5 Tips for Applying Just-in-Time Learning Design to Sales Enablement

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Published December 2016, Association for Talent Development

The consumption and purchase patterns of consumers have evolved greatly in recent years. For instance, when buying groceries many people have transitioned from a “just-stock” mode, which uses a long grocery list to stock up for weeks, to “just-in-time” ordering via a service like Amazon fresh. New technologies are helping to create a future where purchases will be triggered automatically based on your individual preferences, past consumption patterns, and current needs.

 

Just StockJust In TimeJust For Me
Comprehensive contentRight quantity ofCustomized content
If availableRight content at theIn context
When readyRight timeDelivered, proactively

 

Similarly, learning and development also needs to evolve to reflect how consumers of content are changing their behaviors and expectations. Content users are no longer looking to read through copious content; instead, they expect to have highly relevant content in just enough quantities exactly when they need. For example, consider a scenario in which a software sales rep who is stuck in the negotiation stage of a deal for more two months. The following learning modes can offer different learning experiences for the rep.

 

Just StockJust In TimeJust For Me
The learning team has
realized“negotiation” is a
key skill challenge.
The rep searches for top
negotiation tactics.
Learning system understands the context: “The rep is struggling to close a large multi-product multi-year deal in a mid-sized healthcare company against a specific competitor.”
It engages one of the best
negotiation skills training vendor
who researches needs and develops
comprehensive training that includes
role plays, exercises, and quizzes.
The learning system understands
the specific content need and not
that the rep is seeking a five-hour
negotiation training class covering
buyer psychology a month from now.
The learning system analyzes similar deals won and recommends optimal pricing against the competitor involved, competitive battle cards for products in the deal, and key negotiation tips pertinent for similar deal sizes, proactively.
It makes the course available online, requiring learners to complete quizzes to advance to the next topic.The learning system serves up micro-content that lists the top 10 negotiation tips that have been most read and rated highly by other users.Customer referrals and ROI calculations is also delivered by email directly to the customer.
The rep searches for negotiation skills content and registers for training.The learning system also aggregates informal content available in sales community discussion boards on the same topic.

 

If you were in this rep’s shoes, which learning mode would you prefer? Obviously, just-in-time and just-for-me learning. But like all good things, these come with a price tag.

Just-for-me learning involves skill set changes for the learning team, as well as behavioral changes in the learners. This requires data scientists and performance coaches to be a part of the sales enablement team. It also relies on sales reps to enter pipeline data in a very timely fashion so they can access recommendations proactively.

Likewise, just-in-time learning involves a complete mindset change in content developers along with transformational change in learning development and delivery process and infrastructure. For example, the learning function may no longer have three months to conduct a needs assessment, design instruction, write training content, and pilot training courseware.

L&D professionals in sales enablement may no longer be offering comprehensive, immersive training that includes booster, supplemental, or follow-up content. Action-oriented content design tool, tips, templates, tactics, and so forth is the norm. In fact, content will need to be chunked and summarized to fit the time constraints of sales rep trying to meet end of quarter quotas.

What’s more, the learning functions can no longer only count on seasoned instruction designers with domain experience to fulfill these needs. Leaders must tap the skills of sales incumbents who have closed hundreds of deals effectively negotiating with various stakeholders.

Here’s a breakdown of how to meet these just-in-time sales enablement needs.

5 As of Just in Time Sales Enablement

#1. Attention

Garner genuine attention using “learning by objective” principles. For example, instead of marketing a negotiation training without context, send personalized message quoting the percent of opportunities in pipeline that stalled in negotiation stage and how closing them will result in $350K toward meeting the quota.

#2. Adoption

Improve adoption by scheduling the delivery at the right time—when the stakes are high. This will ensure reps not only read the email but also consume the content. For example, instead of marketing negotiation training in Q1 (when only one small deal is in late stage), send an email when a good number of deals are in negotiation stage.

#3. Absorption

Ensure absorption by delivering chunked micro-content. This will allow the rep to learn the most important tenets right away, then schedule more later. For example, instead of sending a link to negotiation training, summarize the top five negotiation techniques in the body of an email and then follow it up with another five tips the next week. Add a short survey to pinpoint which new techniques were helpful.

#4. Application

Provide application-oriented content like pitch videos and templates. Reps can use these tools right away, and then try to connect academic content to application context. For example, in addition to negotiation tips, also provide templates of ROI calculation to show cost of ownership or a price value map against competition. In other words, add items and tools that the rep can forward to prospects immediately.

#5. Association

Leverage the field staff to generate crowdsourced brief content that can quickly contribute contextual, application-oriented content. For example, send short surveys to top reps who have great track record of closing high-value deals to gather negotiation scenarios and practical negotiation techniques.

Bottom line: Just-in-time learning is a critical addition to training modes available to enable sales. While sounding futuristic, current technologies make it feasible and achievable, but infrastructure, process, and mindset changes are required to make it a success.

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