ATD Blog

Is It Time to Rethink Your Continuous Sales Training Strategy?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Fact: According to ATD’s State of Sales Training Report, the United States spends on average $1,459 per salesperson each year on sales training. That’s almost 20 percent more than they spend on workers in all other functions. Much of this training is curriculum-based and conducted in person.

Fact: The forgetting curve shows that participants forget almost 70 percent of the information they were taught in this classroom-style training just one day later.

Put those two facts together, and that’s a tough ROI to swallow, especially given the opportunity cost of lost revenue.

So how can businesses keep up with the rapid rate of change and the need for ongoing training? How can they compete in a world where employee quit rates are at a 17-year-high (based on Bureau of Labor Statistics) and remote work is on the rise?

Simply put, sales managers need to give their teams access to the information they need, when and where they need it. Fortunately, new technologies are making this training easier than ever before.

Curriculum-Based Training Isn’t the Enemy

In many organizations, sales training is conducted during a single, one-off, fast-paced information dump where sales reps are expected to memorize new features, workflows, message maps, and sales tactics. This often occurs in a boot camp style environment or during the early stage of their employment with the organization. Another option is at the annual sales kickoff (SKO) meeting where the company reviews the new years’ quotas, any changes in messaging, new products, and so forth. Typically, these meetings also include motivational sessions by prominent public speakers or senior leaders within the company.

There are some clear benefits, including cultural intangibles from an employee engagement standpoint, to providing curriculum-based training through onboarding programs and annual kick-off meetings. It’s a great time to transfer foundational knowledge about the organization and its mission, as well as baseline expectations around things like pipeline and targeted prospects. It’s also an effective way to gather the collective minds of your team in one place to share ideas and best practices that might otherwise get lost in the day-to-day hustle.


Ongoing Training Is Key

A study conducted by IBM on the value of training reports that just one in five new hires will stay at an organization if they do not receive the training they need for their jobs when they join. But what happens when the internal processes or messaging that they learned changes a few months into their role and the annual kick-off meeting or next training session is some six months away?

To maintain its competitive advantage in a rapidly shifting technological landscape, your company needs to prepare it's staff by instituting effective change enablement and an ongoing training process. It’s likely you’ve thought about requiring your sales teams to complete a certain number of training hours each quarter—where you can re-emphasize the most important information and address questions that may have come up.

Think about that for a minute longer.

While that may be effective as a start, consider how you, as an individual, gain the knowledge you need to get what you want. If you’re like most people, you search online to find bite-sized, contextual, and timely tidbits of information. Rarely do you seek lengthy training sessions.


Now think about how often your organization updates CRM or sales team policies and procedures. How long do team members spend getting up-to-date on those new policies and processes. No matter what your answer to that question is, it likely takes longer than it should. What’s more, every minute your sales team isn’t focused on actual selling is a minute that your competitor could be stealing away a customer.

A New Era of Learning Technologies

It’s not just your business that’s changing at the speed of light. The technological landscape in the sales, knowledge management, and learning space is evolving at an equally rapid rate. It only takes a quick glance at the Sales Technology Landscape, developed by sales technology expert Nancy Nardin, which categorizes 600+ solutions in this space to realize this.
Sales Technology Landscape.png
For instance, consider the evolution of learning management systems (LMSs). Most LMSs on the market are cost-effective and relatively easy to manage, while providing end users with easy access to a modern, multimedia learning environment that learning developers can personalize to help drive home the knowledge sales leaders need to make a difference to the business.

The problem? Many of these LMSs live in a portal that’s completely separate from your team’s workflows and processes. So while it may be helpful for a one-time lesson or onboarding, it’s not helpful for the day-to-day application of that knowledge.

As a result, we are starting to see an emergence of new learning and knowledge sharing solutions designed specifically around the way modern day workers learn behaviors in their consumer lives. Need same-day grocery or toilet paper delivery? Click. Need a ride to the airport? Click. Access to what people need, when they need it is easier than ever. Yet in the workplace, employees often will find themselves searching for the right folder for the right document, drilling down into the right section to locate the exact paragraph they need to answer the question they have. Not only does this lead to a significant amount to time wasted, the frustration of constantly feeling stuck can be crippling to employee engagement.

That’s exactly the problem that just-in-time learning and knowledge sharing technologies are solving: small, easily understood, and accessible bites of knowledge embedded directly into workflows or CRM. This approach gives employees road signs, complete with videos and images, every step of the way to ensure that your team has the knowledge they need. Not only does this sort of quick and easy access to knowledge minimize friction during onboarding, it allows organizations to effortlessly drive process changes and maximize productive selling efforts at the same time.

No doubt, business is always evolving. Fortunately, the learning market also is evolving to respond to these changes. Better yet, the number of knowledge sharing tools is rapidly growing. Indeed, 2019 will be the year for just-time-in learning—just wait.

About the Author

Melanie Fellay is cofounder and CEO at Spekit. Described as having “unshakeable grit and a thirst for solving complex problems,” Melanie has devoted her professional life to advancing a vision of a world where every employee has access to the knowledge they need to be successful, exactly when and where they need it.

Fascinated with how we learn and absorb information, Melanie uncovered gaps between how employees are traditionally trained in the workplace and how humans actually retain knowledge. She co-founded Spekit to solve this challenge, creating a platform designed around how people learn. Flipping the script on the outdated LMS courses, PDFs, and lengthy trainings, Spekit automatically surfaces answers and training directly within the applications/workflows where questions arise. Today, the world’s most innovative companies, including Uber Freight, iHeartMedia, Southwest Airlines, and Invesco, rely on Spekit to maximize the growth and impact of their employees.

Along the journey to reinvent learning at work, Melanie actively shares the trials and tribulations of scaling an organization as a female founder. From overcoming imposter syndrome to embracing radical candor to leading a team with your heart first—she is redefining what it means to be a “boss lady” in a male-dominated world.

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