Why Your Sales Training Should Focus on Modern Learners, Not Just Millennials


We’ve all heard it – if we want to grow our businesses we have to focus on millennials! But with all the focus on one age group, we risk excluding the four other generations that are currently in the workforce. Today’s sales training should be adapted to accommodate the way people (of all ages) learn in the modern era.

Join Anita Greenland, Vice President of Client Services at The Brooks Group, and Ann Iverson, Sr. Instructional Designer at Allen Interactions, as they define what the modern learner needs, and how to incorporate it into your sales training.

In 19 hyper-focused minutes, we’ll cover:
  • Why focusing all your attention on millennials can negatively impact your sales training ROI
  • How technology has changed the way ALL age groups live, work, and learn
  • The 3 key characteristics that make up the winning formula for modern learning
  • Ways modern learning techniques can be incorporated into a variety of sales training delivery methods—from live, classroom training to online platforms

Read the Full Transcript of the Briefinar Below:

Anita Greenland:    Hello, welcome to the Brooks Group’s Briefinar. You’re in the right place. We’ll be starting in just a minute or two. (silence) Hello, and welcome to the Brooks Group’s Briefinar where we promise to be brief, bright, and gone in 19 minutes or less. My name’s Anita Greenland and I am the vice president of client experience here at the Brooks Group. I’m here with our guest, Ann Iverson, senior instructional designer with Allen Interactions. Welcome Ann.
Ann Iverson:    Thanks Anita, it’s such a pleasure to be here with you today.
Anita Greenland:    We are so glad to have you. Allen Interactions specializes in developing modern learning solutions, which is our topic today. As a matter of fact, the two of our companies recently worked together on a project for the modern learner, which is why Ann and I had the idea for today’s topic. So, our title is, Why Your Sales Training Should Focus on Modern Learners, Not Just Millennials. 
Anita Greenland:    So, Ann, we’ve heard all about it. If we want to grow our business we have to focus on millennials, millennials, millennials, millennials. Sometimes it seems like that’s all we hear about, isn’t it?
Ann Iverson:    Absolutely. 
Anita Greenland:    Let’s quickly define exactly who these millennials are that we’re talking about and reading about and worrying about all the time. 
Ann Iverson:    Yeah, well Anita, we do. We certainly do hear a lot about millennials. It seems like more now than any other generation. So, who are millennials. According to most sources, millennials are the generation that follows Generation X, with birth years ranging from the early 1980s to the year 2000. 
Anita Greenland:    Why is that such a big deal? What’s all the hype? 
Ann Iverson:    You know, there is a lot of focus on this generation, especially when we’re talking about how to train employees. Companies widely believe that this group needs specialized treatment and learning approaches to keep them engaged and teach them new skills. I think really Anita, it’s because millennials are typically associated with the rise of technology, but the truth is that most of the workforce today is constantly immersed in technology. I know everybody out there’s going, yes, yes. 
Anita Greenland:    Yeah. I got that. My hand’s raised.
Ann Iverson:    Yeah, right. The [inaudible 00:03:37] technology is changed the way we all work and learn, whether they fall into the millennial category or not. When you’re thinking about training your sales employees many experts in the learning and development field now, are guiding us to say, “Stop focusing on millennial learners and actually any generation and start focusing on the desired performance outcomes.” There are actually five generations in the workforce right now. And you need all of your sales staff to be effective, to get the most out of the training that you provide for them.
Anita Greenland:    That’s a really good point that you make as far as not focusing on just that one generation. The millennials or any of the other generations because you run the risk of excluding all of the other generations. 
Ann Iverson:    Exactly.
Anita Greenland:    So, Ann, what I hear you saying is that we should adapt our training to accommodate the way that people of all ages learn in the modern era. We need to be focused on the modern learner instead of just millennials. When we were working with you guys at Allen Interactions, you really helped us to understand the modern learners, so maybe you could help, and those that are on the call today, have a better understanding of the modern learner.
Ann Iverson:    Yeah, exactly, and Anita I know when we worked together we learned a lot about your demographic and the fact that these learners span all generations really. And we’re all modern learners. So, typically, the modern learner has three major characteristics. Shorter attention spans is one. Also the need for instant gratification, and then we’re always on. All of us, right? Like, we’re always on. 
Anita Greenland:    Like 24/7 if we’re always on, right?
Ann Iverson:    Yeah, exactly. 
Anita Greenland:    Whether you’re 22 or 62, it seems like everything is moving at faster pace. I feel like I’ve had to pick up my pace because I didn’t come along … I wouldn’t consider myself at least a modern learner, but now I am because I’ve become that by default. How do we adapt, Ann, to this type of learner?
Ann Iverson:    I will say one of the characteristics for that modern learning is technology and social media and we’re all on it. That’s what’s really fueling that. Modern learners engage really when they know the learning event is relevant to them. If it’s going to help them improve their performance, they really pay attention. Rather than dumping a lot of content because think about it … We carry our devices around with us. We can get all the content we could dream off. So it’s silly that just in time, just for me, mindset. And, if learners know they have to repeat the performance on the job, their attention really is further heightened. 
Anita Greenland:    Sure. 
Ann Iverson:    Other ways that we really appeal to learners, now is … It used to be sort of old school, to list out learning objectives before courses. But that really didn’t grab the learner. It really didn’t tell them, hey, what’s in it for me? So now we really try to grab that learner attention by telling them specifically how they’ll benefit from the course. 
Anita Greenland:    What would be an example of that for a sales person or for some sales training?
Ann Iverson:    If you think about what would grab a salesperson, that’s a really good question. Things like, do you want to increase your hourly wage? How ’bout, do you want to turn angry customers into loyal fans? How ’bout this one? Do you want to meet your monthly sales goals So, right away the learner perks up and pays attention because we’re hitting their hot buttons and that’s going to hook them right away. Then the key is once they’re hooked, to use good design techniques, like immersing the learner in a relatable environment and that really sustains their engagement. 
Anita Greenland:    That was a new concept to me when we were working together. That relatable environment. Can you elaborate a little bit on that for our audience?
Ann Iverson:    Oh, absolutely. That really is the context that the learner can relate to. It’s their work environment. For example, if you’re a car salesperson, we’re going to place you in a car lot, not in a hotel lobby or a fast food kitchen. We’re going to immerse the learner in their real environment. 
Anita Greenland:    Just seems it all of a sudden becomes a lot more credible to them and what I have seen is it opens up their mind to learning a lot more readily by putting them in that relatable environment like you said. 
Ann Iverson:    Yeah, absolutely. 
Anita Greenland:    Another big buzzword in training these days seems to be micro-learning, or micro-sized, or modular. What’s that all about?
Ann Iverson:    It really is all about how we consume content. We know the modern learner consumes content now in shorter bursts. Gone are the days, Anita, of maybe what you and I experienced of those hour long e-learning. You remember we dreaded that? 
Anita Greenland:    Yes. That snooze-fest for-
Ann Iverson:    Hours. [inaudible 00:09:22] the e-learning, so we’re absolutely used to interacting with information in such a shorter time frame. If you think about it, like how you consume. Content vines for example, it tells a story with only six seconds of video and that’s perfect for our shorter attention spans. The reality is, people can only absorb so much information at one time. After that content really just becomes scrap learning. 
Ann Iverson:    So what we do is we organize activities into core interactions and what we did for your course is we really focused on those interactions that achieve a single performance goal. So rather, instead of trying to have the learner do everything, the whole sales process in one sitting, we really broke it up into those single performance goals and that way we can get the most out of the learner’s training time.
Anita Greenland:    I know one thing that you guys really helped bring to life and it’s something that I’ve learned from being a live instructor in live classroom training, is the importance of game mechanics. Bringing that into the classroom makes learning a lot more fun and when you’re having fun learning, you just naturally open your mind up and therefor absorb more of the training, retain more of the training, and then ultimately apply more of it back on the job, which typically results in being more successful in the job and really that’s the end goal of all training, is to create more success on the job. Incorporating the gaming elements really is something that we wanted to carry over especially into our e-learning as well as into our live training. There’s a difference though between games and gaming elements. Explain that a little bit more, help define that difference for our audience.
Ann Iverson:    Sure. We’ve all played games. When you think of a game you don’t always think about a learning activity. You don’t connect those two. It’s true. If you think about some games, like for example, Candy Crush, which it seems like, oh, everybody’s playing now, the goal of that really is entertainment, it’s fun and there’s nothing wrong with that. With learning games that we can incorporate some of those game mechanics, that’s what really engages the learners and improves their performance. Things like, we can steal from the whole gaming industry, that we know works, that keeps learners engaged, are things like scoring, badging, you have to have a challenge, includes a bit of risk and competition. These are all things that we like to design for our learners so that they actually build competence and confidence, that’s that success on the job you were referring to, while they’re having fun. So it’s a beautiful thing.
Anita Greenland:    It is a beautiful thing. One of the challenges that you guys built into one of our activities is one of the gaming elements that you guys came up with was a beat the clock mechanism and just in the two weeks that we’ve gone live with our e-learning, we have gotten such rave reviews about that interaction as well as many of the other interactions. Because it does have that challenge in it. It has that risk. They want to beat the clock. It just makes it more exciting. 
Ann Iverson:    When you think about it, you can complete a training, but when you know you’re on the clock, it adds that extra level of excitement and all of a sudden your adrenaline kicks in and you’re right in the game. Those are the kinds of things we like to incorporate just to make it more fun and really put that learner at their heightened attention. 
Anita Greenland:    This adapted typed of training that we’ve talked about, these three ways to adapt your sales training for both live classroom training as well as online classroom training. Both are very, very important. In live classroom sales training the instructor, they’ve got to apply all these techniques that we talked about in the classroom full of learners that often have all five of those generations right there in the classroom live. They’ve got to engage the learners with different scenarios that relate to their selling environment and they need to teach in those small chunks and make it interactive and engaging and fun.
Ann Iverson:    Oh, absolutely. Instructor-led follows the same principles for online sales training. Companies do need to be careful not to assume that all e-learning will engage the modern learner. It’s like we’ve been saying, there are [inaudible 00:14:18] that you need to design in to make that learner, to help them feel motivated, to complete and to actually apply what they’ve learned back on the job. Just as a boring classroom lecture isn’t going to engage a live audience, if you think about death by PowerPoint, which is [inaudible 00:14:38] through a slideshow, you cannot follow those principles and expect them to apply online. In other words, boring e-learning doesn’t work. Period. 
Anita Greenland:    Right. I know one question that we got that was sent ahead of time was, what’s the best way to evaluate if training, whether it’s live training or online training, is meeting all of these requirements for the modern learner? I think one of the key tips I know that our clients use and we use when we were looking for an e-learning solution is seeing a demo. A live demonstration in one way or another. I think that really helps to bring it to life. When we were working, Ann, I’m sure you recall, when we were alpha testing the e-learning, we had actual users, potential users come in and go through the program so that they could really experience it. I think there’s nothing beats actual experience whether it comes to classroom training, or online training. 
Ann Iverson:    Yeah, absolutely. We truly, truly, believe and try to build in a user testing period with each of our e-learnings because you’re right. You really can’t evaluate it until you experience it.
Anita Greenland:    It’s like that see it, touch it, feel it kind of thing. 
Ann Iverson:    Yeah, absolutely. Yep. 
Anita Greenland:    Something that I am super excited to share with you all is … We’ve alluded to this partnership that we’ve created with Allen Interactions, and I think that output has been something wonderful and beautiful. We just finished working together on what I hope is the first of many, many projects to come. Many of you that are on the call are probably familiar with our Impact Selling System. We have been training this selling system and refining this selling system for over 40 years now. With the help and expertise of Allen Interactions, we have now created an e-learning version of Impact, which up to the point had primarily been a live instructor led program and now we have it e-learning format. We call it Impact-U. We just launched it a couple of weeks ago. Our phones and emails have been burning up with inquiries. I think, Ann, what really attracted us to Allen Interactions besides your expertise and longevity and track record in the e-learning space, was your use of the CCAF model. Take just a minute and describe what CCAF means and how that applies to the modern learner.
Ann Iverson:    Yeah, CCAF is sort of our tried and true model. It stands for Context, Challenge Activity, Feedback. CCAF, and it really is our model to make sure our learning solutions are motivating, memorable and meaningful. And that’s what we call our three Ms. If we were live, I’d be throwing out bags of M&Ms to you right now. Actually, Anita, you obviously probably remember that we started our work with you all with a savvy start and that’s our design and brainstorming session. You and your team got to experience these firsthand. We did all those fun activities to make sure that we’re designing interactions that really work. No boring e-learning and interactions that really improve learner performance for that on the job success.
Anita Greenland:    I’ll tell ya, I’m a believer. It was a really great experience and the end result was a great product, one that we’re certainly excited about. If any of you are interested in learning more about Impact-U or requesting a free demo, just go to brooksgroup.com and follow the instructions and we’ll be happy to hook up with you and give you a demonstration like we’ve talking about. We’ve got just literally two minutes left and another question did come in. That question is, and I’ll throw this out to you, Ann, how much time should an employee spend doing e-learning each day or each week? What should that look like?
Ann Iverson:    Oh, that’s just an awesome question. Honestly, we let the learner gauge that. We really do think that the learner should drive their own performance and actually own it. In terms of time, it’s really difficult to say, but it really is up to the learner and the other thing to think about is that perhaps the learner goes through the entire course and decides, huh, I really need help in one particular area. What is beautiful about micro-learning is that the learner could come back and complete that course whenever they want, so then it really does become more about performance support. I just say the learner gets to gauge. They get to do just in time, just for me. 
Anita Greenland:    Because of that guidance, we came out with a study guide for Impact-U that does recommend they go through it all at a relatively quickly time period, but then they take it module by module and really absorb it on their own time and on their own schedule and then do that just in time training where they go back and maybe review. Maybe they’re not so good at questioning and they go back and review that module. Anyway, I greatly … Ann, thank you so much for joining us today and for those of you on the call if you have interest and want to see any more about Impact-U, just go to brooksgroup.com. Thanks for being here, have a good day. 
Ann Iverson:    Bye now. 
Anita Greenland:    Bye. 

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