Keeping a Globally Dispersed Sales Force Current with Quick Learning Modules

By Linda Jackson February 17, 2015

Pragmatic Marketer Volume 12 Issue 1

As companies extend their reach into new global markets, it’s not uncommon for sales teams to be distributed across multiple regions. At the same time, many companies are increasing the cadence of product and service updates. Sales reps can easily feel out of touch, stuck working with support materials that become immediately outdated with each new release.

Luckily, marketers can break this cycle of lagging information by drawing on technological advancements and learning science best practices. Quick learning modules (QLMs) are a great way to share company updates and increase the likelihood that sales reps will retain the information you provide. Before we dig into their global use, it helps to understand the basics.

What are QLMs?


QLMs are quick-to-consume e-learning modules on specific topics. Rarely more than 15 minutes long, each module should be something a sales rep can digest while standing in line at Starbucks. Ideally, they work seamlessly on any device (phone, tablet, PC) and they can support a number of content elements including video, audio, text and images. That way they can be configured to provide your sales force with the fresh information they need in an easy-to-use format.

Why use QLMs?


More traditional methods of deploying updates such as in-person product training, lengthy sales playbooks or one-time web-based training typically take longer to produce—with greater cost—and  have been shown to be relatively ineffective. In fact, according to molecular biologist John Medina, most people forget up to 90 percent of what they learn in traditional training within three days. But, breaking things down into short, easy-to-digest snippets and spacing learning events at expanding intervals enhances long-term memory. In addition, incorporating video, audio and tactile exercises into your training programs can boost memory retention by 65 percent.

Deploying important updates in discrete chunks of information—like QLMs—can significantly increase learning retention, while saving the development costs of a traditional training rollout. Plus, QLMs are faster to create, and reps are more likely to complete the sessions.

How do I know what to focus on when creating a QLM?

Isolating what really needs to be communicated in a training program can be an interesting critical thinking exercise; it’s often not what you think. To shine a light on the key elements to address, ask yourself “What do people already know and how can we build on that?” For example, if your product announcement is four updated settings on a single UI screen, then that’s all you need to explain to your reps. You don’t need to recreate training on the whole system. Save your company development time and money by creating a short tutorial that covers what that screen looked like before, what it looks like now and why the four updates are important.

Even if the content is inherently complex, users don’t need to be told the entire story to get their job done. Instead, think about how to break up the story into short pieces that also provide enough of a hook to hang other materials on. For example, a QLM for the sales team might reference the four UI updates but not discuss them in detail, keeping the main focus on addressing common objections during the purchase process.

Does it make sense to use QLMs in a big rollout?


Focused QLMs are a great way to follow up on specific key elements of a more traditional, comprehensive training program. For example, Cisco often uses QLMs as reinforcement for internal events, such as kickoff meetings that announce security enhancements. These QLMs help employees remember what was discussed at the meeting by providing a short recap on the important topics covered.

Do QLMs fit into agile development and other fast-paced environments?


QLMs are quick to develop and allow marketers to apply a little bit of the agile strategy to their training program development. Because they are short, the review cycles are usually less complicated and can often be completed in a matter of days or weeks. This makes them perfect for SaaS companies and other organizations that work in short sprints. 

QLMs are relatively inexpensive to update. Rather than revise the entire training program, you can simply update the modules that were affected by the change. This way you can incorporate updates as needed and avoid creating training programs that are out of date before they’re even published. Once the updates are available, your sales reps can complete the QLMs one at a time or all at once, depending on their schedule.

Are QLMs mobile device-friendly?


Gartner estimates that more than 54 million employees are currently involved in some form of remote work. Unfortunately, most traditional e-learning courses aren’t easily accessible via mobile devices. The good news is that because QLMs are typically created using HTML 5, they are mobile-friendly by nature. For example, if you develop your QLM as video on demand—or VOD—you  can simply upload the module to Vimeo or YouTube, or convert it to an MP4 and share the link. Sales reps can then access it remotely at will.

There are also several tools on the market, such as MobilePaks, that make these modules interactive and boost engagement through widgets like knowledge checks and flash cards. These can be great to use while sitting in a waiting room or riding public transportation.

QLMs for the Global Audience


Labor markets around the world have become increasingly integrated and this globalization is expected to continue. It can be challenging to communicate with a diverse staff, but QLMs can help. By using templates and shells, QLMs are easy and cost-effective to translate into multiple languages.

In addition, by using a QLM as a “gateway” to more detailed support information that is stored elsewhere online, you can limit the word count of that QLM, thus keeping localization costs down. For example, VIA worked with a company that trained its staff on the corporate standards for records retention. Instead of including the entire policy in the QLM, we included a link to it so the company could easily update it on the website as needed. When the time came to localize the QLM, that streamlining helped the client contain costs.

Some other localization tricks to keep in mind:

  1. Make sure it’s not too U.S.-centric. Avoid slang or idiomatic expressions. Use images or concepts that can be adapted to multiple cultures and beliefs.
  2. Be clear, concise and consistent. Write the source content to a sixth- to eighth- grade level. Use an active voice, and eliminate the verb “to be” as much as possible.
  3. Make room for onscreen and audio text expansion. Text often expands or contracts when it is translated, so avoid embedding text in images. To make room for longer narration, edit the audio into individual files that track to each slide.
  4. Keep narrators to a minimum. The more voiceover actors that you use for narration, the more time-consuming and expensive it will be to translate.

Created correctly, QLMs are an effective way to share learning programs with sales reps scattered across the globe. Not only can QLMs provide a dispersed workforce with the most up-to-date information available, but they can help individual members feel more unified.

Categories: Strategy Roles & Activities Working with Sales
Linda Jackson

Linda Jackson

Linda Jackson is the lead instructional designer at VIA, Inc. and has more than 19 years of training and technical writing experience supporting enterprise-level global rollouts for a variety of companies including Nike, Intel and Daimler. Contact Linda at ljackson@vialearning.com.

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