Supporting busy sales teams with social learning QA s secrets of success!

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1 Supporting busy sales teams with social learning QA s secrets of success! In recognition of its expertise in social and virtual learning, Towards Maturity Ambassador QA, has been awarded gold at the elearning awards for the best use of social media for learning. The award recognises QA's own use of social media to supplement its sales teams' learning and development - Illustrating that the company really does practice what it preaches when it comes to implementing successful collaborative learning platforms. The Sales team challenge Keeping busy sales staff continually informed of new products and industry developments is critical for any organisation s success. When those staff are located across the country it is vital they feel connected and are continuously learning. QA Training faced this challenge with their 150 sales professionals spread across the UK. Their staff like others also, are challenged by the speed of change - the rate of new product and service introductions is continuing to increase while the constraints on time to learn about them remains constant. To help address these challenges, QA wanted to help sales staff to learn from each other and others across the business, to accelerate understanding whilst providing both a forum and growing repository of product and industry reference information. Page 1 of 7

2 Specifically, they wanted to: Enable the sales team to share knowledge internally and ask questions of each other Allow the Management team to be able to communicate key messages Improve service quality Remove the barriers of managing a geographically dispersed sales team Whilst there was previously a shared network drive system in place, people were unable to interact with colleagues, contribute to discussions and rate documents. Closer collaboration within the sales force was required in order to meet the business goals. QA began using social media to supplement their series of sales briefings and sales training courses. Social learning is a term often used by the learning industry but there is some debate as to what it means and how to successfully use it as part of a wider L&D strategy. It had to deliver valuable content and encourage knowledge sharing as well as making learning fun, engaging and easy to contribute to whilst maintaining an informal tone. The learning solution Tools and Methodologies QA uses the Cornerstone on Demand platform to support client projects so this was a natural choice for a social learning platform enabling real time discussions and knowledge sharing. QA branded this platform QA365 for clients and Sales365 for sales use. The platform features blogs, discussion groups, wikis ask an expert forums, document sharing and support for rich media. This is all integrated with virtual learning with the ability to either launch online workshop sessions from the platform or schedule instructor led events relevant to sales and sales elearning. Within this environment, communities of practice could be created to organise all activity with tag clouds, polling, rating and voting to add interactivity and keep the interface dynamic so people see the hottest topic or the latest posting. In short, the platform has the basic tools to support collaborative knowledge sharing. Selecting the same platform as offered to clients was an added bonus as this helped sales people experience the benefits of social learning. Page 2 of 7

3 While the Cornerstone Connect platform was selected as the engine, it was also felt that video sharing would be an optimum way to get breaking news distributed in a quick and engaging way. Video allowed lowed capture of industry experts and trainers at internal events which could then be shared more broadly across the country. A video management and streaming platform ividq - was procured and was also hosted in the cloud so making it easy to implement. The video platform enables upload of videos which can be synched with slides in real time and in turn can be embedded easily into the blogs within the Sales365 platform and then commented on. This platform also supports the user generated videos from sales, which are captured on webcams, mobile phones and Flipcams which can be distributed to each team leader. Other content captured via video included briefing events (where the speaker is filmed by an in house crew and slides synched up) and professionally developed programmes which are created in house using higher her production capabilities to help launch new products and reinforce key initiatives. Making it happen Sales365 was conceived by QA s Group Sales Director, who put in place a small team to design, implement and launch it. Page 3 of 7

4 The team was led by the Head of Sales Training and Marketing (responsible for all Sales documents) who worked with QA s Head of Virtual Learning who had over 17 years of experience in building online communities. They started by agreeing the key principles for the new site which were: Ease of use Dynamic, single source for documents Adding value through making formal learning easier to access Providing more elearning resources to a wider audience There were several parallel phases to this project which included designing the site itself; improving the navigation and graphics; information mapping; document loading; identifying and acquiring sales elearning packages; identifying and providing a live feed of training courses for sales to attend; a series of WebEx based training for team leaders and sales (all launched from within Sales365) and creating the workflow to get video from the field uploaded the same day by the elearning team (this included who would encode and upload to save time, effort and bandwidth). Launching the programme "Sales365 provides an ideal example of how successful social learning can be when it is aligned to business needs and when it supplements existing learning architecture. Working with internal stakeholders in the sales team we were able to identify learning and collaboration needs, prescribe the most appropriate solution and then measure the results on business performance." Ron Edwards Head of Virtual Learning A launch plan was created which included recording and embedding a video of the Group Sales Director encouraging contribution from individuals. The launch included sending out QA branded headsets to all of Sales and a quick reference guide which helped launch the video capabilities. Sales 365 was built and launched in two months, a little behind the initial target as stakeholders wanted all features live and a wealth of content on day one. On the go-live date, several hundred documents supporting bid writing, dozens of industry reports, seeded conversations, elearning, virtual learning and classroom courses were all integrated. Most importantly, sales team and other department heads were engaged to contribute content and discussion. Page 4 of 7

5 Ensuring Engagement and Support Aligning the learning strategy to business objectives helped to deliver what was needed. Involving key stakeholders in the design, changes and evaluation is an ongoing process. Team leaders regularly suggest ways in which Sales365 can be improved and add value to the business. Team leaders report their feedback at their monthly meetings to management which fuels the positive desire to continue and improve. A formal evaluation is planned after the summer to capture examples of where ideas have contributed to sales and to see how relevant employee survey scores (conducted in January) are affected. New engagements are needed to keep content and interest fresh. Tangible Benefits of Social Learning Business gains Overall group sales increased by 14% last year Competitive bid win rate value is up by 17% Net Promoter score is up by 157% Efficiency gains The sales team have a more efficient, easier access to sales tools case studies and bid content which means responding to customers faster. Being able to share thoughts and feelings across our 150 strong sales force generates interest and keeps topics front of mind. Furthermore, having access to relevant materials gives us the best possible chance of embedding the classroom learning, maximising the investment we make in taking people away from their desks to attend learning seminars. Nick Robinson,Sales Coach, QA. Collaboration of best practice has been used for coaching discussions to develop sales people with improved efficiency and effectiveness results. Sales365 enables me to access critical knowledge at the point of need directly enhancing my performance at work. In addition my clients are benefiting from our real life learning and experiences of implementing and maintaining social learning platforms. Giles Smith, Head of Strategic Client Solutions, QA. Staff Engagement It is clear that sales staff, despite being busy with clients Page 5 of 7

6 are engaging with Sales 365: In Summary 557 documents have been uploaded onto the portal with 3,259 views 50 videos have been uploaded 72 blogs have been created The new elearning sales training courses have been viewed over 240 times 66 client demos have been completed using the new Sales365 resources The Number of attendees on bi-weekly Sales Briefings on new products and Using Sales 365 accessed either through Sales365 or direct to WebEx and recordings placed in Sales365 for discussion is over 1,700 The development of Sales365 was a strategic move to help QA to deliver on challenging business objectives. The learning strategy was aligned to business objectives and key stakeholders and learning experts were enlisted to help deliver what was needed. Sales365 is continuing to be used not only as a repository of all sales related documents and industry briefings but as a place to connect and collaborate. The weekly virtual sales briefings are all recorded and the links and resources put in one place where people can further discuss them which is a new capability. There have been more than 50 videos created to date and several threaded discussions/blog postings. The next phase will be to use the platform to support major skills development programmes for the sales team. Part of the learning will include the teams engaging with each other and coaches this will all be facilitated in Sales365 which will help move the platform and the organisation to a deeper level of conversation and value from knowledge sharing and community building. Sales 365 has transformed the way our UK wide sales team access knowledge, collaborate and learn as a group. Stuart Martin, Group Sales Director, QA Page 6 of 7

7 Top Tips for using Social Media as an enabler of enterprise wide learning and collaboration: > Encourage/leverage business stakeholder ownership from the outset so that the social learning platform support business needs > Incorporate 2-way linking informal to formal instruction, vice-versa > Utilise social media channels to promote learning through social media and hyperlink distribution > Incorporate appropriate social media channel for different content - eg LinkedIn (creating focus groups); Twitter (Followers to Blogs/trending topics); Blogs (knowledge sharing); You Tube (share videos/tasters) > Use as a post course consulting tool Follow tutors and SMEs on social media channels > Keep interface fresh and dynamic > Don t launch an empty site - make sure the site is already packed with content and useful guidelines > Use webinars to encourage regular collaboration & use them to drive ongoing sharing via the site > Create launch plan but don t be afraid to delay! > Involve stakeholders, team leaders, encourage feedback and input > Post success stories, takeaways and capture reusable assets Article written by Marnie Threapleton, Towards Maturity, as part of the e-learning age and Towards Maturity Good Practice Partnership. Follow Marnie on Page 7 of 7

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