In sales training, formal learning usually goes a little something like this:
- You get a bunch of new reps into a room.
- You take them through a series of lessons or presentations.
- You give them some e-learning modules to do on their own time.
- You add on some reading material to pore over when they have a moment.
- You test their knowledge to see how much they learned.
Then there’s the informal learning. Job shadowing, mentorship, and ad-hoc coaching fall into this category. Where formal programs emphasize structured knowledge, informal training skews toward building skills and experience.
Together, they form the basis of what most of us know as an onboarding program. But over 90% of employees would say you’re missing a really important component – the most important component because it’s actually their preferred way of learning.
It’s social sharing, and it’s all about swapping stories and exchanging experiences with the other reps on your team. (Nothing to do with Twitter, sorry!) In other words, everyone on your team simultaneously learns from and teaches others around them.
For the team, by the team
Social sharing as a training tool has roots in a theory called social learning. Long story short, it posits that people learn in social contexts like the workplace by observing the behaviours of others, the context around them, and the consequences that follow. Good things happen? You’re more likely to model the same actions so you’ll be rewarded too. Bad things happen? You’ve learned to avoid those actions vicariously so you won’t meet the same fate.
Whereas other training components are pretty top-down, social sharing provides bottom-up (or even same-level) opportunities for learning.
Learning by example is a pretty powerful approach, too – especially in a complex and information-dense field like sales.
Learning never stops when you tap into the experiences of others, because others are constantly gaining new experience.
It gives learning to everyone
Brand new recruit or seasoned sales veteran, in-house or remote employee, anyone on your team can learn from the successes and failures of others.
It taps into tribal knowledge
Formal sales training misses out on the knowledge trapped in your reps’ heads. But lots of that tribal knowledge comes out when you give reps a place to share their stories.
It reinforces your culture
Shared experiences connect reps who have similar challenges and interests, across different territories or offices, who wouldn’t normally interact.
It empowers others to share
By modelling sharing behaviours and tying them with positive outcomes, you can encourage reps to follow suit using social learning.
Put those stories to work
Ready to put social sharing to work training your team? Great – we’ve got you covered with these three tips:
Put learning in one place
Reps already have enough tools, windows, and tabs open at any given time. Putting your knowledge in a central place – ideally, a system that integrates across the platforms you use – makes retrieval much easier, especially if there’s robust search and navigation so reps can get information when they need it most.
Make it part of your workflow
Reps don’t have a lot of extra time to spare, either. Putting learning as close to their everyday workflow helps. Connecting stories, tips, and experiences directly to the content in your sales playbook is a great way to do this, as reps already use that material on a regular basis.
Set an example
Reps learn to share from three main sources: managers who provide cues in the form of rewards, punishments, and behaviour modelling; coworkers who find success in their own approach; and in-team competition that provides a target to hit – and surpass.
So what stories are your reps telling?