Workplace learning in general, and sales training specifically - that's what I want to discuss today.

The field is changing all the time.

As a  training specialist, you’re always searching for ways to advance your organization's learning and talent programs.

A Sales Training Program requires it.

Well, there is a learning concept that can help your organization enable sales learning and help your sales reps do their jobs more effectively.

Picture it: Employees are excited about their professional development. Management is supportive of the way you handle training in your workplace. And, perhaps best of all, your sales team learns exactly what they need to know, on their own time, and in the ways they learn best.

Sound too good to be true?

It isn’t. In fact, the learning concept I’m talking about has been around for a while.

Let me explain...

Everything Old Is New Again

So what is this powerful learning concept?

It is known by many names: just-in-time learning, “pull” learning, and informal learning are a few of the most common.

No matter what you call it, it’s perfect for the training needs of your sales teams.


Pull learning is different from traditional “push” learning. Unlike push learning - the kind of learning you probably had in school, where the powers-that-be chose your curriculum and how lessons were delivered - pull learning allows you to choose what you want to learn and how you want to learn it.

Pull learning is what happens when you Google a topic.

In the workplace, pull learning lets employees access instruction at the point of need. Pull learning modules are bite-sized nuggets of content that can assist employees with specific tasks.

These types of learning offerings aren’t new but they are growing in popularity. According to Bersin by Deloitte’s vice president of research David Mallon, “large companies more than doubled their spending on informal learning between 2010 and 2011.” Bersin research also found ¼ of U.S. companies invested in informal learning tools and services in 2011.

Why are just-in-time learning solutions rising in popularity? There are many factors but a few of the reasons are:
  • Technological advancements
  • Changing workforce demographics
  • The fast pace of business today.

Today’s employees don’t have time for long, off-site classes. Mobile technology makes  video on-demand, digital asset libraries, and other forms of informal learning an attractive option.

Why Informal Learning May Be the Most Exciting Learning and Development Tactic of 2015

Pull learning is the perfect way to help sales reps learn how to do their jobs more effectively.

The rise of just-in-time learning solutions in the workplace dovetails with employees expecting mobile and social platforms to be part of their lives. There is a great opportunity for learning and development professionals to use informal learning to drive business results.

For example, pull types of technology offer a specific and straightforward way to increase a company’s agility. Bersin’s Mallon suggests companies realize “You’re never going to get more agile by delivering more e-learning courses or delivering more classroom workshops. You’re going to get more agile by putting these kind of systemic pull learning improvements into the culture of the learning organization and increasing its ability to meet needs quickly.”

If you’re goal is to be more agile, why not use informal learning to minimize classroom instruction? Most sales teams now include a significant number of remote employees. Pull learning can drive business outcomes by empowering employees to learn actively.

That does sound exciting.

But you’re already using formal learning solutions. If you incorporate informal learning, how do the parts fit together?

How to Use Pull Learning to Develop a Winning Sales Training Strategy

The first thing to realize is that you’re not dealing with an “either/or” situation. Push and pull learning are inseparably intertwined. Successful L & D programs incorporate elements of both learning styles.

Wondering how you work pull learning into your sales training? Try this:

  • Use informal learning to reinforce training--87% of sales training is forgotten within 30 days. Use informal learning to reinforce that training. Mastering the skills will help sales reps improve their performance and close more deals.
  • Use informal learning to get buy-in--Let’s face it. Most people don’t get excited about live formal training events. Pull learning is an alternative. For example, say you use on-demand video exercises for your company’s sales training modules. Not only are you giving staff rapid access to specific knowledge, you can incentivize your sales team by sharing top performing skills or other information.
  • Use a learning management system--Your LMS should accommodate formal and informal learning in an easy-to-use format. This will make it easy for employees to quickly find what they’re looking for. Most sales training programs solely using a centralized push model can't develop enough learning content to keep pace with the needs of their organization. Pull learning can help learning departments administer training and reduce administrative expenses, including training costs.
  • Use informal learning to deliver individualized coaching--One of the benefits of pull learning is that you can develop customized sales training for each rep. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, you can offer structured and tailored coaching and professional development. On-demand and self-paced sales training solutions will help salespeople deal with the challenges they’re facing right now.

All in all, just-in-time learning looks to be an improvement over the old “gather-everyone-into-a-large-conference-room” style of training. Particularly in the busy world of sales, pull learning solutions can benefit your sales reps and your company.

Are you using pull learning in your sales organization? Leave a comment and let us know, or join the conversation by tweeting to @HireVueSales

(image credit: Anthony Sills)

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