Product Marketing Manager
As the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” There’s no denying that this makes sense at times, but some things don’t look broken until after they’re fixed.
This is a story with which Travis Hecker, Senior Manager of Global Sales Training at Abbott Laboratories, Chronic Pain Therapy Division, is very familiar.
Fighting the ‘Sunk Cost Fallacy’
“We’re really good at basic onboarding and other course-driven learning, but then we trail off,” said Hecker at the recent LTEN webinar, Using Modern Sales Learning Tools to Maintain a Competitive Edge: Insights from Abbott. “We trail off on what we do at Month 3 or Month 6 or Month 12 to reinforce what the sales reps learned as new hires. Recently, one sales manager told me that he thinks 80% to 85% of new hires’ learning takes place in the field, not the classroom. And I thought, ‘If that’s where they’re doing their learning, what can I do differently in the classroom to improve on that—or even just complement it?’”
As a former salesperson, Hecker recognized the value of modern learning techniques such as peer-to-peer training, one-on-one coaching, and reinforcement drills, but he worried about fixing things that weren’t “broke.” At the same time, he didn’t want to fall prey to the Sunk Cost Fallacy—in which rational judgement is clouded by emotions—by continuing to pour resources into programs that weren’t generating the desired results.
“You have to decide, ‘Am I going to put energy and resources into changing what’s happening, or do I put energy and resources into increasing my effectiveness within the [existing] model?’”
If You Teach, Will They Learn?
“We’d invested a ridiculous amount of money into third-party vendors to revamp our modules and to begin building new modules for us, thinking that was going to be the secret. I thought that if I invested a bunch of money and made our modules more interactive, that would help people learn the information more fully.”
What Hecker soon discovered, however, was that you can lead sales reps to a learning program, but you can’t make them participate – unless the course is mandatory.
“When I asked our LMS administrator to pull up the data, I was shocked. Less than 1% of our field reps had ever accessed any module voluntarily. The only reason they were looking at the content was because I told them they had to. That gave them training out of the gate, but did nothing to reinforce the training.”
A Collaborative Approach
After seeing this report, Hecker adopted Allego to enhance his division’s training programs and promote higher engagement. To accomplish the latter, he created an advisory council, which included some top salespeople. This would ensure that the new learning platform was designed (in part) by the reps and for the reps.
“Rather than going top-down and saying, ‘Here are the things you need to know,’ we started asking, ‘What are the things you need to know?’ We wanted to build a platform that was based on value to the field, so we could shift from ‘training is something I have to do’ to ‘training is something I do voluntarily because there’s value in it.’
“Everything was put through the filter of ‘Is this adding value?’ If it’s not making the reps better and more efficient at their jobs, we wouldn’t do it.”
To introduce Allego to the sales force, Hecker and his team decided to focus on just a handful of learning initiatives, but to excel at executing those programs.
“We had a good onboarding program but we didn’t have ongoing reinforcement training or the tools for just-in-time learning, so we began to engage our sales team to have them build this out.
“We encouraged them, using contests, to record some videos of themselves sharing the best-practice examples: ‘Here are the problems we face, and here’s how I solve them in my territory.’ We soon found that it didn’t matter what the prize was. Our reps just wanted to win the contests. I could offer a T-shirt to the first person to complete an assignment, and I’d have 50 people emailing me to ask if they were first. It was more about recognition than some grand prize.”
The training team also launched a podcast series in which subject matter experts from different departments recorded updates on a variety of topics – from new marketing initiatives to the latest clinical studies that could be incorporated into sales conversations.
“Can you Allego that?”
“We launched with about 900 users globally, focusing on our sales and clinical teams first, and then on our content creators, product managers, marketing teams, and the training department. Out of the gate, we started to see immediate adoption in the field. Over the last 90 days, 93% of all users have accessed Allego at least once. We’ve logged almost 200,000 video views or content views since we rolled out the platform.”
To date, 64% of Allego users have shared a video of themselves talking through best practices or sharing how they’ve solved problems, helping build a video library of ‘what good looks like.’
“Allego has become part of our internal culture,” says Hecker. “It’s become a verb instead of a noun. We talk in terms of, ‘Did you Allego that?’ ‘Can somebody Allego this?’ It’s a go-to resource for all of our salespeople. This is where you go to get your sales messaging, to gather your collateral pieces and to have access to all of your sales tools.”
In addition, the training team is now able to document the coaching that sales managers are giving their teams, allowing them to coach the coaches. “We’re now seeing two and three levels of improvement in consistent and effective messaging. We’ve also been able to improve our coaching and the level of targeted feedback they’re giving their teams.”
From here, Hecker plans to use Allego to move some basic onboarding training out of the classroom, so reps can learn the material at their own level and their own pace. By making video content available before the formal onboarding, he hopes to establish a higher baseline of knowledge for new hires before they even arrive for in-person training.
That way, “we can dedicate all of our time to experiential learning – to the application of the knowledge they’ve already gained by participating in these video courses.”
For more on how organizations like Abbott use modern sales learning practices to drive better sales performance, click here.