Table of Contents

Why Are Microlearning Courses Great For Sales Training?

Executive summary

Sales training can be a valuable tool for salespeople to improve their skills and increase their productivity. However, there are some potential drawbacks to sales training that businesses struggle with. In this blog, we look at scientific research on how different members of the sales team might require different stimuli to improve their sales skills continuously, and how microlearning can help address the same. Microlearning is a learning method where small, targeted bits of information or training are captured to achieve a specific goal. Furthermore, we discuss how microlearning could be an excellent solution for training your sales team. The versatility of microlearning content formats, and how it is helpful for a diverse sales team, is analyzed. We then share the best practices to deploy microlearning in sales training regimes, either as stand-alone learning capsules or as part of existing programs. As sales is more important for businesses to survive, this blog will showcase how microlearning can help sales teams improve continuously and productively.

“The challenge of improving sales productivity in most companies is complex and nuanced.”

– Bob Kelly, founder of the Sales Management Association

Sales leaders repeatedly tell us that it takes more than 12 weeks of training to prepare their sales team members. Worst yet, it takes more than 7 months on average for sales team members to be productive. Considering there is significant attrition, sales leaders are spinning wheels on repeat hiring and training cycles, making slow progress.Sales training isn’t a program that ‘might’ help your business–it’s a sure-shot competitive advantage proven to drive revenues. As Brainshark mentions, companies with a dynamic sales training program have 28% higher win rates than others without a program.With sales training, the focus is on providing instructions and hands-on activities to be put into practice. This means your sales team needs not only information, but also a constant refresher and opportunities to test their knowledge. 

But currently, sales training is usually limited to reps being bombarded with information about the company, industry, customers, competitors, and sales methodologies all at once. This isn’t the most optimal way of training, as it does not build strong retention of knowledge, which is essential for better sales. To make matters worse, the drawbacks of traditional training methods, like low knowledge retention, time consuming content, etc., still plague sales training. These facts and figures present a need for better sales training, which is not built with a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Challenges in sales training

According to Business 2 Community data, sales reps forget 84% of what they learn in training within the first three months of employment. This can be attributed to the fact that sales reps cannot remember everything they learn in the fast onboarding processes. Proper feedback and tracking might reveal that sales reps new to the company are simultaneously figuring out processes while understanding the products. In such cases, information on multiple topics might overwhelm them. But, it would be a shocking revelation that

Only 35% of sales teams track the effectiveness of their training content

Moreover, sales skills are a combination of business and communication skills, which make regular training critical. Let’s look at some key challenges in training sales personnel:

  • Lack of time – As sales employees are mostly on calls or in the field, it can be difficult to train them using traditional or conventional methods. Their job might involve extensive travel, meeting clients and customers, which makes long in-person and e-Learning courses challenging to follow.

  • Accessibility – Sales is not always a desk job. It is important to create learning content that can be easily accessed from anywhere. Providing access to quality learning information on-the-go when salespersons are traveling is difficult.

  • Attention span – L&D teams face the challenge of keeping employees engaged and interested in the training content across all verticals. For a sales team, this is more difficult due to the constant calls and emails they have to respond to. This seriously affects their focus and attention in training.

  • Measuring effectiveness of training – L&D teams capture the effectiveness of training programs by incorporating questions or surveys. As established, this isn’t the best alternative for sales teams, as it adds to the time they have to spend away from chasing targets. Besides, these measures offer very low visibility to sales leaders on how much training material has been completed and mastered.

Smarter and continuous training method

The need is to step up to sales enablement and inculcate continuous learning. Continuous learning helps members of the sales team to focus on understanding the how and why of things. They focus on learning what’s working and what’s not, and then adapt their approach based on these findings. This helps them seek new information and perspective and become better at sales. However, with the current training methods, there is no avenue for continuous learning. Visibility into the actual retention of information is also limited.

On examining the challenge, microlearning emerges as a good strategy for sales training. Microlearning consists of bite-sized modules, packed with actionable information, which can be easily consumed in 3 to 10 minutes on an everyday basis. Combining it with mobile learning solves accessibility problems for sales employees. They can access learning material on their smartphones whenever they want, wherever they are. A fair question at this point is how different microlearning is from other e-Learning options? e-Learning can also offer short videos that can be accessed through portals compatible with mobile devices. Let’s take a closer look at the other issues with e-learning solutions, and how microlearning addresses the same.

Problems with e-Learning models for Sales Training

Most e-Learning solutions are an extension of conventional classroom training. The solutions are built around trainees learning information through detailed videos or documents. These methods of learning have some drawbacks, which make them unsuitable for sales training patterns.

  • Time-consuming: Like conventional learning models, sales teams would have to sit and absorb information for long hours at one go. However, every hour spent on sub-optimal learning means missed sales leads.

  • Inaccessibility: Rummaging through hard-to-navigate portals for actionable information is the last thing your sales team should do. Accessibility and ease-of-use are key to good learning content.

  • Longer content: Though learning through documents, slides, PDFs and videos is better than textual learning, reading extensive paragraphs or attending long sessions can become boring for everyday learning.

  • Low knowledge retention: Bigger chunks of information are harder to retain, and information not retained by the employees cannot be applied. That is why e-Learning methods become less effective and disengaging after a while.

Would you rather watch a 6 hour documentary that has to be finished in one sitting, or would you prefer several 30 minute long episodes of the same? Most people will choose the latter! Now, apply this analogy to e-Learning, and it becomes evident why microlearning is a better choice.

Microlearning offers focused and practical information to help your sales team achieve specific objectives. Keep reading to find out how microlearning uses a well proven scientific approach to ensure information retention.

What is Microlearning?

As the name suggests, ‘Microlearning’ breaks the learning courses into micro modules that can be consumed in 3-10 minutes. Each module has scenarios and activities that can aid retention. Having scenarios enables the learner to easily acquire specific skills or concepts. Microlearning outperforms other learning methods, because it is developed based on scientific research of memory.

The concept of microlearning is based on Hermann Ebbinghaus’s forgetting curve. In his trials during the mid 1880s, he noted that memory is inconsistent. Memory can increase, decrease, and replenish. This research led to the development of ‘spaced learning’ as a solution, which implies: Learning is more effective when learning sessions are spaced out over time.

Microlearning naturally fits into this spaced learning approach. As mentioned earlier, microlearning breaks vast topics into modules that reappear and allow the learner to recall the information more efficiently. Besides, microlearning sessions are so quick, it’s easy for learners to return to them regularly, reinforcing the concepts they have learned. This helps learners commit concepts to their long-term memory and ensure knowledge retention.

Microlearning For Sales Training

Let’s try to understand the application of microlearning to sales training through an example.

Consider the case of a reputed healthcare company deciding to expand their sales team. The company specializes in nutrition, diagnostics, medical devices, and branded generic pharmaceuticals. They have good products and are interested in growing the business. They also have some attrition in their sales teams. They need more sales to survive and expand their business operations. This would require their sales personnel to deal with different leads and convert them into customers. There are new sales team members joining every month. They also have existing sales people who need training on new products, as well as refresher training on existing products. The prime challenge now is to provide sales teams personalized learning material to improve their existing experience. Can one system of learning help novices and experts to continually improve their sales skills simultaneously?

How can Microlearning Help Improve Sales Skills?

Sales representatives need a plethora of skills to provide an excellent client experience and drive sales. For example, Hubspot, a leading business, has identified nearly 30+ skills crucial for converting sales. Some of which include:

  1. Thorough product knowledge
  2. Problem-solving capabilities
  3. Quick thinking and intuition
  4. Spontaneity
  5. Sales and negotiating expertise

In continuation of our example on the healthcare company, we can segregate the skill level of a sales team through the Dreyfus Model.

The Dreyfus model postulates that when individuals acquire a skill through external instructions, the individuals pass through several stages.

Based on the Dreyfus model, each individual’s skill could fall under one of the stages of this scale. However, the intent of training is to lead each individual to become sales masters and have all the necessary skills listed above. The stages of skill acquisition are:

Skill Level

Skills Description for Salesperson 

Novice

A novice salesperson’s actions are determined by rules. They require self-learning and high knowledge retention. They also require a constant refresher in product training. 

Competent

A competent salesperson understands the context of the products and can follow sales guidelines well. Their challenge is to familiarize themselves with various customers/situations and to handle them. 

Proficient 

A proficient salesperson is exposed to different customers and selling situations. They are quite engaged in the sales process and can help create sales opportunities for the future.

Expert

An expert salesperson has good product knowledge and vast experience in handling various customers. They become very intuitive in their decision-making. The next step for them is to become good at managing end-to-end sales and help handle others on the team.

Master

A master salesperson has high levels of performance. They can define the sales process and training for others. They can also manage and motivate others on the team.

The next step is to see how different microlearning formats can help individuals at any stage to progress further and improve their selling skills. 

Practical Application Of Microlearning In Sales Training

Microlearning offers various learning formats. Each salesperson may require learning and development in a particular sales skill for their progress. This section takes a closer look at how to build a microlearning strategy that helps each member of the sales team to continuously improve their skills.

Incremental learning through different stages of skill acquisition can be assisted by microlearning.

  1. Use video-based learning
    Video-based learning works great for developing product knowledge and situational skills for sales. Sales folks need extensive training on communication and behavioral skills. Video-based microlearning modules are well suited for such scenarios, as they demonstrate both visually and aurally what the learner is supposed to do.

  2. Use games and quizzes
    Once the salesperson is thorough with product knowledge and behavioral aspects of making a sale, the next step is to build context. Building context helps them understand where to use the knowledge they have gathered. Game elements such as points, levels, badges, timers, health, rewards, power-ups, and leaderboards make training interesting and fun. These also ensure that learners retain the content and use it easily at the time of need.

  3. Use simulations
    Masterful sales professionals need to have exemplary decision-making skills, as well as the ability to react to unexpected situations. The best way to train employees in such skills would be to provide simulations based on real-life situations. These simulations help sales professionals sharpen their decision-making and persuasion skills before they have to be applied in real-time sales. Simulations also help build understanding of environments and characters sales professionals are likely to encounter.

  4. Use micro-assessments
    Micro-assessments are a mix of microlearning activities that can help a salesperson become an expert in all areas of sales. These include knowledge checks, which can be quizzes and tests, gamification, and infographics. Infographics explain sales processes and methodologies using visuals in an easy-to-understand manner. The visuals boost quick comprehension and long-term retention. The overall intent of micro-assessments is to help an expert salesperson review information as quickly as possible and retain the knowledge. This helps them focus on more demanding tasks while not missing out on training.

To culminate our example, the healthcare company can use the following formats to train their employees: 

Skills Level Most Relevant Content Format
NoviceVideo based learning and micro-assessments
Competent Games and quizzes 
Proficient Infographics and assessments 
Mastery Simulations and scenarios
ExpertsMix of infographics and scenarios. Long form assignments.

The suggestions also align with the learnings we have captured while working with leaders in various industries. Let’s take a look at the major benefits microlearning provides for sales training.

Benefits of Using Microlearning for Sales Training

Sales can get quite repetitive and boring. Adding to that, if employees encounter the same learning method, sales training can get uninspiring too. In the example of the healthcare company, we saw how different content formats can be utilized efficiently. The biggest advantage microlearning offers is the versatility of providing different content formats in one platform. Microlearning is the best way to train sales executives, because:

  • It is learner centric and self-paced.
  • It can be accessed by learners at the point of need.
  • It is filled with exciting learning media and quizzes.
  • It contains short, easy-to-retain learning nuggets.
  • It offers flexibility in unpredictable schedules.

Now let’s take a quick look at the best practices to follow for creating a microlearning plan for your sales team.

Best Practices To Use Microlearning For Sales Training

Implementing microlearning for learning and development needs requires an analysis of learners’ needs and planning the next steps accordingly.

  1. Define your learning objectives – Sales teams need to be trained on various topics, such as negotiation skills and product knowledge. Designing a curriculum with a mix of general and specific skills makes a microlearning course more useful and engaging.
  2. Write a script – A successful microlearning course for a sales team will have situations that they face on a daily basis. Creating assessments and quizzes based on such situations will make learning effective, engaging, and fun.
  3. Create more image and video based content – Sales teams have limited time to spend on training. Image and video based content instead of text is easy to consume and saves time too.
  4. Decide on the mode of delivery – As suggested in our example, aligning microlearning modules with the profile and needs of the learner enhances engagement and retention.
  5. Track progress – Using trackers and setting smaller goals makes it easier for learners and managers to monitor progress. This makes microlearning courses self-paced and easy to finish. It also helps sales folks identify what skills they learned at each step of the course, and their individual learning agility.

Learn more about best practices for creating a microlearning plan here.

Conclusion

Effective sales training is essential for growing a business. Microlearning has some clear advantages when it comes to sales training. It is crucial to ensure that balance of information and gamification is maintained to reap these benefits. Microlearning is a boon for employees who want to improve their skills without assigning extra hours to do so. For sales teams, microlearning can help them stay up to date with the latest developments, sales techniques, strategies, trends, and consumer insights. It can help sales teams update their knowledge and align with company goals better. This would result in better revenues and sales professionals that have imbibed the culture of learning. In short, microlearning can help your sales force train better to bring in more customers and grow your business.

At RapL, we have worked with industry leaders to improve sales training and enterprise learning. We focus on enhancing productivity through continuous learning. Log on to raplqa.com to learn more about elevating your workforce.

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