As we pivot out of one of the most difficult and unpredictable years in recent history, the need to train sales reps for highly challenging and unpredictable market conditions was driven home like never before. So too, was the need to be able to train and equip sales reps remotely.
Undoubtedly, learning management systems form a key tool of any organization’s efforts to keep their reps consistently updated on skills and knowledge. It comes as no surprise that the global LMS market is expected to grow from USD 13.4 billion in 2020 to USD 25.7 billion by 20251 as continuous employee training and development is becoming the norm across industries.
But is an LMS sufficient to cater to all the training needs of your sales team? Can an LMS alone provide the fluency, competency, and agility needed for your sales team to close more deals? Let's take a look at what an LMS can and can't do for your organization and how those training gaps can be closed with additional sales readiness technologies.
Where an LMS scores
a) Reducing cost and time investments: Onsite training programs rack up a variety of costs linked to travel, accommodation, infrastructure, and training and mentorship fees. And they also require reps to be pulled from their work schedules leading to falls in productivity. An LMS can reduce costs and minimize disruptions by providing training to employees where they are.
b) Training at reps’ convenience: As a recent LinkedIn survey found, 58% of employees prefer to learn at their own pace.2 With an online repository like an LMS, sales reps are free to explore and discover knowledge according to their own schedules.
c) Customized and personalized training: An effective LMS allows incorporating a variety of in-house and third-party training modules across different media, which sales reps can access as they choose. Companies can also create personalized training paths for different employees based on their roles.
d) Assessment and analytics: An LMS can be used to regularly assess reps’ knowledge levels and learning experiences using tools such as surveys, tests, quizzes, and assignments. Further, LMSs also provide reporting on reps’ course completion and shortfalls. Such information allows determining where more training is needed and how to optimize it for different sets of reps.
Where an LMS falls short
a) Lack of experiential learning: One of the major shortfalls of a traditional LMS is that it cannot provide experiential learning. In simple terms, experiential learning is learning by doing. Participants perfect their learning by continually practicing and refining their techniques. While product and market knowledge can be consumed passively, active participation and practice are required for sales reps to perfect their selling skills and master their pitch. This is because not all forms of learning are equal. Research tells us that we retain a bare 5% of the information when we listen to a lecture. Even with audio-visual methods and live demonstrations, retention never rises beyond 30%. However, an impressive 75% of knowledge is retained when we learn by doing.3 This vast difference is because active participation increases the level of reflection and cognitive processing undertaken by the learner.
b) Lack of competency data: In terms of assessment as well, an LMS can only measure the courses that a sales rep has consumed and the information they have absorbed from it. However, it cannot measure how reps are integrating such information into their sales conversations. In other words, an LMS can track information retention but not skill development and sales performance, which are crucial for converting prospects and closing sales deals.
c) Lack of ease of best practices sharing: Peer-based learning content can be a powerful tool for sales reps. Such content is created by others facing similar sales performance situations as themselves. However, in the absence of interactional learning elements in an LMS, companies must put in extra efforts to create and curate content on best practices gathered from top-performing sales reps.
How to do more with your existing LMS
The disadvantages listed above doesn’t mean that having invested in an LMS, you should live with its limitations. Instead, companies would do better by investing in added technologies to build a learning ecosystem around their LMS. One such tool would be an AI-enabled sales readiness platform.
As noted earlier, while an LMS provides a supportive environment for training and employee development, it lacks features that allow managers to assess how effectively the learning is being put into practice in real-world situations. In other words, it fails to provide an answer to the all-important question, are the reps sales ready?
To properly close the loop on sales readiness, sales organizations should decrease their emphasis on passive teaching methods and increase their focus on experiential learning. Research shows that this is a significant differentiator between leaders and laggard organizations. High-performing firms are three times more likely to use experiential learning for both frontline and executive-level employees than low-performing organizations.4
One of the best ways to ensure sales teams’ experiential learning is to institute regular pitch practice, where sales reps practice and record their pitches for a variety of sales scenarios and requirements, have their pitches analyzed with AI-enabled tools to granularly discover what went right or wrong, and receive feedback and coaching on which specific skills to improve and how. Such experiential training keeps learning closer to real-world situations and is easily accessible to the sales reps whenever similar situations arise.
Moreover, an AI-enabled readiness platform can overcome the common problems of coaching programs, namely, managers’ bias and lack of time and resources. Using machine learning techniques, such a platform can rapidly analyze reps’ sales performance on a range of factors such as topic coverage, tone/mood, delivery speed, use of specific keywords, and so on. It can also analyze the difference between top performers and others to suggest steps for improving the sales performance of laggard reps. Finally, the practice pitches and demos of star performers can be easily collected and curated to build winning behaviors and share best practices.
It comes as no surprise that one 2020 study found that 44% of revenue leaders are investing in skill development coaching tools as one of the top three must-haves for their organizations.5
An LMS lays the foundation for training sales reps by making a variety of training content easily accessible. But translating that learning into skills deployed in real-life sales conversations requires practical experiential learning. Companies can close that gap by integrating their LMS with a powerful AI-based sales readiness platform.