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7 Ways to Save Sales Peer-to-Peer Learning from Anarchy

Apr 27th, 2017


As a frequent business traveler, I often need to pack a suit or two. I pride myself on two things: First, I can pack everything I need for a whole week in a single carry-on, and second, I rarely need to use the iron at the hotel. But in a quest for continuous improvement, I did some homework. I searched YouTube for the “best way to pack a business suit” — and turned up more than 220,000 results.

Unsure where to start, I sorted the list by total views. One top-viewed video featured a fellow frequent flyer who advised me to turn my suit inside out. The tutorial was difficult to follow, so I kept looking. The next video from a self-proclaimed expert advocated a rolling technique. A third video recommended folding the suit in plastic to minimize wrinkles. The list went on. I wanted to find which method was truly the best without having to try them all. Confused and frustrated, I gave up.

For better or worse, YouTube exemplifies the “democratization” of content. It allows anyone, expert or otherwise, to post content and share his or her “expertise.” But as my experience demonstrates, democratization quickly can devolve into anarchy&‌mdash;making it difficult for learners to find advice from a true expert.

Many sales organizations have launched similarly structured peer-to-peer portals, enabling their “A” players to share best practices with “B” players. That’s particularly crucial because 61 percent of organizations report it takes at least seven months for a new hire to ramp up to full productivity. Knowledge-sharing can help those sales representatives generate results more quickly. After all, there’s something comfortable — and effective — about learning from peers.

But these portals also can become the Wild West of content. Much of it is difficult to find, redundant or obsolete. It might be poorly made or noncompliant with accepted methodologies, best-practice corporate policies or sound legal precedents. Despite the potential benefits, it doesn’t take long for learners and leaders alike to get frustrated.

Peer-to-peer learning doesn’t have to descend into anarchy. Here are some tips that sales and sales enablement leaders can use to preserve and promote their knowledge-sharing initiatives.

1. Find an editor.

The legal risk of sharing noncompliant materials should be sufficient cause to instate a centralized editor. A good editor also can eliminate duplication, saving your organization from warehousing 20 “best” videos on how to conduct pre-call prep. These individuals ensure content is aligned to your sales methodology, pricing and quality-control standards. That’s important because CSO Insights reports high-quality content can boost quota attainment by 6 percent. The reverse is costly: CSO Insights also notes that content with quality gaps yields a win rate 9 percent lower than average!

2. Simplify content creation.

Provide easy-to-follow templates that salespeople can use to create content. Today, content creation often means video creation, so give subject-matter experts a series of questions to answer while recording themselves on their smartphones or laptops. Then, outline clear steps that walk them through the process of submitting recordings for editing, approval and sharing.

3. Give context to content.

Peer-to-peer content should be treated the same way as any other learning content. It should be high-quality and it must follow learning-design principles. Sales-enablement leaders can use several tactics to maximize content’s effectiveness and retention. For instance, you might incorporate successful videos within relevant lessons and curricula or use text and a consistent learning approach to enhance videos. Remember to include related materials as attachments so viewers can put those pre-call planning forms or other resources into practice. 

4. Make it easy to find.

Tag peer-to-peer content so other reps easily can find the learning topic based on typical search terms. That might center around sales-process stage, subject matter, product, prospect industry or another category. Better yet, let the content find the rep: Present the learning in conjunction with items your reps might actively seek out to share with buyer. If a staff member is searching for the best introductory deck to use with a banking prospect, link to a video with advice from a colleague who successfully sold to customers within that industry.

5. Review and refresh.

Identify appropriate intervals for reviewing peer-to-peer content so you can refresh it as needed. Ideally, your system should make it easy to determine when content is due for review. Many organizations find that evaluating peer-learning content every six months helps ensure relevancy and current trends.

6. Measure effectiveness.

Use basic metrics such as views, a five-star rating system, feedback or other quantitative data to track content usefulness. Task a cross-functional team with recognizing outstanding contributors each month. You might highlight the most-viewed content, most-followed subject matter expert and/or the best new video. This motivates sales reps to continue helping their colleagues and further circulates useful content. In addition, make sure to examine videos that aren’t being used to see if it’s time to refresh or retire them.

7. Use a ‘push/pull’ approach.

You might discover reps are eager to share tips for negotiating but not for maximizing their time. Ask managers to identify salespeople who demonstrate desired best practices, and proactively ask those reps to share their expertise. Recognizing team members as subject-matter experts and giving them the tools they need to create content will help elicit participation from your best reps.

True content democratization is an appealing concept — much better in theory than in practice. To really make peer-to-peer learning work in sales, there’s another step required: peer-to-sales-enablement-to-peer (just like farm-to-table actually is farm-to-kitchen-to-table).

As for my initial quest to find the “best” way to avoid a wrinkled suit jacket when traveling? I’ll stick to my tried-and-true approach: Wear it onto the plane.

This article was originally published on on April 12, 2017