What is blended learning, and how can it improve sales training?

BY:  Rebecca Herson
February 10, 2022
Updated on April 30, 2023

Table of Contents

Your salespeople are the ones directly responsible for generating revenue for your business, but a large measure of their success depends on the training they receive. If they aren’t fully trained, and receiving ongoing sales training about your products, newest corporate messaging, and useful techniques, their ability to drive revenue growth will be stunted.

It’s not just about transmitting knowledge; it’s about multi-leveled training in both soft and digital skills, so that sales teams know how to listen, when to talk, and how to move leads along their sales journey. Bear in mind that nowadays, a great deal of sales work takes place remotely, so there’s often no one around to ask for help in a pinch or to keep an eye on how things are going. That makes it even more important to make sure that employee sales training goes smoothly and effectively.

On top of that, remember that good sales employees want opportunities to improve themselves and advance their career, and if you don’t provide them, they’ll leave for somewhere that does. Fully 74% of participants in a Deloitte survey agree that developing worker skills and capabilities is important to their organization’s strategy, but only 34% said they are satisfied with the training and education they experience.

Businesses also need to upskill sales teams to use digital tools like advanced customer data platforms and CRMs if they want to successfully implement a digital culture – because without it, they’ll fall behind the competition.

It’s clear that not all learning programs are the same. There are many approaches, with different levels of success, and one of them is blended learning.

What is blended learning?

Blended learning involves a combination of different learning formats, instead of using just one learning modality. It can include:

  • Live classroom teaching
  • In-person active training
  • Asynchronous training through augmented reality (AR) experiences
  • On-demand or live video tutorials
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) simulations for self-led practice
  • Text-based playbooks for self-guided learning
  • Gamified educational challenges
  • Multimedia presentations
  • and more.

Blended learning brings a mix of the best of every kind of learning format, replacing the false either/or choice of in-person classroom learning or online remote learning.

It might sound complicated, but here’s why it’s well worth it for your organization to consider blended learning for sales training.

1. Blended learning allows each employee to learn in the way that’s most effective

Every L&D team knows that each sales agent has a different learning style, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to cater for them all. Sometimes even employees themselves don’t know how they learn most effectively.

Blended learning offers the same information in multiple different formats, so each individual can discover their preferred learning style.

With blended learning, each employee can go at their own pace, speeding up when they feel they understand something and repeating a module or activity if they’re having trouble grasping it, without delaying or frustrating anyone else.

2. Reinforces retention in sales training

German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus came up with a principle called the “forgetting curve,” which shows that just 1 day after learning new material, the average student already forgot 75% of it.

That’s a pretty dispiriting statistic for L&D sales teams, but Ebbinghaus also had some good news: the more you review material, the longer it takes to forget it and the more you retain long term. Blended learning makes it easy for sales employees to review new messaging or value propositions on their phone, tablet, or computer, whenever it’s convenient for them, helping strengthen their mastery of it.

3. Stimulates the memory

The more senses stimulated by the learning process, more parts of your brain are involved in storing the memory and the greater your chances of remembering what you learn.

That’s why learning through doing is such a powerful educational tool, but it’s not always easy to offer students an active way to practice selling to C-level, or rehearse objection handling in the late stages of a deal.

However, today’s hi-tech blended learning methods make it possible. AI sales training role play, for example, allows sales employees to practice pitches with an AI-powered simulated learning partner; AR learning lets employees test themselves in realistic virtual sales conversations through AR headsets; and interactive quizzes invite individuals or teams to compete to answer refresher questions about the full product suite.

4. Blended learning keeps employees connected

People often use blended learning as another way of saying remote learning, but including in-person, live, face-to-face learning is part of the concept and one of the keys to blended learning’s success.

In-person classes allow sales employees to enjoy the benefits of face to face communication, helping them maintain a relationship with the teacher. Blended learning allows each employee to go at their own pace, but without removing the human connection between teacher and learner.

5. More convenient

When you offer a range of learning modalities, employees can learn whenever they have some free time and wherever they find themselves, but classroom-based learning doesn’t have the flexibility for people to take a module or review materials in short chunks of time.

With blended learning, you can transmit information about new product messaging through self-guided learning sessions online, through an app, or through a specific platform. It doesn’t require employees to come into work in person, making it suitable for today’s remote and hybrid workforce.

6. Makes sales training more exciting

Variety is the spice of L&D programs. If employees constantly receive a playbook, video tutorial, or in-person learning session every time there’s a feature update, they’ll quickly get turned off by it all. Even “fun” learning activities like gamified challenges can start to pall if you run them too many times.

The best approach is to mix things up. Use blended learning to keep things exciting for your sales teams, so they stay engaged and feel interested to try learning in a new style.

7. More efficient use of time and money

In-person courses can be effective, but it takes a lot of time and money to organize them. If employees can’t make it, much of the effort you invested just goes down the drain. On top of that, in-person courses cost you in work hours, because employees have to take time off work to attend.

Replacing in-person learning with on-demand video, AR experiences, and other hybrid learning methods can cut those costs drastically. You might still plan a big in-person sales kickoff, but the material is available for people who can’t make it.

Plus, you can beat the forgetting curve with a knowledge base of videos that reinforce the same material, and AI-powered self-directed practice sessions that test mastery of the skills.

8. Makes the tracking of the sales learning process easier

One of the big drawbacks of in-person learning is that it’s hard to test how sales employees perform at cold calls or track their performance in moving leads onto the next stage.

Blended learning easily includes metrics showing how many people watched a training video or completed practice modules, and the results of these exercises can show how well people remember what they learned and if your course is having the desired effect.

Blended learning is the future for Sales L&D

By helping L&D teams to cut costs, track engagement, and offer more engaging, flexible, and convenient learning options while keeping sales employees connected to the core material, blended learning could transform enterprise learning, sales training and coaching, and development programs for sales teams and employees in other roles.

Request a demo of Second Nature and see how our sales training software integrates into your blended learning program.

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About the author

Rebecca Herson

Rebecca is head of marketing at Second Nature.

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