There is one trait the strongest sales reps—or any worker for that matter—have over the others. They aim for continuous learning. They strongly believe that they need to continue learning to continue growing and getting better.
This is why a culture of learning is important in the workplace. Aside from ensuring the employees’ continued development, a learning culture has many other benefits:
- Increased employee satisfaction: Growth and development is important to employees. And when employees gain a lot from their work environment, they are happier. Their development also means that promotion becomes more viable, and a job promotion is highly rewarding and satisfying for any employee.
- Improved workplace productivity: More learning means improved work output and greater efficiency. When everyone in the team is trained to deliver optimum work, that helps improve the overall productivity in the workplace.
- Improved workplace accountability: Employees exposed to a culture of learning acknowledge their roles in the work process. This gives them a sense of purpose, ownership, responsibility, and accountability.
- Higher level of employee motivation: Learning helps improve an employee’s mindset. He now feels empowered because of the learning tools he’s been given. This gives him better motivation in his work.
- Better company succession planning: Companies can spend a lot in the hiring process. And even after hiring, they do training for the new employees, which also incurs costs. Why go through all that trouble and expense when you can hire internally by promoting existing employees? A culture of learning ensures that each employee is given equal opportunity to improve and be promoted if they exhibit significant improvement. This also makes succession planning easier. If a high-level employee leaves, you can get easily find a replacement within the employee pool.
- Greater sales competency: How prepared are your sales reps for all the many—and quick—changes that happen within the industry? Whether it’s a new technology, a new social phenomenon, a new market development, sales reps must be equipped to easily adapt to these changes. By creating a culture of learning, you make sure that your sales reps have the tools to not only ride these changes, but thrive in them.
These reasons make developing a learning culture a must in every sales organization. But just how do you do that? Begin with these six steps.
6 Steps to Creating a Learning Culture
1. Embrace Openness
Most companies fail to realize that the first thing they should do to create a culture of learning is to create a culture that values honesty, transparency, and openness. Employees must be comfortable with ongoing dialogues that only speak the truth. This is surprisingly not easy. The truth can be scary—to hear and to say. This is why some sales managers sugarcoat their feedback, or employees are scared to confront each other when there are problems. But feedback is such an integral component in learning. So how will anyone learn if no one is giving honest feedback?
Feedback only becomes helpful if it is honest and constructive. So start with teaching employees how to give useful and meaningful feedback, and how to receive them with an open mind. Once everyone has embraced openness, it will be easier to embrace learning.
2. Formalize Learning Plans
Many companies start off with great plans to do this, and do that. But a lot of them fail in implementation and following through with the plans. How can you make sure this doesn’t happen to you? Formalize your plans for training, development, and learning. How? Have Human Resources and upper management involved. Make learning and development part of employees’ KRAs (Key Result Area) and part of the company’s policies and core values. Include training and learning in your annual budget and calendar of activities.
Doing these concrete steps formalizes the importance of learning and shows your employees your determination to make it part of the company culture.
3. Recognize and Reward Learning
People in general respond to acknowledgement and incentives. Seek to recognize individuals who are reaping the rewards of learning (e.g. a sales rep who increased his win rates after a series of training). You can even take it a notch higher and reward them for the fruits of their labor…and learning. Recognizing and rewarding learning makes it a prize that your employees will try to aim for.
4. Hire the Right People
Turnovers are costly and detrimental to workplace productivity. This is why it’s so important to hire the right people in the first place. But how can you make sure that you are hiring people who value learning? Well, these people have key traits and you should look for those. These traits include:
• Drive / Motivation
You can check if candidates possess these traits by looking at their work history and how they moved up in each; asking them about their passion projects (which may include projects at work and outside of it); gauging their level of interest in the job; asking them about their biggest challenges and what they did to solve them; creating make-believe problematic scenarios and checking how they will respond to them; asking them what they expect to learn from the job; and so on.
5. Look Out for Teachable Moments
In education, a teachable moment is an unplanned opportunity that arises in the classroom where a teacher has a chance to offer insight to his or her students. Sales managers should look out for these teachable moments at work. Circumstances that resulted in mistakes are often great teachable moments.
Find those teachable moments and, if appropriate, provide in-the-moment coaching. Oftentimes, these quick coaching sessions are even more effective than formal, hours-long ones.
6. Leadership Should Equate to Mentorship
Management should prioritize mentorship if they want to create a culture of learning. Even if you encourage employees to embrace learning, if there are no leaders who can step up to the roles of mentors, your efforts will be futile.
It’s also imperative that sales leaders really lead by example. They should not be set in their ways and be open to learning themselves. They should be the first ones to sign up in webinars, industry training events, and the like. They should be challenging themselves too, taking on tasks that show their willingness to develop new skills.
Creating a learning culture within your team doesn’t happen overnight. But if you remain consistent in your efforts, you can create a team that can take on any challenge you, the company, the customer, the market, and the industry may throw its way.
Photos from Pexels. Main image by Canva Studio