Better Selling Through Learning Science

By Tim Riesterer, chief strategy and marketing officer, Corporate Visions, and Chanin Ballance, president and CEO, Veelo

It happens all too often: Salespeople leave a training session energized and motivated like never before to apply their new skills in the field. But then, just weeks later, they forget most of the skills and concepts they trained so diligently to learn. The results of this pattern are as predictable as they are damaging: skills erosion, low adoption and minimal behavior changes in the field.

However, the sales enablement solutions that attempt to address these issues focus overwhelmingly on getting salespeople content more efficiently without sufficiently taking into account two important things:

1. Even when the content resides in a single, authoritative repository that’s up-to-date and easily searched (and let’s be honest here, this is very much an ideal scenario), the fact remains that most of these repositories reside outside of the selling workflow, which interrupts sellers instead of keeping them in the selling context.

For example: If a seller is in the prospect record in the CRM and needs to refresh her memory on key messaging points, she’ll have to leave the CRM, navigate to the content repository, and then waste precious time locating what she needs. These losses in momentum may be small, but they add up rapidly and can end up eating away hours of selling time every week-decreasing seller productivity.

2. Once the seller has located the right piece of content, there’s every chance that it won’t actually help her in that moment—usually because it’s too long, too bulky, or too difficult to remember and use. Some tremendously useful assets, such as sales models and playbooks, contain wall-to-wall text that’s difficult to absorb and ultimately gets in the way of truly improving sales effectiveness.

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Improving Both Productivity and Effectiveness

Solutions that stop skill erosion and reinforce training more effectively ideally need to integrate with the CRM and intelligently recommend coaching and guidance based on contextual data, as well as provide content that’s easy for sellers to learn, remember and use,  improving both productivity and effectiveness.

The true productivity gains lie with the ability to dynamically change content recommendations as the seller navigates to different prospects from different verticals (and occupying different stages in the sales cycle). This type of system provides minimal disruptions to the seller workflow: The content is right there, in the CRM, and sellers waste far less time searching.

Having content in the workflow isn’t just a productivity booster, it impacts effectiveness as well. Surroundings and context can provide useful cues for recall. Think of all the times you’ve walked to the kitchen to grab something, only to forget what it is when you get there-but remembering when you return to your chair, where you initially made the decision. Providing effective sales coaching and reinforcement in the selling workflow helps make the content stickier.

Content delivery is only one piece of the puzzle, however. The other piece is the content itself: how to make the content easier to learn, use and remember so sellers can more easily recall what they need and use it when it matters most. To that end, here are some basic content creation guidelines based on over a hundred years of research into how people learn, remember and use information.

Keep Things Short and Modular

Short-term memory capacity is pretty limited-so beware of overwhelming it. Breaking information into modules makes it easier for sellers to digest and write into long-term memory. Our recommendations:

1. Keep your content to what the average seller can reasonably complete in two to three minutes.

2. Avoid blocks of text longer than 150 words.

3. Add a point of interaction about every 45 seconds—a quick quiz, a flash card, or even a video.

Remind and Repeat

Reviewing information at spaced-out intervals-what’s known in learning science as “spacing”-is one of the most effective ways of improving recall. Having coaching and training refreshers available on-demand provides sellers with the means to refresh their memories as needed, boosting long-term memory retention.

Virtual Coach

Since skill erosion can undermine some of your most important training investments, inadequate skills reinforcement is a problem you can’t afford to ignore. And, thanks to Virtual Coach, a Veelo-powered platform from Corporate Visions, you no longer have to.

Corporate Visions’ Virtual Coach improves productivity by giving sellers the right reinforcement from right within the CRM platform or sales portal. Using the Veelo Guided Selling system, which intelligently predicts content and enablement support for sellers at each stage of a sale, Virtual Coach provides salespeople with situation-specific coaching content that’s presented in context and aligned to each selling or buying stage. Best of all, the content comes in bite-size chunks optimized for refreshing salespeople on the skills and concepts they need to gain mastery of the key conversations that happen throughout the buying cycle.

By prompting salespeople to use the techniques relevant to each deal stage, you’ll ensure your salespeople not only apply the skills you’ve invested in, but are also highly proficient with them. That will make low adoption and skills erosion a thing of the past. And, it will also get your reps one step closer to shining where it matters most: articulating value proposition on purpose-not by accident-in front of prospects and customers.

Tim Riesterer

Tim Riesterer

Chief Strategy Officer

Tim Riesterer has dedicated his career to improving the conversations marketers and salespeople have with prospects and customers. His books, “Customer Message Management”, “Conversations that Win the Complex Sale”, “Three Value Conversations”, and "The Expansion Sale", focus on improving market-ready messages and tools that marketers and salespeople can use to win more deals. As chief strategy and research officer for Corporate Visions, he sets the direction and develops products for this leading marketing and sales messaging, content and training company.