5 Ways to Instill a Learning Culture in Your Sales Team

We all know the power of learning. The more you learn, the more you earn, so the saying goes, and that’s as true for companies as it is for individuals. Companies with a strong learning foundation in place have “37% greater employee productivity” and are “17% more likely to be a market share leader,” according to a study by Bersin & Associates. Encouraging learning isn’t just good for your employees—it’s a sound business decision.

In practice, instilling a learning culture can be a little difficult, especially when it comes to your busy sales team. Between meetings, phone calls, and CRM logging, learning new skills or the latest product information is often last on their to-do list. But as we all know, eventually, that lack of learning will catch up with them. (I’m sure you’ve already experienced horror stories of reps that weren’t briefed on the latest product details or accidentally sold the old pricing model).

It’s important for your reps to focus on their day-to-day activities, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of learning new skills and information. To promote learning in your sales team, we recommend following these five tips:

1. Build learning into the job.

One of the main reasons that learning often gets ignored is because it’s not “required.” Unlike much of their sales activities, it isn’t tracked or monitored, which means there’s no incentive to pursue it.

Consider how you can build learning into the fabric of your sales team’s jobs, just like cold-calling and emailing. Depending on what you want to achieve, set a “learning quota” and make sure that your team sticks to it.

2. It’s all about attitude.

Even though learning should be part of the job, don’t make it out to be a chore. It should be fun, not frustrating, and your attitude around learning can make or break its success on your team.

For example, salespeople are notorious for thriving with competition, so consider how you can infuse friendly competition into your learning program. Working in groups will help build relationships on your team and offer a different dynamic to their day-to-day routine. Or, you might hold a week-long “treasure hunt” in the field for new hires that encourages them to reference training content on their phones. Whatever the case, it’s important to go the extra mile in planning an effective, but fun, learning experience.

3. Encourage reps to ask for help.

How will you know what your team needs help with if they can’t ask for it? It’s a simple problem, but an important one to focus on. Explain to your team in more ways than one that it’s okay to ask for help. In fact, it’s preferred.

Asking for help might be especially hard for a rep that’s underperforming, but remind them that this is the perfect time to do so. They should ask lots of questions: How have other reps dealt with similar challenges? How can they take a different approach? Ensure that they can use sales managers or trainers as a resource, not just a scoreboard.

4. Provide just-in-time learning.

All of this is well and good, but it doesn’t negate the fact that, as I mentioned earlier, your sales team is busy. Appreciate their time by making your learning content accessible and intuitively organized, so that your reps can easily find what they need.

For starters, this means offering mobile sales training, since reps likely have smartphones or tablets always in hand. However, it’s also important that your content can change as quickly as you do. Making updates—however small—are essential in keeping your reps on the same page, and ensuring that they don’t have to spend time digging for the latest version.

5. Show your reps that learning is worth it.

Finally, make the case for learning in order to prove to your reps that it’s worth the investment. Emphasize that reps who want to excel need all the information and help that they can get. Publicly announce learning “wins” and credit successful reps with their savvy product knowledge and storytelling. For salespeople, it’s important to “sell” learning in order to create a long-lasting program.

The bottom line:

In whatever form, learning will never be first on your sales team’s list of priorities (nor second or third), and most likely it shouldn’t be. But, in order to progress with your changing business, it does need to be on their list. The important thing is to make sure you have a culture that promotes mentorship, learning and asking questions, and also allows your reps to learn on their own time. They’ll be much more receptive to learning and, more importantly, your team will begin to see better results. 

To help you take the first step toward instilling a learning culture in your sales organization, we’ve put together a free guide that explains the ins and outs of mobile training, which allows reps to learn the information they need in real-time and on-the-go.

[eBook] Bye-Bye, Binders. Hello, Mobile Training!

Learn how to help reps close deals faster.