Key trends in L&D for Sales in 2022

BY:  Rebecca Herson
March 10, 2022
8 MIN. READING

Learning & Development teams training salespeople are working in a brave new world. Most sales teams are either fully or partially remote, so they need new tactics and methods, but that’s not all – they’re also selling to remote buyers whose needs have altered greatly due to COVID-19.

Digital sales and the rise of the self-led purchase journey have also brought changes to the typical sales path and demand that sales employees acquire new skills. According to the LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report 2021, reskilling and upskilling to convey these new skills is the top concern in L&D departments.

And all this is going on against the backdrop of the “great resignation.” Many enterprises are having to onboard new talent more often, and more quickly, than ever before, especially those selling digital solutions that saw an explosion in demand when the world moved to WFH.

The ways we onboard, upskills, and retrain sales teams are all in flux, upping the pressure on L&D personnel. The silver lining is that L&D budgets have grown to accommodate these needs – 33% of learning professionals expect an increase in their 2022 budget, and the average budget rose by 57% in the last year

So what can you expect to see L&D teams doing to adapt to the new reality? Here are 7 trends in L&D for teams to prepare for.

1. Digital training for the digital sales team

Now that the vast majority of sellers are remote or hybrid, training has to meet them where and when they are available, which requires the flexibility of digital learning. Digital learning draws on technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), so you can offer a mix-and-match of different learning modalities that includes live and real time, on demand, mobile-first learning, interactive experiences, and more.

With digital sales training platforms, you can offer fun learning options like interactive sales conversation practice, team on team challenges, leaderboards, score cards, streaks, and other tactics. Making learning enjoyable moves your sales training a million miles away from dry frontal learning and actually attracts salespeople to want to complete a certification program.

Our client Zoom demonstrated this perfectly when it certified its entire global sales force without having to twist a single elbow, by running a gamified training challenge with Second Nature.

2. Sales training on demand

Once training is no longer frontal and classroom-based, you can also make it available on demand. Offer bite-size training sessions that employees can easily complete in between tasks and whenever they feel the need to refresh specific skills.

For example, Second Nature’s AI-based role play platform invites sales employees to practice cold calls, objection handling, sales pitches, and other sales conversations whenever they like. The AI simulation partner is always available, no matter what time it is or where they are located.

3. Aligning learning with business objectives

There’s a growing realization that onboarding, training, and knowledge goals need to be aligned with business objectives. We’re seeing this already in the way that sales enablement personnel are gaining a seat at the table with sales leaders, so that training strategies and sales strategies work together.

L&D executives are moving in the same direction. In March 2021, 63% of L&D executives agreed that learning has a seat at the business table, compared with 24% in March 2020. Once L&D teams are more intimately familiar with broader business challenges and concerns, they are able to make sales training more relevant and effective.

4. Making learning personalized

Personalization is the zeitgeist, and sales training is joining the movement. Over 80% are increasing personalization in learning, and 93% strongly believe that personalized learning helps improve organizational performance and individual performance.

Personalized or adaptive learning requires consistent and reliable data about each employee’s performance and progress, as well as your company’s broader sales needs and challenges. AI platforms like Second Nature can track user progress, and deliver timely and targeted feedback following each session to the seller, to their manager, and feed the results right into the LMS. In this way, sellers consistently strengthen their weak points and work on the skills they most need to improve.

5. Introducing social learning

We all learn better when we learn together. Research has found that not only is it more enjoyable to learn as part of a team, it’s also more effective – with social learning features, salespeople watch up to 30x more hours of learning content.

Once again, advanced tech like AI makes this possible even for remote and disparate sales teams. Digital learning platforms enable immersive experiences through augmented reality (AR) headsets that can make scattered sellers feel like they are all in the same room. Tools like live chat, social feeds, team-based leaderboards, and clubs all enhance the feeling of connection.

6. Raising the bar on ROI

Converting sales enablement playbooks and messaging into actual sales conversations has always been a challenge. In 2022, we’re seeing L&D teams find new ways to track, measure, and prove ROI on these achievements.

Digital training platforms and AI go a long way to help. At Second Nature, besides delivering role play simulations for realistic sales conversation practice, the solution also identifies sellers’ sales readiness and performance, showing the extent to which salespeople have internalized and mastered sales messaging. Then connect this with CRM data to tie training results into business and sales KPIs, rather than focusing only on the number of completed courses.

7. Teaching soft selling skills

For decades there’s been no practical way to teach sales employees soft skills like reflective listening or identifying pain points in a prospect’s conversation, or even to teach sales managers how to effectively coach their sales teams.

But AI-powered simulations and immersive learning made it possible. AR headsets and AI role play persona like Second Nature’s Jenny allow managers to practice coaching a new salesperson, for example. Second Nature scores sellers both on their hard knowledge of the company value proposition and product features, and for soft skills like how quickly they talk and how many filler words they use.

L&D is keeping up with the rapidly-altering sales environment

As the sales coaching environment changes, sales training and L&D practices are keeping pace. By embracing digital, on-demand, personalized training that incorporates fun and social learning, is aligned with business goals, and trains for soft skills, L&D teams can deliver sales training programs that are engaging and effective, helping boost profitability across the board.

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About the author

Rebecca Herson

Rebecca is head of marketing at Second Nature.

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