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Sales and Marketing and Learning: How Their Integration Leads to Success

Today’s post is from guest author Ron Bohnlein, VP of Sales for SBC Learning Labs. He has extensive experience not only in sales, but in the sales of learning solutions. In this post he shares some insight into how a Sales Training Department can become more successfully integrated into the Sales and Marketing departments, and making everyone more effective at growing the business.

What Learning Professionals Need to Know

Sales Marketing Learning IntegrationEveryone within a business is working hard to meet stakeholder expectations, and keep the company on a strong path of growth.  This sounds fundamental and it is. But understanding the need for growth and how that growth happens is something learning professionals may not understand, or simply take for granted.

Company leaders typically grow revenue and margin via means such as:

  • New products/solutions
  • Competing for more market share with current products
  • Growing the sales force and marketing efforts

Most companies believe their solutions are better than stale offerings from major competitors.  Since the solutions are new, they carry higher Value and Margins. They are non-commodity products at this time so they also provide an element of customer loyalty post-implementation. And often, sales quotas increase due to both stakeholder expectation and the company growth strategies.

It’s not hard to see how part of growing a business through sales and marketing efforts will ALSO require an element of LEARNING.

The Challenge Trainers Need to Understand

A big obstacle is getting the direct and indirect sales channels to give attention to, and spend time on, the revenue generation activities necessary.  The sales forces have several products and solutions from which to choose.  Indirect channels often have similar products from several companies from which to choose.

Great and good sales people operate off a time allotment formula.  They are successful by allotting their time to the current products.  In order to succeed with the new product, sales people know that they will have to spend time with the following time-consuming activities:

  • learning and understanding the new solutions
  • crafting a plan to generate interest (leads)
  • decide how to pitch the new products
  • master a technique on positioning the new product for the close

In considering their time allotment formula, sales people logically ask: if I am successful (making a good living) with a current mix of products, why should I spend my time on this new solution?

Yet, in planning for the success of new solutions, companies expect their good and best sales people and the sales people in their third-party channels to spend their time on the new solutions.

Companies who do not consider the salesman’s formula run the risk of lower-than-expected success of the new solutions.

And this is where tradition training solutions collide with the needs of the sales force. Traditional “courses” and training methods, while well intentioned, often do not take a sales person’s time allotment formula into consideration.

The Old Mix: Marketing, Sales Meetings, and Training Events

The key to getting sales people to take action is to reduce the amount of time they need to spend learning on positioning the product.

Historically companies approached the time-reduction goal by:

  • Creating Marketing slicks and Web-site marketing write-ups to generate leads
  • Showing products at trade shows and exhibits to generate leads
  • Mail campaigns to generate leads
  • PowerPoint decks for salespeople to use in conducting sales calls
  • 30-minute education at sales meetings
  • WebEx sales education meetings
  • Product demonstrations for sales calls

The methods are not always very effective because they are out of sync with how the audience (prospects, sales people) is used to getting information in these technology driven times.

They miss the mark by missing the fact that people are used to getting information via short, engaging, memorable, and even participatory, messages.  They are used to being able to quickly access those messages any time they want and use them in various situations.

A Modern Approach: High Quality Digital Media

By using digital media and the production values associated with Madison Avenue, companies can not only get in sync with their audience but also:

  • Generate more leads
  • Reduce the time sales people need to spend with prospects
  • Conduct more effective sales calls
  • Reinforce and sustain mastery

With some planning, the digital tools can leverage components from one another and reduce costs.  E.g., a lead-generation video can also be used on the web-site.  Also, components can be used in a digital product pitch.  Also components of the digital sales education piece can be used in both the product pitch and interactive simulations of sales situations.

We have seen companies who have had us create these digital components call them Playbooks, Tool Kits, Digital Knowledge Boxes.  They typically contain the following:

  • 1 to 3 minute Marketing Trailer
  • Segmented, 30 minute product sales education course
  • Realistic simulation of typical sales situations
  • Short coaching session
  • Perfect Pitch of the product

Despite what different companies call them, they are the modern key to:

  • getting high-quality leads
  • getting sales people up to speed quickly
  • shortening their time to becoming effective with new products
  • meeting company expectations for revenue

Are you a Training Professional working in a Sales and Marketing Group? I’d love to hear from you and get your feedback.

Ron Bohnlein

Ron Bohnlein, VP of Sales for SBC Learning Labs. He has extensive experience not only in sales, but in the sales of learning solutions. In this post he shares some insight into how a Sales Training Department can become more successfully integrated into the Sales and Marketing departments, and making everyone more effective at growing the business.

Happy New Year!

Before you check your calendars and diaries, you’ll only ‘get’ the title of this post right away if you have a special type of diary – an Academic Diary. It is of course, the start of the new Academic year 2014-15.

welcomebacktoschool

My son recently started senior school and as we all know, this is a big milestone in every young life. We have spent the summer break ordering uniforms, buying new stationery and searching out a store that still has stocks of German dictionaries!

So while we have been heavy preparing for the new year ahead at school, countless Trainers and Instructional Designers have been enjoying the quietness of August to take stock and begin mapping out the changes to roll out for the new season.

Meanwhile back at Litmos, we saw a large spike of new users logging in for the first time in early September. This helps prove that adult and workplace learning certainly does follow the same pattern of the academic year.

How do you manage the Maintenance of your Courses?

When I managed an active program of training courses and events that were being delivered week in week out, I kept a project notebook with tabs to separate each topic, just like this:

PukkaPad

This was where I recorded all the annoyances I had with my courses, or the great analogies and humour that I stumbled on while delivering countless hours of classroom training. When a practical exercise wasn’t always working out and I found ways to explain it better, I would note this down. If one of my screen shots in the exercise manual was incorrect, I’d record a note to fix it.

Of course you can guess where I’m going here – the notepad was my August project. I used the notepad to update all my courses during the month and it was with great pleasure that I would roll out my new versions every September. I’d take pride in congratulating my first students for being lucky enough to receive the newly updated course manuals.

Managing Online Courses

Just because we are all beginning to deliver some of our courses online and via eLearning, it doesn’t mean the project notepad no longer has a place. I still use the same practice but must confess I have since discovered Evernote. However a traditional, physical medium is still favoured by many to record these little nuggets as they occur, be it on the job, during the commute, at a learning event, wherever.

Do you utilise this type of approach to maintaining your courses? How do you celebrate the New Academic Year? I’d love to hear from you.

Andy Minshall

Andy has worked in the marketing software industry for 10 years as a Learning & Development Manager. He has designed & delivered a variety of classroom, web-ILT and eLearning courses to train end-users to fully understand the solution and ensure success. Andy is based in Bristol, UK.

Does Your eLearning Authoring Tool Save You Time and Money?

litmos-author-mac

When we built Litmos Author we had a two-fold goal in mind: to make it possible to quickly create eLearning courses without sacrificing quality. We have been very successful on both fronts. As Litmos Author has matured, we continue to assess whether or not we continue to be successful on both fronts. Does Litmos Author still provide rapid authoring without sacrificing quality?

A recent experience, though not scientific, helped us see that we’re still on track with our product goals. We’ve been ramping up our course development services. In order to meet the demand, we’ve reached out to some professional course development vendors.

On one project, we received several bids. We were amazed that the first vendor’s estimate was over $100,000. This was about 4.5 times more than what we knew we could do the project for using Litmos Author. We knew that this first vendor had extensive experience developing courses with other authoring tools, but had never developed courses using Litmos Author. Was this why their bid was so high?

We received another bid from a vendor that we knew developed courses using Litmos Author. Their bid came back at about 1/5th the cost of the first bid. It would be naive of me to think that the authoring tool was the only factor that played a part in the drastic difference in cost. But it is telling that those that used Litmos Author came back with much smaller estimates.

So what makes the difference? What is it about Litmos Author that can reduce authoring time? Here are some of the features that I think makes the difference:

Form-based Authoring

Litmos Author uses a form-based approach to authoring. Interactive pages are built by filling out forms. This doesn’t mean that interactivity is sacrificed. We still have games, simulations etc. But the interaction can be built faster by filling out forms. Then the interaction runs off the data provided in the form.

Keeping all Coding Separate

With Litmos Author you can build an entire course without touching any code. Therefore coding never gets in the way unless you choose to let it. If you choose to deal with the code, it is there for you.

Collaborative Nature of Development

With Litmos Author, multiple people can be working on the same course without stepping on each other’s toes. This prevents wait time, which can frequently happen in a waterfall approach to development.

Course Review

Litmos Author includes course review, which greatly facilitates and speeds up the course review process. Instead of taking weeks to have a course reviewed for accuracy and quality, multiple reviewers can look at the course at the same time in just a few days.

The cost of a project is not always the most important thing to consider. But in this case, it reaffirmed our commitment to rapid authoring without sacrificing quality.

 

 

Should We Model Corporate Training After TED-Ed?

ted-edI'm always quite curious about learning content that I find online. And every time I find something new I seem to think the same thoughts and have the same questions: Is this considered instructionally sound by academics? Could this be a good model to emulate in corporate training? Who created the system? What were they trying to achieve? Do normal people even care?

I've been aware of TED-Ed for a while now, but only recently have I noticed an increase in TED-Ed content being shared heavily in my social media streams. The first encounter I had was simply to watch the video that was linked from twitter. The second encounter was to check out the “Create a Lesson” feature. And now I'm finally at the point where I want to know what others think. Is it pretty good? GREAT? Not based on sound learning principles? Or YES, OMG, it's finally the holy grail of learning?

The following video from TED-Ed was very engaging for me. I enjoyed it. But did I learn anything by simply watching the video? Do we need more than just a video to truly learn and not simply be entertained? Check out the video and then let's discuss.

So, what did you think? If you liked it and were compelled to watch the entire video, do you feel like you learned something? Did you check out the View Full Lesson Feature? If not, go there now: How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain.

How_playing_an_instrument_benefits_your_brain_-_Anita_Collins___TED-EdThere are 4 sections within a lesson: Watch, Think, Dig Deeper, and Discuss.

  • Watch simply plays the video content.
  • Think is a multiple choice quizzing engine.
  • Dig Deeper is additional text with links to other content related to the topic.
  • Discuss is a simple forum style discussion board.

There is nothing too complex about this lesson building engine, but I still think it's pretty cool for one main reason: Sharing customized lessons. Anyone can create a lesson based on the lesson they are viewing. You'll notice in the image above that there is a Customize This Lesson button. Next to it you'll see that there have been 185 customized lessons already created and shared based on this lesson. And this is what I find exciting and fascinating about TED-Ed.

There is a lot more that I love about TED-Ed, but will need to save it for another post. Tell me what you like about it. Have you created your own lesson yet? Do you think the content could be used in corporate training settings? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

 

It’s Not a Training Event – It’s a New Media Cultural Experience

MEDIA CULTURAL EXPERIENCEIn my Tuesday morning post about Apple Announcement Day I highlighted the importance of the digital media cultural experience that surrounds an Apple event. And that, even if you don’t care about the products, you should be a little interested in how social media and new streaming technologies surround the event. But before I go into that, let me address the obvious.

The event has come and gone. The Apple haters are out in full force. No more rumors. We now have confirmation of the iPhone 6 in 2 larger sizes…AND a wearable. Yes, it has a time feature. But it’s not a watch, despite the name.  Much like the iPhone is not a phone, but it has a phone call feature. But I digress.

Apple.com/live got very little press as it was overshadowed by the product announcement.  But this was Apple’s first attempt at live streaming their own event, as well as posting images with Pinterest-style design, publishing as fast as a live blogger, and including share buttons to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr. They were able to deliver behind the scenes images and information that live bloggers could not and since they didn’t need to be stealthy about it, they could use real camera equipment and setup beautiful images to represent their event.

This is the new world of social marketing that will soon become the new world of informal learning. Imagine Tim Cook, and the cast of presenters, as if they were teaching a course. Is there any reason why this exact setup would not work? Or simply because it’s a “course”, would the same attention to detail be dismissed as not necessary for a “training event”?

Before you dismiss that image from your brain too quickly, hold onto it for one more thought. Replace Tim Cook with Richard Feynman and his lectures on physics.  Would you consider THAT important enough to apply the Apple.com/live treatment? Or even more? Why, or why not?

You don’t need to answer that.  You just need to think about it. Every major cultural event is getting the social media treatment these days. And yet education and training remains very…well…UN-social. We use social media to create, and engage in, the cultural social experience around television shows, sporting events, and yes company product releases, but not educational events. Events created with the intent of transferring knowledge should also be as highly valued, and receive the same treatment.