I can remember sitting in a math class, long ago, thinking, “How is this going to help me? Am I really going to use this?” Quick side bar: I use math more than I could have ever expected.

In most classroom environments, there is little intention to show students how they would apply their learning in real world situations, nor does the training materials (textbooks) show how it is applied in day-to-day life. Not surprisingly, your sellers often feel the same way, after exiting training. If sellers find it difficult to apply learning to real-world scenarios, the value of the learning retention is diminished. We call this the gap between learning (training) and execution (real-life application).

Instead, sellers need the following to bridge this gap between learning and execution:

  1. Automated, Seller Journeys
  2. Contextual Learning

Automated, Seller Journeys

An automated seller journey is essentially a toolkit. Include everything needed to win an opportunity, develop and execute an account plan, find opportunities within your territory, or to manage your channel partners. This can include, but is not limited to: the process (sales, account, etc. processes), activities, verifiable outcome’s, job aids, contextual learning, and various other company specific assets and information. When automated correctly, the automated seller journey becomes the hub and launches users to what they need, in the context what they are doing. “Right now” and in real-time.

Bridging+the+Sales+Training+to+Execution+Gap+ImageYou may recall from our prior blog, “Aligning Sales Talent to Drive Your Business Goals,” that there is huge value in aligning sales talent by leveraging sales talent analytics. Guided sales journeys can provide the vehicle to support the usage of these Critical Sales Competencies™ every day. For example, let’s assume that analytics prove that having Effective Sales Conversations is a Key Driver of Quota Attainment. The everyday ability of a seller is to: 1. Learn how to have effective sales conversation and 2. Apply that learning with real clients become mission critical.

Overall, the power of this approach is driven exponentially higher when users are served up the appropriate automated seller journey, based on the situation they are engaged in, and aligned with those competencies that are statistically proven to drive results within your specific organization. One size doesn’t fit all.

Contextual Learning

Showing a seller what to do next via a guided sales journey, is only half of what they typically need. The other half is to provide the learning in small digestible servings, and show them how to complete something based on what they are doing at that moment in time. In short, a long list of reinforcement assets can have value. However, unless they are presented within the journey and within the context of what the seller is doing, they are likely to remain unused.

This approach has such great value, that we are currently engaged with multiple clients to build short, learning moments that sellers can use on the go. For example, prior to walking into a meeting with a prospect, they might need to watch a short, 3-minute video on their smartphone, which shows how to best utilize the 9-Block Vision Creation Model.

Build the bridge

At its core, this approach works to bridge the gap between learning and application. Simply put, closing the learning gap is defined as providing your sellers/managers with the automated process, tools, and access to learning, in order to experience the learning everyday. With this approach, they learn through application, usage, and contextual learning and content.

This approach attempts to bring together concepts that, in the mind of the sellers, can appear to be disconnected. The application of the learning concepts moves students smoothly from a classroom setting to problem solving with actual opportunities and situations.

By providing information in the context of the process, sellers are also able to find what they need, when they need it. Most sales operations managers can relate to the constant battle of ensuring that their sellers have access to the latest version of contracts proposals and other various templates. By linking this information within the context of the process, sellers not only know what to use. They also begin to understand when to use these internal tools. This improves both efficiency and effectiveness.

We engage with many clients, whereby their sellers send proposals to their clients before fully understanding their critical business issues. One small step is to place the link to access the proposal templates further into the process map. Within this approach, the sales process (and hence the CRM) becomes the hub, where users can gain access to critical information, exactly when needed.

Optimal sale enablement blurs the lines between learning and execution. Learning becomes ongoing, in real-time, and in the context of each client engagement.




Ken Cross
Author:
Ken Cross, Sales Enablement Practice Leader

Ken Cross is SPI’s Director of Sales Enablement, focusing on advancing sales technology and process automation. Ken is a frequent contributor to this blog and to industry publications and forums.

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