Busting Myth # 2: Maintaining a top-notch sales force requires significant time off-the-sales-floor trainings
By definition, eLearning is more convenient and cost-effective than Instructor Led Training (ILT). However, there are also those who doubt that it is as effective when it comes to knowledge ‘stickiness’ and real results in changing the behaviour of your sales force. There’s no doubt that online training means less time spent off-the-sales-floor compared to the traditional classroom method. Even though the opportunity cost for eLearning is lower, how can we be sure that the results for a sales organization are just as good as F2F training?
Let’s first look at the more established ILT approach and why it is not always the best solution for your sales force. Of course, when you analyze the pros and cons of each method, you have to keep in mind that the subject of the training, your team’s specific needs, your company size and the geographic location of your employees will all be factors that will tip the scales towards one or the other.
Here are some of the advantages that traditional classroom training has:
- Allows for brainstorming and sharing of knowledge between employees
- Gives learners the chance to ask questions during the training
- Builds learners’ confidence through meeting the experts face to face
There are also many challenges when it comes to F2F training:
- High implementation cost - time and money
- Higher opportunity cost compared to the alternative of online training
- Time away from work leads to additional interruption of the employee’s daily tasks
- Inconsistency in messages and teaching styles
Perhaps the most important disadvantage here is the lost opportunity when a sales rep is in a training session and not selling. Same goes when managers or other field sales employees are conducting the training itself which then becomes another lost opportunity as they are not performing their regular jobs. Of course, eLearning also takes employees away from their job but the intrusion is much less time consuming and the employee has more control over his or her schedule.
Which brings us to the gist of our argument i.e. refuting the myth about the ineffectiveness of eLearning. Let’s look at:
- Minimal interruptions in productivity as mentioned above i.e. the cost of opportunity lost is minimized too;
- Delivers consistent knowledge across the board as the message to all learners is the same regardless of external or personal (trainer) circumstances;
- Continuity of training and constant knowledge updates as required - again with the help of a modern LMS and the right processes in place, eLearning can ensure that employees’ knowledge is kept up to date and the cost of follow-up and refresher training is kept to a minimum without compromising quality;
- Allows for knowledge sharing and collaboration across a wider base of co-workers as compared to traditional classroom methods;
- The problem-solving and gamification aspects of eLearning can be very attractive and increase learning engagement.
There are of course some drawbacks related to eLearning and sales managers should be aware of them when deciding which approach is best for their employees:
- Not every subject is appropriate for online delivery and sales training makes no exception.Repetitive content which allows the learner to pause and come back to the course is ideally suited, such as management training certification programs for example. You should consider options such as blended learning when it comes to topics that don’t yield themselves naturally to online delivery;
- Motivation - this is not a negative related to online learning per se, but it’s more to do with the individual’s motivation as well as the way sales managers and supervisors ‘sell’ the courses internally.
- Need for facetime - again this can be used more as an excuse when there is lack of motivation as learners can easily fall behind when attending a classroom training in the same way as an online one. One-to-one contact, whether virtual or real is always beneficial for the learner and if the topic lends itself to it, and there is the organization in place to allow learners to talk to the subject matter experts, you should encourage this in your online courses.
Now you know the main pros and cons of ILT and eLearning, it’s clear to see that it is entirely possible to achieve the same or even better results with the latter as you would with the former. There are many factors in play when it comes to making the decision about which method to use, so you should do your analysis and planning diligently and find the best format for your topic and your own sales force. If you’ve had experience with both traditional and online training, share your sentiments in the comments below, it’s always refreshing to see different perspectives from a variety of industries.
You may also like to read our blog post on Myth #1: There is no way to measure the impact on the bottom line from sales force training activities.