By the very nature of their job, sales reps have to constantly decide whether what is in front of them is worth their attention. In a role all about quotas and short-term return, this is a helpful and necessary mindset to have. However, it's caused some of our clients to struggle to keep their reps' attention during training. New reps are given a ton of new information to contend with at the beginning of their journey, and it's always the kind of content that is hardest to pay attention to. Learning the industry, company history, how to use certain software, menial tasks like submitting timesheets, etc.
All of this is to say, keeping new hires' attention is no small task. This is extra true for 1099 workers who are more likely to simply move on to a new opportunity if you can't keep their interest. The good news is, we've worked with these businesses, developed their training material alongside them, and we've seen what works.
We also would like to help clear up some myths and misconceptions around attention spans and how to manage them. There is a perception that attention spans are shrinking across the board and that all content just needs to be cut down and shortened to keep eyes on it. In our experience, we have found that it’s usually more a problem of not having the rep’s full attention in the first place. Below, we’ve outlined three simple concepts to consider as you develop your training and onboarding so that your reps can feel confident and enabled as they go into the field.
NOTE: This blog was derived from Episode 007 of The Rep's Journey podcast. To watch it, scroll to the bottom of this page, or click here 📺. If you prefer to listen to our podcast, click here 🎙.
All of us, whether we know it or not, are constantly calculating whether what we are currently doing is important or urgent. New reps often have other opportunities elsewhere, and usually still need to be sold on the job during onboarding. In the early stages, they may feel apprehensive or distracted, taking longer to complete training than your team would like.
A rep's sense of immediacy is fully tied to their perception. A particular training lesson could be of highest and most urgent priority to your company, but you still need to convince your reps that it should be their priority to get the training done. There are a couple of different strategies we recommend for dealing with this.
First and foremost, there is no need to bury the lead as far as time commitment. We've seen companies shy away from the truth of how long a piece of training is because they think reps won't complete it if they know. We have found the opposite of this to be true. When you are honest about the time commitment for a piece of content, you are actually enabling your reps to give the training the necessary space on their schedule.
Idea: when creating video content, include a countdown timer so that viewers never have to guess when it’ll end or check the time.
You can always give your reps guidance and advice on the best way to get training done. It it’s a longer course, disclose how long it’ll take in total, how many smaller parts you’ve broken it down into, when the whole course is due, and your recommendation to finish a certain amount ASAP so they don’t have to crunch down the line. Bring somebody who was successful in that role in to tell your reps why they need this training urgently. This is also your chance to confront “I can do this later” and other common objections. It’s like sales - anticipate and plan for objections.
As humans, our desire to consume content is directly tied to our own individual level of interest. It's easier to pay attention to something when you don't have to be convinced to participate. When you’re interested in an activity, there is a low cognitive load. It doesn’t feel like work, or that your attention is being spent.
Once disinterest sets in, that cognitive load increases and suddenly we're aware of the limits of our attention span. It feels like spending our energy. Anybody who has ever been sat down in front of an hour-long training video knows the feeling.
When we talked about immediacy, it was mostly in reference to how you communicate about your content. Interest, conversely, is generated directly from your training content and how your material is presented. Just because the information is “boring” doesn’t mean it has to be presented in a traditional, boring way. If reps expect training to be dry or dull, and then are met with content which is unexpectedly colorful, fun, or engaging, it will increase their interest instead of spending it.
Asking questions will also keep your reps interested in what they're learning. Adding the occasional quiz into your material requires reps to pay more attention because they will want to get the questions right the first time and move forward. Breaking up larger content pieces into small chunks can also go a long way towards raising attention. Each segment will feel shorter to your reps without requiring you to actually change the content itself.
If you are using a digital training platform for your reps, check and see what kind of metrics they are tracking. At ConveYour, we keep records of key indicators of interest such as how much of a video gets viewed, what stage in training reps tend to drop off, completion rates, you name it. This can go a long way towards boosting your retention rates, and will benefit your reps with more engaging, enjoyable training.
One of the biggest mistakes we see businesses make around their training is when everything is treated with the same amount of importance. When everything is "important," suddenly nothing feels important. Reps are notoriously able to sniff out when a piece of training won't really matter. The dead giveaway is low-effort content. Reps intuitively know when you haven’t put a lot of effort into your content when the hallmarks are there: large blocks of text, tacky stock art, lack of reinforcement questions, etc. If you’re just handing them information without reinforcing or verifying they have learned it, why would they learn it?
Importance is largely determined by the question, “what’s in it for me?” What does your rep stand to gain from taking that particular training course at this particular time? We all want a benefit from the work we put into things. Your reps are no different.
The key is to establishing importance is prviding context. Consider a bank that trains its tellers to understand debit card transaction limits. Their training course could be all about how disclosing transaction limits keeps people from calling support which makes room for more customers, but that doesn’t let the teller know how they benefit. If the training instead focused on how a lack of disclosure creates unhappy customers who then return and make the teller's job more difficult, suddenly it feels more important to the tellers to make sure customers know about the transaction limit.
It is always helpful to reframe your training to explain how it benefits the rep. For any work that they have to do, they should know what the benefit is for their individual situation. Boosting importance is all about context and avoiding any situation where your reps feel like a given training course won't be important to them because they know that it isn't important to you.
Attention is a lot like water in a leaky bucket. Everybody has a finite limit to how much attention they can give and it’s constantly being re-spent, so you need to find a way to keep refilling it. The harder or longer your training content is, the bigger the holes in the bucket and the more attention you need to pay to your course’s immediacy, interest, and importance to your reps.
For our call to action this week, we recommend that you list out all of your training content for a given period. Go through each piece and rank them by importance as well as difficulty. For each piece of content, ask “where am I boosting immediacy, interest, and importance during this training?” Once you’ve mapped this out, you can start taking action on maintaining your rep’s attention through training in a way that equips them for success in the field.
ConveYour is a tool designed specifically with the rep experience in mind. If you are looking for an intuitive, mobile and remote-friendly way to automate a next-level training experience for your reps, schedule a demo with us HERE. We’d love to meet with you.