News Flash: Product Training Protests Break Out in 48 States

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The other 2 states have horrible internet connectivity. Well, ok formal protests haven’t actually happened…just yet. Having first-hand experience as a sales professional and learning & development leader for a national wireless carrier, I can confidently say that in a world evolving to more informal and collaborative learning, it is imperative for learning and development organizations to see learning through the eyes of a sales person or risk becoming irrelevant.

Sales people are unique individuals, have a strong drive to succeed, and will find the most expeditious way to achieve their goals. So why don’t they take the time to do product training? Here’s why based on my experience:

  1. Problem: Inefficient Content

    • The content is too long and takes them away from more important things like customers or prospecting. In sales terms, training should be like a series of 30 second elevator pitches so they can get the point quickly.

    • The content has a marketing spin and not enough real-life information like customer and product reviews. Sales people want to know what their customers are reading (from promoters and detractors) so they are ready to respond, not what marketing is pitching.

    • It is not timely and relevant. Successful sales professionals track industry and competitive information so they can educate and challenge customers (see The Challenger Sale). If training content lags behind available public information, it is likely they have already read the features and specs in anticipation of a customer asking.

    Solution: Curate timely and balanced information in short snippets from industry sources that will educate them quickly and give them a distinct competitive advantage.

  2. Problem: They have to use multiple systems

    • Finding content in a Learning Management System (LMS) is inefficient, and nobody wants to take a 20 min web based training to get performance support.

    • They are actively using other tools to do their job like Customer Relationship Management (CRM), email, and Twitter. Anything outside of their daily workflow, that doesn’t provide a boost in productivity, is considered a waste of time.

    Solution: Make sure the learning is in context of their day to day activities, which means placing the training in systems they already use, or even better yet deploy a Learning Record Store (LRS) that tracks learning activities independent of the tools you choose to use. Check out Project Tin Can and Wax LRS for more information and updates.

  3. Problem: They don’t have mobile access

    • Sales people are mobile, and unless they are in tele-sales, they will be on the road meeting with clients and prospecting.

    • In a “bring your own device” (BYOD) world, people expect to use their device of choice whether it be a smartphone or an iPad. A good thing to consider when distributing content is whether it is easier for a person to find product specs by searching Google on their mobile device or using their computer to search the company SharePoint site.

    Solution: Embrace mobile learning with tools like HTML5 and Phone Gap. These frameworks allow for distribution across several mobile operating systems and devices. See additional information about our framework for mobile app development.

As the industry evolves to embrace social and informal learning we will see the successful sales training and L&D organizations redefining themselves as sales enablement organizations and filtering learning content through the lens of the front line sales professional. Those who don’t will be challenged to remain relevant to the sales organization.