in connecting with Millennials — remember that it’s not about right or wrong, but rather about the most effective way to connect with and develop this group.

6) Bite-sizing

Now you can start to see convergence among technology devices and delivery along with user preferences and behaviors. Bite-sizing refers to breaking down large volumes of learning content and information into smaller “bite-sized” pieces. This not only reflects how Millennials prefer to digest content but anyone who has embraced (or been consumed by) the digital age.

Bite-sizing effectively changes the tempo of learning and application for both instructors and participants to fit these changing preferences and demands.

Learning and development should be viewed as a process, not an event. Classroom learning and reinforcement should be spaced over a longer period of time to ensure that users have mastered each section before they move on to the next topic.

7)   Flipped Classroom

The flipped classroom inverts traditional teaching methods, delivering instruction online outside[AD1]  and moving “homework” into the classroom. In this new environment, teachers are more coaches and guides as opposed to lecturers. Time spent in class is now focused on the application of what students heard in their offline lecture.

How can you best facilitate knowledge transfer when training your employees? Look for opportunities to have your trainers, facilitators, or subject matter experts record their lectures in brief videos that students can watch before (and after) the classroom activities. This allows more time for coaching, role playing, and teamwork and interaction in the classroom. Then, use the videos and other tactics to reinforce knowledge and behaviors after the training session.

You can supplement your own curriculum by referring trainees to sites such as the Khan Academy (which has delivered nearly 215 million lessons since 2006) or (an online repository of business and conference presentations).

8) Gamification

Once you’ve taught your employees something new, you need to help them maintain the knowledge and sustain the new behavior. Gamification is an increasingly popular method of creating an active, competitive learning experience. Often technology-enabled, this strategy fits with Millennial preferences as well as the flipped classroom.

Developing games is a great way to reinforce learning and apply it in various relevant scenarios. While it serves the dual purpose of keeping things interesting for students and encouraging the right behaviors, it is important that the games (and more specifically, the developers) maintain a clear focus on the goals and objectives that management is trying to achieve.

9) Performance Support

Beyond gamification, how can you help your employees to sustain behavior and do their jobs most effectively? The learning experience must extend beyond the training event.

Performance support tools provide relevant information accessible on demand at the point of need. But not everything needs to be a multi-media e-learning module or video. For example, quick reference guides for sales reps can be very handy when trying to recall new product information to share with clients.

After reading this list of trends, do you feel current and on top of things? Are you wondering how to take advantage of these ideas? Or worse, do you foresee a battle in convincing the powers that be to invest in some or all of these areas?

Technology continues to evolve rapidly, and demographic shifts among your employees and clients are changing buying and selling behaviors and preferences. Many of these innovations impact the areas of sales force effectiveness and learning and development.

Don’t get left behind. If you haven’t already started, consider how your sales organization can leverage some of these trends in sales force effectiveness and learning and development to enhance your business in 2013.

About the Author

Richardson Sales Performance is a global sales training and performance improvement company. Our goal is to transform every buyer experience by empowering sellers with critical skills so they can create value to buyers and drive meaningful conversations. Our methodology combines a market proven sales and coaching curriculum with an innovative and customizable approach to learning that ensures your sales teams learn, master, and apply those behaviors where and when it matters most — in front of your customers. It’s our job to anticipate change in your industry so that your sales team can focus on fostering long-term relationships, becoming indispensable partners for their buyers.

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