Whether you’ve invested in formalized training for your sales team or just asked them to read Zig Ziglar’s entire catalog on their own, you still face a challenge. How do you translate what they learn in books and classes to the field? A bottom-up approach to training called Guided Informal Learning may help you find the answer.
Why should I try something new?
We’ve all taken top-down training, where an expert determines what we need to know and we passively absorb it. For the vast majority of us, good sales books and great courses did not instantly morph us into sales dynamos. So taking courses isn’t enough.
And you can’t just leave reps to “figure it out” on their own. That’s a sure recipe for an underachieving team. How many sales teams do you know that keep a few stars around and just cycle through the mediocre producers looking for that next luminary?
Liz Ryan, CEO and founder of Human Workplace, writes for Forbes.com that good managers take responsibility for their employees’ performance and help them find solutions. And since the passive, top-down approaches of workshops, video, and sales books only get you so far, maybe it’s time to turn the whole thing on its head by using an active, hands-on, bottom-up learning method, like Guided Informal Learning.
What is Guided Informal Learning?
Guided Informal Learning (GIL) starts with what your reps do everyday. They interact with colleagues and customers, use software and equipment, and learn from their experience. This experience constitutes the primary way sales people learn their jobs.
But if you add some guidance, focus, and support, you can turn daily work tasks into powerful training. GIL provides a way to add that structure. And because it’s based in the field, reps can apply what they learn and see results immediately. And for small businesses, you can use GIL to save the cost of training consultants or course creation.
Why does it work better than courses alone?
GIL reframes work experience as training opportunities, which takes advantage of how adults like to learn and helps them change behavior and see results immediately. Researchers have long known that people learn faster and better from actual work experience if they have someone to guide their first efforts and offer feedback as they progress.
Because the training is driven by work requirements, it’s immediately relevant. There’s no wasting time on extraneous material that courses sometimes include. And being work-based, GIL continuously evolves with the business.
What does a Guided Informal Learning program look like?
In the bottom-up approach, you work with employees to figure out what they need to know and create a training list for each of them. You specify the behavior or result they need to work toward.
Then you help them find resources, such as performance checklists, reminders, and mentors to work with as they learn. Employees practice their skills while doing their jobs and mentors work with them, help them progress, and assess their results.
Once you assign hands-on training lists to your employees, you keep track of what they’re doing so you can offer guidance for the future and acknowledgement of their progress.
GIL feels more like coaching than training because managers keep reps focused on specific skills and keep them accountable for making progress regularly. So you conduct frequent one-to-one meetings to discuss skills development or have a way for reps to record their practice.
What are some disadvantages of Guided Informal Learning?
As a very non-traditional training method, GIL takes time and effort to institute. You, as the manager, have to support it and diligently follow up to make sure employees are taking it seriously. Employees are expected to share knowledge with each other, so if they don’t trust one another, they won’t participate fully.
Managers have to trust their teams as well. You set best practices and standards, but you have to let reps learn from mistakes, too. You also have to actively elicit feedback so you can fix problems, and if the team doesn’t trust you, they won’t share opinions openly.
However, if you introduce GIL in small ways, support it, and encourage employees to take ownership of it, it’ll grow along with the confidence and collaboration among team members. You can also use tools like Pract.us to make your job of guidance and follow-up easier.
As a sales leader, you adapt to every day’s new circumstances, and you find creative solutions to your challenges. You can take the same creative drive to your training program. Perhaps rather than doing the same old thing, it’s time to try a new approach for better results.
Get the detailed steps for starting a Guided Informal Learning program here.