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As a tenured sales leader, I’ve used pretty much every sales enablement tool in the toolkit: from the classic yearly kick-off meetings and LMS courses to content management systems and modern, AI-driven email and call analysis technology.
All of these are important in equipping reps with the skills and resources needed to successfully sell products and services, don’t get me wrong. However, the one tool that I wish I had as both a sales rep and a sales leader is scientifically proven microlearning and knowledge reinforcement technology. This would have been especially helpful as I grew in my career and began selling complex and technical products where truly understanding the capabilities and value was critical but it was often difficult to maintain that breadth of knowledge over time.
A year into my time here at Qstream and I’ve been reflecting on the capabilities of our own software. I truly believe it’s a game changer for not only the sales function, but any corporate role where knowledge matters. As long as counting “butts in seats” isn’t enough, then Qstream is a good fit. In other words, if you want better insight into what is being learned, retained over time and applied on the job, your LMS and other apps that track only completion rates aren’t going to cut it. In 2021, the average organization spent $2,020 per salesperson on sales training in the last full fiscal or calendar year, not including expenses for an annual sales kickoff meeting. If you are a larger company, with say, 100 reps across the U.S. That’s over $200K. That kind of investment better show a return. But, unfortunately, that’s not the case as most of what we learn is forgotten in 30 days if not reinforced over time. It’s just science.
And as we slowly march towards the recession that many are predicting, this becomes even more important. Historically, periods of economic unrest have led to purchasing reluctance. As The Alexander Group highlights, the 2009 recession led to a 20% decrease in sales productivity, the cost of sales increased and a closed-won takes almost twice as long.
Top that off with the fact that we are truly living in a digital world, where more people are remote, leading to fewer on-site demos and sales interactions. Reps need to be able to make the most of the time that they have with prospects, effectively communicate product value and quickly react in any scenario that comes their way. Here’s how microlearning is helping sales leaders train, enable and develop high-producing, quote-exceeding reps in 2022.
Sales reps want to be pulled away for training activities as seldom as possible. And oftentimes, whether we like it or not, training is often seen as a barrier to their productivity. They say, “time is money,” and that could not be more applicable to sales training, which is too often conducted based on what the organization thinks reps need. Training needs to be as efficient and effective as possible, and most importantly, seen as valuable by learners. Microlearning and knowledge reinforcement solutions like Qstream give you a clear picture of where you need to focus your training efforts at the team and individual level. And this can be done in a couple ways.
First, Qstream allows you to get a baseline proficiency level to better understand what reps know and don’t know. This data takes the guesswork out of training and can be used to configure meaningful training for the broader group. For those individual outliers that are either less proficient or more proficient than their colleagues, management can coach them one on one and offer additional training where it’s needed. This way, no one’s time is ever wasted on training they don’t need and all gaps that do exist can be flagged and corrected. Several of our customers use Qstream’s microlearning assessments as the tip of the sphere and say this method has helped them build more targeted training plans.
This idea of testing people out of learning is an easy way to enable sellers at all stages of maturity, while keeping them productive. Coupled with our integrations to Slack, Microsoft Team, Webex and other common sales tools, Qstream questions are delivered in the flow of work making them less intrusive and embedding learning into daily routines.
The same principle of testing people out and creating individualized learning paths is at play when Qstream is used to reinforce knowledge, which is our bread and butter. Repetition and learning that meets the needs of individual learners is critical to making training material stick. Our scenario-based challenges test learners on the most important pieces of information shared during formal training sessions, ensuring it is remembered long-term and actively applied on the job. Once a question has been mastered, or answered correctly two times in a row, that question is retired. Conversely, if a rep continues to answer a question incorrectly after multiple attempts, management can connect with them to diagnose the issue. It could be something as simple as a quick explanation or a sign of low engagement. Either way, armed with this valuable information, managers can take immediate action to correct the problem.
Product launches, for example, are a common use case for Qstream. After a day-long training session on the new features and functionality, you’d follow it up with a Qstream to ensure the material that is critical to effectively selling this new product is comprehended.
Qstreams can also be deployed for specific selling scenarios. For example, when a rep is consistently losing out to a competitor, you can enroll them in a Qstream that lays out our land mines and how to sell around them. If multiple reps are experiencing the same challenge, this might indicate you need to do some more formal training. Again, either way, each team member receives training that is relevant and personalized.
Our customers also use Qstream for first delivery of information; for example, to introduce product enhancements without pulling reps into a more formal training. Although they might not know the information being asked initially, the science says the human brain wants to answer the question correctly regardless, especially when receiving immediate feedback. Another scientific principle at play here is the actual microlearning that occurs when you ask a question. The brain is primed to take in new information. And using our scientifically proven spaced methodology, that information will be repeated at key intervals of time when the brain is likely to forget. This forces reps to recall the information, pushing it from long-term to short-term memory.
There has historically been a huge data problem in the sales enablement training space. Leaders typically can only see course completion rates and maybe even exam results post-training. But one month later, what do people know? With most applications, you have no clue. Qstream’s microlearning analytics show you where your team stands immediately after training and months, even years, later.
This real-time snapshot of what individuals know and don’t know helps managers tailor their coaching and development activities. Rather than waiting for the traditional yearly performance review, people leaders can immediately follow up with employees that need some assistance, or conversely, to provide praise to top performers to keep them motivated. This kind of real-time coaching and development is critical to retaining talent in today’s labor market.
Qstream offers multiple dashboard views based on the data that matters most to each user. Sales leaders can assess team performance readiness via the proficiency stat, which measures how people have answered Qstream questions. They can further drill down to see how each individual team member is performing and take remedial action where it’s needed.
This granular data is extremely helpful for our customers, who need their reps to be able to recall and practice certain selling skills and practices at a moment’s notice during prospect conversations. Reps are ready to most effectively sell products when it matters and in less time. I like to think of Qstream as a little consultant on their shoulder that chimes in at the moment of impact, helping them to remember and use what they learned during that workshop a few months back.
But this data isn’t only helpful for sales managers. Executives get a high-level view of performance across the organization. Qstream’s microlearning analytics provide unprecedented insight on learning proficiency on a per-skill, per-topic, per-region, per-team basis to help leadership teams pinpoint areas of risk and plan for the future.
There are many aspects of sales effectiveness that depend on knowledge, but knowledge alone will not change the way sales reps behave. Read any of the latest books on behavior change or habit creation and you will find many of the same concepts employed by Qstream’s spaced repetition. Small, incremental changes build habits over time. That is one of the key ingredients to Qstream’s secret sauce. Scenario-based challenges explore real world sales situations our team will encounter during customer interactions, offering them a practice space to apply the knowledge they’ve learned through our signature spaced repetition. These scenarios create the proper neural maps in the brain and have been proven to impact long-term behavior change.
In my history as a sales leader I have always found role play to be an energizing way to coach teams on how to perform in various scenarios. The one thing that role play lacked was the ability to create repetition over time that would foster new habits. We would bring people together for a role playing session and everyone would leave energized, recognizing a number of areas where they needed to adjust their behavior.
But back in the field, that knowledge of the proper approach would fade over time as the demands of their day-to-day interactions took over. With Qstream, a sales leader can create very similar role play scenarios, but these scenarios can be delivered through Qstream’s algorithms over time. Those same algorithms that have been proven to change behavior time and time again. For example, this study on diabetes management from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System yielded impressive results, significantly lower levels of hemoglobin A1c, a measure of long-term blood glucose control, in participants.
The workforce in 2022 is an entirely different breed. The influx of social media apps that not only provide bite-size content but employ algorithms that customize each user’s experience have led to shorter attention spans and the need for personalization. Microlearning is one of the easiest ways to give learners the information they need to be successful in the way they are used to receiving it. “It’s a competition for eyeballs,” as our head of product says, and that competition will only get fiercer as technology continues to advance. Is your organization prepared to make the necessary adjustments to develop the high-performing reps?