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Learning in the flow of work

Why do so many companies train their SDRs to know things they’ll never need on the frontline? Training can’t be effective if it doesn’t prepare you for work. Let’s find out more.

As I write this, we’re entering Week 4 of the Coronavirus lockdown. While the priority has to be staying safe and looking after ourselves and our loved ones, there is also the question of what we’re doing with this extra time. 

Many salespeople have been furloughed and are looking to spend this time developing their skills, while managers are investing more time in coaching and training for their teams. That’s good news, but it has to be the right sort of training. Making sure training fits the work your people are going to do has always been the key to success. If you don’t do that, you’re not making the most of the investment. 

At my old company, Finastra, I totally redesigned the way the company trained its SDRs. It was this experience that led me to start SalesWorks, where I have developed several courses for SDRs and other salespeople. I call the principle behind this, ‘learning in the flow of work’, and that’s what I want to talk about in this article.

The wrong approach

Many businesses, even large, well-resourced ones, run onboarding programmes that fail to prepare you for the job you’re going to do. As a result, they don’t reap the rewards of their investment. They waste time talking about the history of the company, with far too much emphasis on their products from a vanity point of view, rather than how they solve problems for their customers. 

Often, training is not bespoke enough. Sometimes it assumes you know too much, other times not enough. At my onboarding at Finastra, I was sat next to a guy with 25 years of banking experience, while the training was ‘here’s all of our software solutions and here’s our sales process.’ How would that help me as an SDR, when I’m trying to build a connection on a call with a prospect?

Designing effective training

When designing onboarding for SDRs, there is an approach to take in order to learn in the flow of work. Think about what your SDRs be doing after their onboarding, every day? What knowledge and skills will they need to be able to perform at the highest level? Think about that, then work backwards. 

As I climbed the ladder at Finastra, I was given the opportunity to redesign the sales training and onboarding. I inherited something that was not preparing people for life on the frontline of sales. I made it my mission to change it for the better.

As I delved deeper into what was there, it seemed that the entire onboarding process was knowledge building. There was virtually nothing that allowed reps to put what they learn, the tactics, techniques and strategies, into practice. So, I was ruthless. I redesigned the entire course around two key pillars – industry knowledge and practical experience. 

Industry knowledge

Industry knowledge is essential for SDRs. When you call up a prospect, you want to have a conversation about their business, not just recite a pitch. You can’t do that with any credibility if you don’t have industry knowledge.

At Finastra, we sold our solutions to banks, but I found that so many new starters couldn’t articulate what a bank actually was and how they worked. So, I designed a training module that went back to basics - ‘What is a bank? Let’s talk about a bank. How does a bank work?’ It may sound elementary, but it really helped our SDRs have business conversations with their prospects.

Practical experience

The other pillar is practical experience, making sure trainees can perform the tasks they will actually have to do when they leave onboarding. Until this point, it’s all theory, notes on a whiteboard. Practical experience brings it to life.

At Finastra, having trained the new starters up on the product and the sales process, we put it all into action in a safe environment. We would talk about elevator pitches; we would do roleplays, pretending to be reps and decision-makers. After this process, our trainee SDRs were primed and ready to go. They had already practised what they were going to go and do!

Find out more

If you would like to talk more about learning in the flow of work and SDR-specific sales training, there’s never been a better time.