How to Help Sales Reps Engage Buyers with Just-In-Time Learning
by Angie Holmes, on Mar, 9, 2021
We've all seen and heard the statistics related to the lack of content used by sales reps. Marketing produces entire toolkits of content for reps to use throughout the sales funnel, but as the saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Alignment between the sales and marketing organizations is key to ensuring the right content is produced, and that sales leadership promotes its use in sales endeavors. Studies have found that just-in-time learning is one of the best ways reps are enabled to articulate what they are sharing and maintain a good understanding of the buyer’s perspective and position. 57% of employees expect learning to be more “just-in-time (JIT),” or as needed than it was three years ago, according to CEB Research:
One of the principal goals of this methodology is to provide real-time performance support. The aim is to help an employee perform his or her job optimally by providing access to tips, tricks, solutions, and hacks just when he or she needs them, which is at the workplace and right at the point of action.”
Additionally, we know that getting in the conversation with the buyer in the first place and making a connection is key. Buyer/seller conversations have been even more difficult over the past 12 months, with most occurring behind a computer screen. This is especially true when we study the psychology behind having the conversation in the first place. Psychology Today highlights what physically happens during an in-person conversation:
Humans in physical proximity influence each other’s nervous systems, whether they are aware of it or not. We can create emotional contagion, for example, of positive or destructive feelings that can quickly move from one person to another (Barsade 2002). Positive emotional contagion leads to successful communication and cooperation. When we co-regulate, we use that resonance to move toward greater understanding, collaboration, trust, and compassion. When someone starts to get defensive or I-centric, we can keep ourselves open and remain we-centric by utilizing co-regulation to shift their chemistry. By up-regulating we-centric behaviors like priming conversational space for trust and asking discovery questions, we can elevate engagement and levels of trust.”
These are essential concepts for reps as they engage with customers. Remaining positive and open, listening and asking probing questions to help solve buyer’s problems, leads to a positive experience that is cooperative and builds trust. Following are some questions to ask that encourage reps' use of valuable content designed to help make the sale:
Who is the content intended for?
Sellers need to "know thy customer." Varying roles require different types of material to educate and intrigue. You wouldn’t use the same collateral for your IT contact as you would for your C-level decision-maker. Although they may have the same business pain, their views are from very different lenses. That’s why marketers create personas and develop content specifically for each one of these roles. Reps should be aware of their audience and be easily directed toward the audience's specific information via concise tagging within the CMS or other means. Short ‘cheat sheets’ presented by marketing can be just the right quick fix as the rep prepares to speak with the customer.
What question does the content answer for the customer?
Customers want to work with salespeople who will listen, understand and help them work toward a solution that meets the business need. They aren’t interested in hearing about your product features and functionality unless it’s in line with their situation. Reps should spend time gaining insight into customer issues and questions they are seeking to answer. Once they have this data, they must locate the information most useful to the buyer and present the right information at the right time. If a buyer is at a decision-making point, content like testimonials, competitive analysis, and ROI calculators are beneficial. Just-in-time learning with short videos, information sheets, or even audio files will assist reps in understanding the content chosen and discern what is used to lead the customer toward a decision.
What problem or use case does the content address?
Every customer is looking for a solution to a problem (or multiple problems) they need to address inside their business. Maybe it is training for new product roll-outs, quick and productive onboarding for new sales team members, or maybe their reps can’t find up-to-date and relevant content to share with customers. Regardless of the issue, the seller must quickly uncover the need and intelligently speak to it to offer a solution. Often, specific content geared toward these problems is available in short videos or customer testimonials. But do reps even know it exists? Using keywords or even chatbots, reps can pull up necessary information at the click of a button with just in time learning to deliver the best solution. In Learning Solutions, this point is made:
In business, what’s the value of information that may be relevant, yet arrives too late to be used? The answer is less than zero because resources were expended in finding and delivering that information. To avoid this, Ruddock employs chatbots 'so reps can find what they need to have a real conversation about a customer’s unique challenges and not just rely on a generic response.' She notes that this just-in-time content has to be short, two- to five-minutes per video, tailored to a specific question, and tagged correctly using keywords so targeted answers can be located.”
This highlights the importance of not only having the right content available but making sure reps can find and use it at the appropriate time in the buyer’s journey.
What content comes next to answer the question + lead customers down the path to purchase?
Directing the customer to ‘pulling the trigger’ on a purchase must be logically mapped out via content. Once the solution is presented, the next steps might include showing its value to the business. Value might be reduced time to market for their sales teams, getting a rep up and running quickly to start driving revenue, or recognizing cost savings from having all content readily available up-to-date online, saving thousands in printing costs. These could be content pieces the seller leverages and authoritatively presents based on a quick online training or even from a peer.
Just-In-Time Learning Helps Reps Use the Right Content at Just the Right Time
We know that helping reps find the right content to use is imperative. Once found, they need guidance to use that content to create an advantage with their buyers. The importance of JIT learning is clear to ensure rep's use of the content available to them is applicable, relevant, and impactful to the specific customer and business pain at hand. Practical sales training in a classroom can’t effectively be used. Research shows that adult learning needs periodic reinforcement and just-in-time lessons that are concise. They should be about both behaviors and concepts. They need to be frequently revisited through coaching exercises, best-practice videos (peer-to-peer), and flash drills. JIT learning is fast and easy, and most importantly, available when a rep needs it. This ensures the message is relevant and valuable hopefully resulting in buyer engagement and decisions.