The Evolution of Sales Training and Coaching Technology

From traditional to individualized, how technology enables sales training and coaching technology be effective at scale.

How does your organization deliver sales training and coaching? Do you send your sellers to an annual kick-off to impart information rapidly over the course of a day or two? Do you use online training programs or rely on manager-led sessions? Whatever your chosen method, is it effectively training talent and can you grow the approach at scale? 

“The future of sales training and coaching technology delivers scale and effectiveness,” said Melissa Hilbert, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner, during her session at Gartner CSO and Sales Leaders Conference in Las Vegas, NV. 

Gartner research finds that B2B sales reps forget 70% of the information they learn within a week of training, and 87% will forget it within a month. To realize the benefits that technology can offer for training and coaching, CSO and sales leaders must embrace its advantages and understand its impact on sales processes.

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Where we are today

Traditionally, organizations relied solely on in-person traditional or formal learning, but that approach is challenging to implement across a large salesforce and geographies. Many are now trying to take advantage of the scalability that technology provides.

Respondents to the Gartner GSL Sales Opportunity Survey report four use cases they plan to pilot, are in the process of piloting or have fully deployed in 2019. These include continuing education programs, video technology used for skill building, mobile access to training and onboarding. 

Leaders who are currently deploying technology should consider two specific areas in which performance can be improved:

  • Pre-boarding and onboarding
  • Continuous and continuing education

“Focusing technology initiatives on both of these areas improves sales outcomes,” said Hilbert. 

When new employees are hired, technology can reduce ramp-up time and increase engagement, thus increasing the opportunity to achieve revenue goals. For tenured reps, technology can improve proficiency and skill building. The continuous nature also keeps sellers engaged and improves retention, providing cost savings by avoiding churn and the need to hire and onboard a new seller. 

Enter AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already embedded in many of the personal lives of sellers and sales leaders, and it’s beginning to emerge in the workplace. “Algorithms will show sellers what training to take, what material to send and who to call next,” says Hilbert. The potential of AI is starting to be realized in sales training and coaching.

Gartner predicts that by 2020, 30% of all B2B companies will employ some kind of AI to augment at least one of their primary sales processes. In a 1Q18 Gartner survey of organizations that are piloting or deploying AI technologies, 61% of respondents reported the resulting value delivered to the organization as significant. When asked how AI will improve their sales organization, respondents cited increased efficiency, cost reduction and improved revenue streams. 

Technology can also help personalize training to an individual’s learning style

With the help of technology, organizations can create training for the masses. As an account manager, you’d receive training designed to support your development in your specific role. Technology also has the potential to provide personalized, role-based training that is also scalable — although few organizations provide sophisticated role-based training to date.

The future of personalized learning

Personalized role-based training becomes a real possibility as organizations use machine learning to identify an individual’s learning style and then present them information in the way they can best use it. 

Technology can also help personalize training to an individual’s learning style (e.g., some are visual learners, others auditory or kinesthetic).

In this era of training and coaching, algorithms will enable sales organizations to:

  • Identify the learning style of sellers
  • Provide prescriptive recommendations based on that style
  • Recognize which types of material are most effective for that seller and provide those types in the future
  • Recommend how sellers present information to buyer for best understanding and outcomes

Take for example, Eric. Identified as an auditory learner, he would be fed training materials audibly, and might even be tested aurally. Improvement tactics could be provided through voice commands by computer or phone, and machine learning capabilities would enable the technology to recognize which recommendations were proving to be most effective, so that type or approach could be repeated in the future.

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This article is based on insights that are part of an in-depth collection of research, tools, templates and advice available to Gartner clients.

Gartner for Sales Leaders can read more in Increase Sales Productivity With Digital Adoption Solutions and Focusing Coaching on High-Impact Behaviors.

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