Creating a Culture of Learning Among Hybrid Sales Teams
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With hybrid and remote workplaces, it can be difficult to create an engaging learning environment for reps. Virtual training sessions that last for multiple hours or days can lead to fatigue as reps navigate the distractions that come with a highly digitized world alongside dense learning material.
To overcome the inherent challenges of learning in a virtual or hybrid environment, organizations need to shift to not only what information reps need to learn but also how that information is delivered to encourage engagement and retention. This requires a careful balance of quality and quantity to create a culture of learning, especially in an environment where a lot of training content is being consumed online.
Building a culture of learning begins with creating experiences that guide reps to find meaningful purpose in their work. With deliberate and systematic learning strategies that focus on the intrinsic value of developing knowledge and skills, enablement can help reps feel motivated and supported in their learning journeys, particularly in environments where reps may naturally feel more disconnected from their peers.
“Having that [learning] culture allows that knowledge gap to shrink because you’re going to have your more seasoned reps mentoring your younger reps,” said Hillary Anderson, sales enablement leader. “Account executives are much more willing to work alongside your sales development reps and help them refine their skills if everyone acts like an owner.”
Below, learn three strategies to help build a culture of learning in the modern workplace environment.
Micro-Learning and Coaching for Interactive Experiences
Micro-learning has become a valuable strategy in the hybrid environment to help deliver critical training in short, digestible chunks. By leveraging digital tools to deliver this learning, reps can also access the information on-demand as it fits within their own schedule, helping to encourage receptiveness to the material by limiting distractions.
In a hybrid environment, enablement can also facilitate quick interactive sessions with peers and managers to allow for practice, coaching, and feedback. Just as micro-learning breaks down complex learning topics into small, easily understandable chunks, micro-coaching builds on this concept through short, interactive sessions with peers or managers to dig deeper into the learning content.
“If we are doing peer-to-peer micro-learning, we have reps think about what they have been doing that is working, and what isn’t,” said Dan Storey, director of sales training at Finastra. “We then turn that reflection into a peer-to-peer knowledge share, which can be done in a roundtable share format, bringing all the reps into one meeting, virtual or in-person, to learn from each other.”
While traditional coaching is still necessary to develop key behaviors and aid in self-discovery and development, micro-coaching can help recreate a sense of organic, in-the-moment coaching opportunities that are less common in virtual environments without over-hearing peer calls or quickly debriefing in the hallway between meetings.
A unique value of micro-learning and micro-coaching in a hybrid work environment is that they can be consumed at any time on an ongoing basis. For example, these peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing moments can be recorded, with important snippets extracted and made accessible for reps, allowing them to reference the material or coaching moments as needed for ongoing reflection and development. This allows reps to pinpoint specific concepts that they may need more support with, paving the way for incremental progress to be made.
“What we find is that although you might start seeing change at a macro level, the part that really excites me is the change that we see on a micro level, or what I’d call an individual level,” said Aaron Evans, co-founder & head of training and enablement at Flow State. “You might be working with a rep on a particular change that they’re making, and it takes time for them to truly grasp that concept. The coaching is where that pays off, one-on-one coaching with a rep where you see the improvements that they’re making, then the byproduct of that, the results that come in.”
Utilizing Technology to Enhance Reflection and Engagement
Tools can be an important part of creating a culture of learning as they help to facilitate on-demand learning that can be consumed and delivered in a variety of formats. For example, meeting recording and conversational intelligence technology can be valuable in giving reps the opportunity to re-watch meetings and reflect on what went well during their interactions with their customers and what could be improved for next time.
“How can you go back and look at the meeting and identify the areas that you did well versus not well,” said Storey. “Historically, we would do it in the car park after the meeting, you’d go and you’d sit in the car park with your manager and you’d run through [what happened in the meeting]. But now you don’t need to, you just sit at the table, click, [and consider] ’how would you handle that objection differently given the reaction they had?’”
This allows reps to learn from their actual interactions, using reflection as a form of deepening the learning experience. With virtual meetings, reps have a unique opportunity to re-watch their encounters with customers and reflect on their performance, seeing first-hand what they could improve or change for their next meeting with customers.
“While some teams will do this in the context of role plays, it can be just as, if not more, effective and efficient to base feedback around existing, previously held calls that have been recorded,” said Renée Osgood, customer success enablement manager at Matillion. “Using real conversations allows enablement teams to more quickly give advice, as time isn’t being spent constructing and role-playing hypothetical situations. Many times, that feedback can be perceived as being more valuable because it feels more ‘real’.”
Reflection is a critical part of deepening the learning experience for reps, helping them to better understand how they can apply their knowledge and skills to behaviors in the field with customers.
Using Metrics to Drive Accountability
Using metrics to measure the success of learning programs is a crucial part of creating a strong culture of learning within sales teams. Tracking key metrics allows enablement to keep tabs on what is working to optimize programs, but it also can be a useful tool to hold teams accountable to learning objectives and incentivize participation.
“Get comfortable with numbers,” said Storey. “That is something that we all need to do. We need to have friends in ops. We need to keep a close eye on the dashboards that matter.”
From the onset of a learning program, it is important to make the goals and objectives clear so that reps understand and are bought into the outcomes that are expected of them. Then, enablement can tap into the competitive spirit of reps by utilizing a leader board to encourage friendly competition. Enablement can use the metrics on the leader board to center practice sessions or coaching activities, creating an environment where reps at the top are encouraged to share their best practices to help their peers succeed while reps lower on the board can hone their skills in a low-stakes environment where they can leverage peer and manager feedback.
“By creating a sales culture where rather than putting people down that aren’t at top of the board, having those people that are top of the board working with those people that are at the bottom of the board to get them that much closer to being a top contributor, is where I’ve seen organizations be most successful,” said Anderson. “A competitive spirit is really important.”
With a strong culture of learning, organizations can focus on keeping reps motivated and engaged while also keeping sales teams aligned with an organization’s business priorities. Micro-learning and coaching, tools that enable accessibility and on-demand learning, and metrics that drive accountability and incentivize participation are all important factors that can help facilitate a successful culture of learning in a hybrid environment.
By focusing on creating consistent moments of meaningful learning, enablement can foster an overall team culture that values professional growth and development for continued success.