State of Sales Training: Half of Trainers Note Their Organization’s Content is Too Dull to be Effective; Mobile Investments on the Rise, According to Brainshark Survey

"Training Professionals Say They’d Rather Crash Their Computer, Wear Coffee-Stained Clothes and Sit in Traffic Than Deal With Unengaged Trainees"

WALTHAM, Mass. — November 18, 2014 — Tough to get time-constrained reps ramped up on various products and ready to sell? It’s even harder with boring, obsolete and irrelevant training content. That’s a challenge facing many organizations today, according to a new survey from sales enablement solutions company, Brainshark, Inc. Nearly half of training professionals (48%) say their organization’s sales training content isn’t engaging enough to work, while 1 in 4 (25%) say the materials created don’t match sales teams’ needs. Perhaps it’s no wonder that only about 1 in 3 (32%) describe their organization’s current sales training programs as “effective.”

For its “State of Sales Training” survey, Brainshark collected responses from more than 160 professionals responsible for sales training (training managers and coordinators, trainers, instructional designers, etc.), at organizations of all sizes and across industries. Results pinpoint challenges, along with areas of opportunity for improving training programs.

In addition to struggling with training content that falls flat and/or is irrelevant, respondents cited other content-related challenges – noting that, on the whole, their organizations find that sales training materials are:

  • Too time-consuming to create – 1 in 2 (50%)
  • Too hard to create – 1 in 4 (24%)
  • Too expensive to create – 1 in 3 (31%)
  • Too hard to update – 1 in 3 (32%)
  • Obsolete by/before delivery time – 15%

These difficulties in refreshing training content are likely impeding necessary updates – and highlight a startling discrepancy between what needs to get done and what’s actually getting done. For example, 38% of training professionals say their organization’s training content needs quarterly updates; only 19% think once-a-year-updates suffice. However, 42% say that, in reality, their organization’s training content gets updated once a year at best – leaving them open to inconsistent, incorrect and/or outdated messaging, and even potential compliance violations.

“Engaging, timely content that is accessible when needed is vital to sales training and overall sales success,” said Brainshark CEO Joe Gustafson. “The survey results highlight a great opportunity for organizations to meet this need – with stimulating sales content that’s both easy to access and consume. For organizations, this often means taking advantage of rapid content authoring and updating capabilities and ensuring just-in-time training delivery – to make sure that training works and sticks, and help reps be better prepared to close more deals.”

Current Training Methods

Survey results show that the most prevalent methods of sales training for organizations today include: live classroom training (80%), live Web conferencing (65%), on-demand training (67%), video (49%) and social learning (28%).

With regard to on-demand training, organizations face challenges including deadlines not met (25%) and an inability to track completion/progress (23%). Struggles related to live training included:

  • Difficulties aligning schedules (61%)
  • Reps easily distracted during training sessions (45%)
  • Lack of coaching and reinforcement (35% and 36% respectively)
  • Lack of rep engagement (36%)
  • The dreaded “blank stare” from learners (33%)

Training professionals find this apathy and lack of engagement grating and detrimental to training success. In fact, they’d rather deal with the following than with disengaged trainees:

  • Their computer crashing – 40%
  • Spilling coffee on their work clothes – 67%
  • Being stuck in traffic – 64%
  • Getting to an important meeting late – 48%
  • Losing a document they forgot to save – 38%

“Lack of learner engagement can be a serious problem – resulting in a subsequent inability by sales reps to articulate value in conversations with customers and prospects,” Gustafson said. “How do we get reps more engaged? In many cases, organizations face a content problem – not that they don’t have enough content, but that their content isn’t working. It’s important to create and deliver information that holds reps’ attention and put processes in place to ensure that content is reflective of what they need to learn.”

The Power of Video

Engaging and trackable, video, as mentioned, is used by almost half of organizations for some aspects of sales training. And while effective, the medium itself isn’t a panacea – so it’s important that best practices be followed for maximum impact and knowledge retention.

Video length is often correlated with a learner’s ability to pay attention and retain knowledge, as well as consume information conveniently. To that end:

  • 88% of training professionals agree that effective videos should be less than 20 minutes in length – with 1 in 3 (32%) in favor of bite-sized content that’s 5 minutes or less.
  • But these best practices aren’t always followed – respondents reported that their organizations’ average sales training video actually runs 20 minutes long.

Training Wishlist and Areas of Future Investment

Sales training professionals identify a need at their organizations to both improve on and conduct more of the following:

  • Ongoing training – 63%
  • Performance support – 47%
  • Coaching – 62%
  • Onboarding – 32%

Their organizations are making investments to support these needs and strengthen overall programs. Results show that in the year ahead (2015-16), organizations will continue to make investments in on-demand (62%) and live (classroom/Web conferencing) training methods (57%), while also allocating sales training budget toward:

  • Video – 45%
  • Social learning – 26%
  • Massive open online courses (MOOCs) – 19%
  • Gamification – 16%
  • Mobile learning – 32%

Going Mobile

Mobile is becoming more of a key area for sales training with, as mentioned, nearly 1 in 3 organizations investing in it for next year (22% say they use it now). Currently, only 1 in 4 pieces of sales training content (26%) is accessed via mobile, according to the trainers surveyed.

Current inhibitors to mobile sales training adoption include:

  • Content not well-formatted for mobile – nearly 1 in 2 (46%)
  • Content too long for mobile – 37%
  • Interactive content doesn’t work on mobile – 30%
  • Difficult to ensure content works across platforms – 1 in 4 (25%)

“Sales reps are just-in-time learners, and as they’re frequently in the field and on the road, mobile access is a key factor in training effectiveness,” said Brainshark President Greg Flynn. “To be successful, reps need to be able to find content at the time and place they need it – and that is frequently from their phone or tablet. Organizations looking to reach reps at the moment of need are looking to more visual, interactive mediums that deliver a great experience for the learner on any device.”

For more information about the State of Sales Training survey, please see www.brainshark.com/campaigns/lp/2014-state-of-sales-training. Brainshark is also making available resources for evaluating sales content, including training materials – with a content effectiveness scorecard (http://bit.ly/bsk-effective-sales-content-scorecard) and online assessment tool (www.contenteffectiveness.com).

About the Survey

Brainshark conducted an online survey, collecting responses from 162 sales training professionals (training managers and coordinators, trainers, instructional designers, etc.) at companies of various sizes and across industries. The survey, distributed in August and September 2014, asked respondents about current training methods, areas of investment for next year and various types of training challenges.

About Brainshark

Brainshark sales readiness software equips businesses with the training, coaching and content authoring capabilities to achieve sales mastery and outsell the competition. With Brainshark, companies can: prepare sales teams with on-demand training that accelerates onboarding and keeps reps up-to-speed; validate readiness with sales coaching that ensures reps master your message; and empower sales organizations with rich, dynamic content that can be created quickly and accessed anywhere. Thousands of companies – including more than half of the Fortune 100 – rely on Brainshark to identify and close performance gaps, and get better results from their sales enablement initiatives. Learn more at www.brainshark.com.