You want your efforts to train your sales team to take hold and be leveraged in their work, not wasted as a moment-in-time intervention. Here is an example of what one company did to help its leaders sleep more soundly while improving their sales reps’ performance.
The Challenge: Making Sales Training Stick
You know the story: Your sales reps spend a day (more likely several) out of the trenches in a conference room being trained. You don’t want to pull them offline, but you want the reps to be taught new knowledge, learn new skills, close performance gaps, and adopt new behaviors in order to maximize their effectiveness in selling your products and services.
But as soon as they leave the building, they begin to forget what they have learned. Research shows that regardless of quality or delivery method, salespeople will forget 79% of their training within 90 days. Yes, they might refer to some of the handouts from the training once or twice, but materials get lost or shelved and then forgotten. Another risk is that they simply revert to their pre-training habits and abandon what they learned during their training experience.
One of our clients, a large manufacturer in the life sciences industry with sales in more than 100 countries shared the concerns listed above along with their solution to making learning stick after training.
The Solution: QuickCheckTM
After the training, our client used our QuickCheckTM tool to keep their sales reps engaged and thinking about what they learned. The QuickCheck tool is a software application that:
- Reinforces learning and other selling initiatives
- Asks relevant questions circulated over several weeks post-training (e.g., 2 questions asked 3 times per week over 6 weeks)
- Can be accessed on any device (e.g., laptops, smartphones, or tablets) for convenience and maximum participation
- Has a low impact on time (about 5 minutes per day)
Experts work with your learning and development team to devise a series of multiple choice questions to be sent to users several times per week. It’s not just a matter of selecting the answer and moving on, but choosing the best answer from among several close possibilities. When incorrect answers are chosen, users will see an explanation as to why one answer was better than the other options. Users must answer each question correctly twice for it to be retired from the program.
Our client used QuickCheck™ with very positive results after two rounds of training. Here are the highlights:
1. Actively Engaged Sales Reps
Through the repetition of receiving two questions per day three times per week over a period of six weeks reps were engaged well after the training. The questions asked weren’t generic, but customized to reflect the training and keep reps thinking about what they learned and were expected to do differently.
During their first round of using QuickCheck, 80% of trained reps were actively using the tool and thus stayed focused on the training. Over 95% of reps kept up on a weekly basis in the second round. That level of engagement – and therefore continued learning – might not be achieved if not for the ease and relevance of the tool.
2. Scoreboard Encouraged Healthy Competition and Visibility
Reps don’t use QuickCheck in a vacuum. Yes, they receive their own emails each morning and respond to their own questions, but so do their peers. Another important aspect of the tool is that it allows users to benchmark themselves against their competitors (i.e., their colleagues). Over the 4-6 weeks it takes to cycle through 20 questions, users (and just as importantly, their managers) can see scoreboards on a weekly basis to gauge the progress of individuals and peer groups.
Are you tracking on time or falling behind? Are you getting the answers right or stumbling more often than not? Are you keeping up with others?
The leaderboard creates visibility and healthy competition among users to spur them along, while also arming sales managers and training and development leaders to see the extended impact of the training (see #3 below). Not wanting to be the one not participating or scoring well, most sales reps will use that incentive to take it seriously giving it the time and thought it deserves.
3. Created Opportunity for Sales Managers to Coach
Learners are practicing the skillset you are trying to teach them; taking advantage of technology to reinforce the desired behaviors. In order to really move the needle on your efforts to transform your business, you need your front-line supervisors to coach their employees, not just babysit them and take attendance, or just look at reports. They must take a genuine interest in helping employees and sales reps improve themselves and advance their skills, which will of course also improve the department and company.
QuickCheck’s scoreboard provides managers with just such an opportunity, specifically to see what to coach to whom. For example, if users aren’t getting a series of questions right, then perhaps more training or communication is required to help. It is not intended to be punitive in nature, but a way to see what’s working and where to place more emphasis. If you don’t have a coaching culture, this presents a good reason and context to start.
Sustain the Conversation and Learning through Social Media
All of that’s great, but what happens after the QuickCheck period has ended?
Hopefully your reps took advantage of the post-training Q&A and reinforcement, and that some of the questions and situations sparked dialogue and debate among the reps. We suggest that you leverage your internal social networks as a way for reps to continue the discussion. Of course there should come a time when your target behavior has become the norm and you can set your sites on the next phase of development, but until then conversation and communication can help you to maintain the momentum and give your change the best chance to succeed.
Companies realize the value of maximizing their training efforts (and dollars) by extending knowledge and fostering a culture of continuous learning beyond the event. Next time you schedule a training program, look beyond the days spent in the classroom to have a greater impact on your trainees and ultimately your business.