The Million-Dollar Sales Training Content Question

At some point or another, everyone has dealt with training content. So when I first started thinking about what differentiates mediocre content from the crème de la crème, I thought back to my own training experiences:

October 1999. It’s the first day of a 10-month Microsoft Certification training course, and I am handed the first of which will ultimately be eight three-inch binders of training material. The slides are printed four-to-a-page in order to allow enough room for our notes and exercises. The class then begins with the instructor powering up the overhead projector and asks us to follow along with the printed material.

February 2011. It’s my second week at a software company and it’s their annual sales kickoff. We congregate at a Westin near the office and begin to pour through PowerPoint after PowerPoint, covering topics that range from financials, to the new pitch deck, to a special “things to remember.” Two days and eight cappuccinos later, I’m fully exhausted but don’t feel extremely educated. Luckily, they’ve put all of the new content into PDFs and shared the link to SharePoint via email so the team can revisit it whenever we want.

Two experiences, over a decade apart, and not much had changed. Even though PDFs on SharePoint were a welcome replacement to stacks of binders, they still felt like just a small step forward. Plus, those PowerPoints and PDFs felt especially dull when compared to every other type of content in my day-to-day life:

May 12, 2015. I’m riding the subway to the office and browsing the latest news on my phone from Twitter, HuffPost, ESPN, and CNN. I scroll through Facebook and see it’s an old friend’s birthday, so I drop him a message on his wall. I click on a funny video of dogs failing to catch things, then switch to Clash of Clans to check on my village. My content consumption is erratic and clinically ADD. I’m okay with that because that’s what I have time for and that’s what keeps my attention.

So, in light of these experiences, here’s the million-dollar content question: why hasn’t training content evolved to become just as engaging and easy to consume as the news, social media, and games that we use every day? Here at Inkling, we think that training content shouldn’t be the exception to new content rules.

Based on my experience as a sales engineer—often the first touchpoint for our customers’ content transformation—I’ve listed four qualities that your training content should have to help bring it to life.

Your content must be…

1. Accessible.
There’s a reason that I scrolled through content on the subway, not at my desk or home computer. Today’s reps sell on-the-go and constantly switch between devices. To stand a chance at being seen, your training content has to keep up. It must be accessible wherever and on whatever devices they’re using—and it must look good.

2. Self-paced and engaging.
Millennials are notorious for craving engaging, bite-sized content, but today, that’s the format that almost all of us (even non-Millennials) prefer. Your reps want content that they can digest at their own pace and that’s interesting enough for them to revisit.iPad

3. Credible.
Training content has always had to be credible, but the standards for what credible means have changed. Today, your reps expect accurate, up-to-date content on their devices the minute changes have been made back at HQ. With PDFs, it can feel like a losing battle trying to keep everyone on the most recent version. Look for cloud-based content that syncs automatically with one click.

4. Aligned with business objectives.
Whether it’s to train reps on a new product, reduce the amount of in-classroom training time, or increase overall content usage, your training content needs a goal that ties back to your company’s business objectives. Again, this is nothing new, but there are new tools available to help you get there. Look for smart content that offers analytics—time spent on page, average number of pageviews, etc.—that will better prove your content’s success amongst your reps.bullseye

The bottom line:

The way that people consume content today is very different than it was just three years ago. Yet, I still see organizations continuing down the path of boring PowerPoints and yawn-inducing PDFs. Instead, look for ways that you can bring your content to life and meet the modern-day expectations of your sales reps.

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