Is Product Recommendation Software Right for You?

Product Recommendation Software

 

Forbes reports that 57% of sales reps missed their quota last year. While that statistic is alarming, the critical question that managers need to ask is why. Why aren’t reps knocking every single sale out of the park? Sales can be an area of high turnover, so maybe they’re not all up to speed, they’re struggling with product positioning, or they aren’t strong at interpreting and identifying the needs of a customer. Sales managers want their reps to hit more home runs – and product recommendation software is a big bat.

If you don’t have great selling aids, it’s time to consider what benefits come with the use of a guided selling tool. It enables new sales reps to get up to speed more quickly, helps reps keep their messaging consistent, and ultimately leads to the right recommendation for your customers. Think of your best salesperson. A guided selling tool basically lets you clone that person and have them in the sales conversation with all of your reps.

Product Recommendation Software, like all tools, is designed to help you achieve what would otherwise be much harder without the assistance – so much so that we’ve seen close rates increase by 40% when product recommendation software has been used.

 

So, What is Product Recommendation Software?

Before considering what to look for, it’s important that you understand exactly what product recommendation software is. In short, it’s a software application that enables reps to deliver excellent sales experiences and recommendations through a conditional, needs-based assessment. With this software’s help, reps are better able to guide customers and generate trust and confidence.

Benefits of guided selling:

  • Onboards reps faster
  • Increases sales productivity
  • Engages buyers with an interactive buying experience
  • Delivers an accurate and highly-personalized buyer experience with real-time leave behinds
  • Replicates and automates what works for top performers

Product recommendation is an art that enables the asking of intelligent questions and then uses customer response to drive recommendations and guided up-sell and cross-sell opportunities. Isn’t that what any customer and sales rep would want?

 

9 Essential Considerations

Now that you see the problem and understand a potential solution, you’re on to something. Here are some considerations for you before adding product recommendation to your toolbox:

 

WHY YOU MIGHT WANT IT WHY YOU MIGHT NOT

SHORTEN TRAINING TIME

Product Recommendation Software allows your reps to get up to speed more quickly because they have a tool to help them and because that tool doubles as a training aid.

INCONSISTENT MESSAGING

If you have a brand-new team still looking to establish itself and figure out what works, you’re messaging might not be consistent enough, yet.

ACCURATE PRODUCT RECOMMENDATIONS

If your reps are using a tool that has the correct information, they’re far less likely to make a wrong recommendation.

DON’T KNOW WHAT WORKS

If you haven’t figured out your “special sauce” yet, it’s difficult to scale what works. It helps to figure out sells within your organization as a foundation before incorporating this software.

BUYER-LED JOURNEY

Potential buyers can interact with the tool and feel ownership of the process – leading them to feel less “sold to” and reducing the chances of an incorrect recommendation.

LACK OF INFRASTRUCTURE

Perhaps you don’t have the infrastructure to capitalize on the rich data insights Product Recommendation Software can provide. If you can’t harness the full functionality of the tool, it might not be worth it for your organization.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Product Recommendation Software has the ability to delight customers by providing an interactive experience and better recommendations.

REDUCE FOLLOW-UP TIME

You can send follow-up communications immediately either during or after a meeting to keep the pipeline moving and keep your reps selling.

ENGAGE MORE PROSPECTS

With shorter, more precise sales meetings, your reps are more available.

 

Does This Sound Like Something That’s Right for You

We’re not talking about a CRM or refresher training. We’re talking about focusing on your customers, their experience, their trust, and ultimately – their purchase.

If you’re looking for a sales aid that’s consistent, up-to-date, personalized, digital, mobile, and has shown consistent results like 60% increase in YOY sales and 40% increase in rep productivity, then using product recommendation software could be a solution for your company.

Give your customers exactly what they want at the right price—without second-guessing your product recommendations or quotes.

Take Your Training Beyond Gamification

 

As gamification has been an increasingly popular training technique to motivate modern learners over the past decade, we’re sure you’ve applied some of these practices to increase engagement and reinforce learning with your employees. But if you haven’t started using actual games in your training yet, you should look to this opportunity as a way to have an even greater impact on your learners.

The enemy of modern training is distraction, and games have been scientifically proven to heighten attention, sustain focus, and drive action. It’s time to go beyond gamification with your training.

You might be asking yourself, “Great, I’m sold on using games in training, but what are the best practices when implementing games into my training programs?” Answer: Games have the most significant effect on learner behavior when used to reinforce and sustain new learning.

This means it’s probably not the best idea to use games to introduce brand new product or compliance information. Here are some best practices questions to consider before jumping into games (pun intended):

  • What skills do you want your learners to gain?

Are you looking for your learners to be able to explain, infer, relate, solve, interpret, or recognize? The type of outcome you want will change which game you should choose.

  • What type of setting will the training take place?

Will your learners be taking a self-paced course where they’ll likely be competing against themselves or will this be used at a live training event with many people playing the game at once?

  • Do you want the game to be collaborative or competitive?

Each group of learners have different preferences. Your sales team might enjoy a competitive game more than a collaborative game, but you need to know your learners and what motivates them.

  • What type of performance objectives are you looking for?

Similar but slightly different than the skills question, when your learners finish their training, what part of their performance should improve? Strategic thinking, knowledge acquisition, or increase in comprehension?

Data has shown that through games, learner engagement increases from a few minutes to an average of 10 minutes of practice. Additionally, through repetition, we’ve seen a knowledge lift of 63% by the third encounter with the reinforcement material.

We’re Game

Before you start asking around the office for a coder, we can help! Unboxed can now create a variety of games for your team. Check out our games page for more information.

 

Game Description When to Use
Jeopardy Traditional Jeopardy format Assess and reinforce hard skills and soft skills
Jump Mobile-style arcade game Memorization of key info turned fun and competitive
Trivia Complete with points, streaks, and leaderboards Transform traditional assessments
Match Mobile-style match-3 game Memorization of key info turned fun and competitive
Scramble Reorder scrambled sentences Test terminology retention
Scenarios Realistic contextual simulations Assess cause and effect decision making
Sort-It Sort answers into correct categories Practice strategic thinking skills
Recall Recall info from a video or image Encourage visual learning and memorization

 

Need more?

Listen to a recording of our webinar, “Beyond Gamification: 3 Secrets on How To Level Up Your Training With Games.”

Beyond gamification

3 Secrets on How to Level Up Your Training with Games

Gamification has become an increasingly popular technique to motivate and engage modern learners over the past few years. But gamification can only motivate a learner but so far. Join us to find out what 3 secrets you can apply to experience growth on learner attention, engagement, and knowledge retention.

What is an LMS?

Spoke-LMS

If content is King, then the Queen is your Learning Management System (LMS). Without a robust Queen, your King is essentially inaccessible and powerless.  An LMS is the gatekeeper to all that good content your team has built or wants to build. So what is an LMS, and what can it do for your company?

An LMS is a technological platform to aid in the training and development of a business team. With features like anytime, anywhere training access, LMSs have become the standard in good training and development for sales teams the world over.

They allow companies to track and manage key aspects of training, such as identifying areas of weakness and funneling just-in-time information to those in the field.

Though every LMS has different features, they universally have a space where business teams can access course content, take quizzes, and track a team member’s educational journey. So with the ubiquity of LMSs, how do you determine what you need?

 

Determining What You Need from an LMS

 
The biggest decision you can make in training is determining how that training will be delivered. LMSs offer you the option of anytime, anywhere course access, which is critical for on-the-go sales teams. Figuring this out is simple. What’s not simple is being confronted with all the bells and whistles of various LMSs and not knowing what you really need. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you determine what will be most useful to your team:

  1. Look at your business goals. That’s right, every aspect of your training should roll up to your business goals, and that includes what features you have in your LMS. If your LMS isn’t collecting the data you need to track whether your team is meeting goals, then it’s not fulfilling your mission. In fact, it’ll feel like your LMS is consistently coming up short because it is.
  2.  

  3. Look at your training needs. Who will you be training? How many people will be training? What departments? Will you be primarily focusing on in-person training, and using the LMS platform for testing and sustainment? Will all learning go through the LMS? Are there webinar components to be tracked? Will you track attendance, quiz grades, and pass/fail rates? There’s a lot to consider. If you answer these questions up front, your search will be laser focused.
  4.  

  5. Examine the features of various LMSs. That’s right, take a good, long look at the different features of various LMSs like Spoke. You will find nuances in how quizzes can be scored, reporting features, and in pricing. Align your training needs with the features of the LMS you ultimately choose, so you can maximize your company’s training efforts.
  6.  

  7. Consider customer service. If you’re looking for a platform that will be managed outside your company, you need to strongly consider customer service. There is nothing more frustrating than when you need help meeting a reporting deadline, and the hosting service is unavailable or slow to respond. We recommend being diligent and reading service reviews for each LMS service you are considering.

 

Meet Spoke®, the social LMS that makes training easy.

Everything you need, nothing you don’t.


 

Key Features

 
Using your business needs to guide you is important. There are some key features that we here at Unboxed feel are non-negotiables. Look for these features to set your team up for success:

  1. Easy interface. If your team can’t quickly and easily find training, they will get discouraged. It’s often a challenge to find the time in our busy lives to take training, so make sure the LMS you choose makes sense, has a clean and simple user interface, and has clear instructions just in case a team member gets stuck.
  2.  

  3. Opportunities for social learning. Our brains are built for social interaction, hence why Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram permeate our lives. An LMS that doesn’t have social learning may not be able to meet the emotional needs of your learners and therefore could be less effective than an LMS like Spoke that builds in social learning.
  4.  

  5. We know you take your work seriously, and so do we. That’s why gamification can be important. Allowing learning to function more like a game, means that you have higher rates of engagement among your team members, and they learn the material better.
  6.  

  7. Robust data reporting. Data should be collected at the individual, the class, and the company level to get a snapshot of whether you are meeting your goals. For this reason, you should thoughtfully consider what you want from your data reporting allowing your company goals to drive what data you ask for from the LMS.

We know choosing an LMS is a big deal, that’s why we are here to help you discuss options. Finding the sweet spot for your team is a challenge, but we believe we can help you meet that challenge. Finding the right balance for your team is what it’s all about, and the right LMS can be the keys to your company’s learning kingdom.

 

Contact us now to learn more about Spoke and how Unboxed Training & Technology can help you meet your business goals for 2019 and beyond.

The 3 Most Impactful Sales Enablement Trends for 2019

The sales enablement sector experienced unprecedented growth in 2018. More organizations than ever before leveraged technology to provide sales reps the content, data, and tools they need to engage buyers at every stage of the sales cycle.

As a testament to that growth, most sales organizations now have dedicated sales enablement teams, or have plans in the works to create one soon. Clearly, sales organizations have come to appreciate the value that sales enablement solutions can offer, particularly in decreasing the length of the sales cycle and increasing pipeline opportunities.

But as fast as the industry is changing, there’s still room to refine and create new solutions that solve common problems and help sales reps reach their full potential.

So, what will the top sales enablement trends be for 2019? Here’s our take.

1. Emphasis on learning and coaching

Based on a comprehensive survey done by Quark software, Sales Learning and Coaching Platforms is one of “the top two investment priorities [of sales organizations] over the next 12 months.” This may come as a surprise to others, but it wasn’t a surprise to us here at Unboxed.

In our 10+ years working with sales organizations, we’ve seen across the board that training is the most overlooked part of sales enablement. What good is having the right content and tools if you’re presentation misses the mark or you haven’t learned to effectively communicate with your prospect and ask for the sale?

As one of our top sales enablement trends in 2019, we demand and expect deeper integration of learning and coaching tools into existing sales enablement platforms. Inadequate or ineffective training leads to increased turnover, slower ramp time, and fewer sales, and your organization can’t afford to ignore the data any longer. Gryphon Sales Intelligence describes it this way:

“According to a recent survey, 84% of all sales training is lost after 90 days. This is majorly due to the lack of information retention among sales personnel. This highlights the need for refresher training from time to time along with effective sales training.”

2019 sales enablement trends - learning and coaching

If your organization doesn’t have a strategy for ongoing sustainment and continuous learning, you’re falling behind the curve. Look for a solution that integrates with your other sales enablement tools, ideally a one-stop shop with seamless access to training that gets pushed out over time and can be completed on-the-go.
And don’t stop there. For sales teams to reach their full potential, your solution must also give sales leaders and managers the ability to easily and consistently coach their teams to success.

2. Seamless access to important content—finally!

Sales reps lose up to 26 hours a month just searching for, editing, and managing content. Although sales content and asset management platforms have made it easier to organize marketing content and collateral, sales reps still struggle.

Most sale reps says they store content in 3-6 different locations, sometimes even up to 10. Many of those locations aren’t accessible to the marketing team for quality control and easily become outdated, and so the story goes.

2019 sales enablement trends - content management

Since this problem is still so prevalent, sales enablement software must reimagine the solution in 2019. Adding yet another location to stash the content won’t cut it, but creating a hub that helps you seamlessly organize and integrate content from a variety of sources will. Expect to see solutions that bring together content from disjointed platforms into one centralized location.

Let’s give reps back those 312 hours in 2019.

3. New ways to leverage artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence has the potential to make a huge impact on sales teams, which is why it’s on our list of sales enablement trends to watch in 2019. Early adopter sales organizations are already reaping the benefits:

  • Sales reps save significant time through automated prospecting assistance.
  • Analyzing and prioritizing leads is easier than ever before.
  • AI-powered customer service guides buyers to the right solution more quickly.

The time savings are inarguable, but the rise of AI has other effects as well. AI increases the value of human skills that can’t be replicated by a machine. Skills like influence, empathy, and ability to gain trust.

2019 sales enablement trends - artificial intelligence

But what if you could use AI to help reps hone those critical human skills? In 2019, we’re introducing AI-powered roleplay that analyzes facial expressions to provide insight into the real emotional responses of an audience. We’re incredibly excited about the potential of this tool and thrilled with the early results we’ve seen from test cases. Sign up here to be included in our big announcement in Q1.

What sales enablement trends will you watch in 2019?

How will your sales enablement strategies evolve in the coming year? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Leave us a comment below or contact us to see how can support your sales enablement goals.

5 Impactful L&D Trends to Watch in 2019

As 2018 draws to a close, many L&D leaders are beginning to explore the top learning and development trends of 2019. As you weigh needs and resources, we wanted to give you some early insights to support your planning. The topics in our list of 2019 L&D trends are based on our experience working with a diverse group of clients and our steady research.

Learning and development is transforming at a quicker clip in recent years as a crop of new technologies like virtual and augmented reality, automation, and artificial intelligence disrupt our expectations for engaging, action-oriented learning.

Below are the five top trends in training and development we believe you need to watch and discuss with your teams as you plan for 2019.

 

Trend #1: Making Learning More Accessible

As our roles become more complex and the way we work more dynamic, L&D needs to provide access to training “anytime, anywhere, on any device.” Waiting in line? Pull up a simulation on your phone and review. In a lull between meetings? Jump on your computer and work through an interactive learning guide.

Creating this level of accessibility has its challenges, but it’s worth it. That’s why it tops our list of L&D trends to watch in 2019.

A recent Gartner study found, “The effortless learning experience has the greatest impact on learning application and digital learners value it the most.” Learners cited “Ease of career application, ease of access, and ease of consumability” as the three most important factors with training.

2019 L&D trends - making learning accessible

Micro-learning and accessible learning go hand in hand. The process of repackaging training for agility also sets you up for quicker, more efficient development of training. When a role responsibility changes, your trainers won’t have to update an entire course or video if the material is broken into smaller pieces. They’ll find the segment that needs to be updated instead of recreating the entire piece. Your L&D teams will be quicker to tweak courses with more granular access to the content. If learners are struggling with a concept, they might reorder the course or repackage that segment to increase effectiveness.

Making training into smaller bites isn’t enough to meet your learnings in any situation. If your courses are available on a phone, but are impossible to work through on that device, the learner will walk away. Designing training that considers the advantages and challenges of each device is key to making learning easier to digest.

There’s an added benefit to structuring your training this way. Your material becomes a rich resource for your managers to extend formal training and reteach concepts when team members are struggling. Organizing these resources in a system that tracks usage will help your L&D team prioritize training development, and this data is an important point of reference when discussing ROI for training offerings.

 

Trend #2: Exploring Immersive Technology

Much of the current excitement around augmented reality and virtual reality is centered around gaming, but these technologies will have a larger, lasting impact on the L&D. A 2018 Capterra survey on top tech trends found as many as 46% of U.S. small and medium-sized businesses are looking into leveraging VR in the next two years.

Virtual and augmented reality are becoming more accessible each year. These emerging technologies have the greatest potential to help manage change in an organization. AR/VR replaces traditional courses and assessments with a single solution where the mastery required is taught and practiced in a simulated environment.

2019 training trends - immersive technology

 

Imagine sales training where a new hire learns your company’s sales process (knowledge acquisition) then immediately enters a scenario to practice and refine learning through a pair of glasses or VR goggles (skill building). Each stage of your process would have this balance of learning then showing what you’ve learned. i.e. This is how you pitch to the decision-maker.  You try it. This is how you get the SOW through legal. Now you do it.

Virtual simulations like these provide rich, emotionally connected experiences that feel real. No one loses a real client in virtual reality, but a well-designed virtual scenario will evoke the same emotions associated with a loss in the learner. In other words, it will feel real.

The process can be slowed or broken down so each step of a call can be evaluated and practiced. Variations on the core simulations help learners extend their learning into new products and markets.

2019 is the year to start giving these new technologies some of your time and resources. You might not be ready to jump in with both feet, but investing in a VR system and testing out some of the early L&D resources would be a measured first step. If this is too much of an investment now, read up on the companies that are early adopters. Learn from their experiences now so you are ready when the price allows your company to jump in.

 

Trend #3: Designing Training for Sustainment and Retention

Whether custom-designed or off-the-shelf, the impact of your training will be minimal if your organization doesn’t have a plan for application and reflection in the field after the training is complete. All instruction, especially skills-based training, requires validation and reinforcement.

2019 l&d trends - sustainment training

 

Effective training is not a “one and done” event. Smart companies recognize the real change happens when the team walks into the field with their new learning in hand and starts putting it into practice. These companies design training with the longer view of change in mind.

The goal of refresher training is to sustain learning, increase knowledge retention, and fight the forgetting curve. People forget 50% of what the learn in 1 hour. 70% within 24 hours. And 90% within a week.

Learners need more than simple reminders. Reminders are not reinforcement. Reinforcement should be positioned as a part of your learner’s overall experience. Managers, too, should be equipped to coach their teams to success. Review your training and provide your leaders with the tools they need to support their teams as they put training into practice.

 

Trend #4: Embracing Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence and machine learning stand to make two significant impacts on how we learn in the coming year – personalization and measuring effectiveness.

This rapidly growing technology will continue to change how we consume training. IBM recently noted by applying AI to a workplace, “employees can receive more personalized recommendations to facilitate evergreen, curated learning paths and anticipatory career management.” Applying AI to an LMS will create a learning environment highly tailored to the individual employee.

 

2019 training and development trends - artificial intelligence

 

We see the consumer application of this all the time. Netflix, Amazon, and Facebook are using AI/machine learning to deliver personalized recommendations each time you visit. This same smart curation applied to your learning environment will create more engaging, timely experiences for your employees.

AI’s more significant impact will be around measuring effectiveness. It’s a vexing issue for any company. You create a well-designed, sound learning experience for a team, the trainers deliver as well as you expected, and you’re left feeling good about the L&D team’s performance.

Oh, you’re also left with the little voice asking, “But how effective was it?”

AI already has the tools to answer that question. For example, face-recognition technology we see in our phones could be leveraged in training, role-playing, simulations, and in the field to assess how each learner is applying new learning. Based on that assessment, the learner could be directed back into the LMS where custom follow-up training is waiting for them.

We know. It sounds like science fiction. But it’s here. You stand to lose real money and market share if your training isn’t agile.  AI is a cost-effective way to manage that flexibility. It will give your L&D teams more time improve the quality of training. Make it a tentpole of your 2019 strategy.

 

Trend #5: Accepting Automation

“The Bots are coming!  The Bots are coming!” – Paul Revere on Facebook Messenger

Much of the focus of bots in the news has been on how a coming “Bot-pocolypse” will result in major job losses. This alarmist perspective mischaracterizes how bots are impacting work. They’re being used most often in places where we look for answers and to augment services, but they are not coming for our jobs.

 

L&D trends 2019 - automation and machine learning

 

The rise of customer support chatbots and chatbot integrations in communication apps creates two unique L&D opportunities.

  1. The bots themselves become vehicles to quickly place training in front of employees.  Remember, “anytime, anywhere, any device?”
  2. Using a chatbot system to distribute your training literally puts the learning at their fingertips—or thumbs.

As these bots help employees and customers and take over repetitive, process-oriented tasks that provide little meaning to us humans, they will make our work more engaging. The Training Journal points out, “Increasingly, businesses will look to automation to handle technical and process-driven tasks, and they’ll look to their people to spend more time on value-add tasks, which require creative and objective thought.”

Companies embracing automation need to work closely with L&D to teach employees how to work alongside these new tools. As work becomes more creative and objective, the role of L&D will shift along with our teams in response to automation. L&D must ensure workplace training is designed and delivered for more complex work. What an amazing opportunity for Instructional Designers and Trainers.

Your 2019 plan needs to include transitioning process-oriented training into chatbot systems while designing training for those “value-add tasks.”

 

2019 L&D Trends Recap

Technology is delivering more personal experiences every year. The new trends in training and development all bend towards that individual learner experience. Let’s recap.

  1. Make training easily accessible. Make sure your training is at the fingertips of your employees whenever they want it.
  2. Explore immersive technologies. Augmented and virtual reality create “real and safe” ways to help teach valuable, human-driven skills.
  3. Design for sustainment. As you plan your training strategy, include time for reinforcement, reflection, and application in the field to make your training stick.
  4. Embrace artificial intelligence and machine learning. You’re going to need help managing this truly employee-focused learning experience.
  5. Accept automation. If process-oriented tasks are going to machines, focus your training on the complex stuff only humans can do.

It can feel exciting and a bit overwhelming all at the same time.

Need help navigating these new L&D trends? Let us help. Schedule a free training consultation with one of our experts to learn how.