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The future of sales training doesn’t look like training

What’s next for sales training? The answer is exciting, but might not be what you expect. The sales training of the future doesn’t look much like the sales training of the past. But fear not, what lies ahead is more effective, more engaging and promises to make life easier for both the sales rep and the trainer.

Here are three ways sales training is changing for the better.

1. Focus on content, not an event

In the past, sales training has been built around training events like orientations, onboarding sessions and annual sales meetings. Information was presented to reps through these live events and materials were packaged up into binders and USB drives for them to take home.

Unfortunately, what would often happen with this approach is that reps would be inundated with information during the event. They would soak up as much as possible and forget the rest before having the chance to apply it and truly retain it. They would have the materials they took home from the event, of course, but referring back to it is never very convenient. So, all that valuable content would just sit on a shelf or in a drawer some where, growing more and more outdated every day.

The solution is training that is built upon that valuable content, not events. Instead of overloading reps with live training, information is delivered to sales reps as it becomes available. Now trainers can manage content from their desktop and push it directly to apps on their reps’ smartphones, tablets and computers.

This change helps trainers ensure that their resources are always current, relevant and easily accessible for sales reps. It gives them more clarity and feedback about what content is being consumed, how often reps are using it and areas where knowledge gaps exist.

Many companies will likely hold onto their live events, but their purpose will shift. No longer will they be the primary way to deliver information. Instead, they will be supplemental to the content strategy. Continuous learning and increased sales force productivity will be driven by content.

2. Creating positive customer interactions

Research shows that when a potential customer chooses to buy from a competitor instead of you, it is four times more likely to be due to problems with your service – not your price or your product (Bain & Company). This is why sales training is moving toward a new focus on creating exceptional customer interactions.

The idea here is fairly simple. Instead of training sales reps to know as much as possible about the products or services they’re selling, training focuses instead on how to repeatedly create customer interactions that are most likely to lead to closed sales and happy customers.

Training will establish the ability for the sales reps to create exceptional customer interactions. Then, the resources they will need can be provided to help them easily answer the more difficult questions about product features and details.

The idea here is that it’s more important for sales reps to manage positive interactions and continuously progress customers through the buyer’s journey than it is to be a product expert. If they are able to easily and effectively access the content they need to answer more pointed questions from customers, then they don’t need to have all that information stored in their brains. Instead, they can focus on keeping the customer happy and headed toward a purchase.

3. More fun and games

Children have known it since the beginning of mankind: games are fun. But now, research in the training world is beginning to show solid evidence of the positive impact games have on engagement and long-term learning.

A quote from the Financial Post sums is up nicely: “Incorporating game play produces a better educational experience by adding realism, fostering competition and delivering quicker progress feedback. The value for the organization and worker is compelling: improved problem solving and collaboration skills, higher learner engagement and greater knowledge retention. Organizations should consider how best to leverage gamification methods into their most important training regimes.”

Gartner recently predicted that by the end of the year, 4 out of 5 organizations will have incorporated gamification into at least one area of the business. We’ve seen that shift here at Maestro, too. In fact, we recently completed a project for a software industry giant that wanted an innovative way to reinforce leadership principles and build positive habits. Did they want traditional eLearning Courses or a web portal with videos and quizzes about leadership? No. Absolutely not. Instead, we worked together to build a learning game that will be used to help more than 127,000 employees be stronger, more effective leaders. And we bet they’ll have fun learning, too.

Who knew that something so fun could be so… corporate?

The answer to “what’s next for sales training?” will continue to evolve. But what will never change is its purpose. As long as it is working to equip sales reps to be as effective and productive as possible, it’s on the right track.

What else does our future have in store?

Ask a Maestronaut! We may not have a crystal ball, but we do know a thing or two to share.

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