Our Thinking

Changing How Your Sales Force Learns

Luke Kempski

Training your sales force about new products and how to sell them used to mean classes, conferences or one-on-one training. Today, many progressive organizations are looking for their sales team to take e-Learning courses, complete online assessments and take virtual, instructor-led courses. They also want their sales reps to use an iPad or other mobile device for ongoing learning and to support interactions with customers. In addition, they want them to share their knowledge and experiences with peers through new social learning and collaboration platforms.

While this sounds ambitious, we see organizations across the globe looking for new approaches to efficiently make sales people more knowledgeable and successful. For these changes to achieve the desired results, they need to be introduced in a compelling way. They need to break through the sales person’s natural resistance to change and appeal to their competitive nature. Communications should leverage key characteristics of the company’s brand and sync with other corporate initiatives. It should stimulate anticipation for the change. Before it’s released, you want the salesperson saying, “I can’t wait to take this new training and use this new technology so that I can sell more and achieve my goals.”

Understanding the Sales Team

So how do you stimulate this desire to try something new? While you may not have the budget for an advertising campaign, you can choreograph a creative communications program. To do this, you need to understand your sales team, their backgrounds, needs and aspirations. Based on this understanding, you can develop a creative idea and message that connects the new way of learning with their goals. Be sure to involve some communications and creative design professionals to help develop the concept. Involving someone in your IT area is also a good idea.

Rolling out the Program

The creative communications program should start prior to the “launch” of the new learning environment. Depending on your organization’s culture and technology infrastructure, you may use posters, email, video, the company Intranet and other tactics to get the message out. When the new environment is available, you’ll want to include a feedback channel so the team can share their experiences. Amplifying positive experiences and addressing concerns will trigger a peer effect in adopting the new changes. By tracking and communicating results, you can also create peer competition and accountability.

Gaining Team Member Buy In

Beyond the “launch” of the change, you’ll need ongoing communications and incentives to motivate use of the new learning environment. This is especially important to inspire the members of the sales team to contribute, engage, and participate. You’ll need to continue to emphasize the value of participation to each individual as well as the team as a whole. By building and adopting a new learning environment, your team will have fast and efficient access to formal learning, shared knowledge and collaboration. This can help you outsmart and outperform your competitors by getting to market faster. You will also be bringing better intelligence to your customers enabling them to better benefit from your products and services.

Now more than ever, sales organizations are investing in new ways of training and learning. We have found that organizations that use creative communications programs to introduce and promote the adoption of new learning environments achieve much better results. We would like to hear about your findings. Has creative communications helped you get learners to adopt new ways of learning?

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