It is painful trying to satisfy diverse learning and development needs and preferences across different employee cohorts in your sales force – Boomers and Millennials learn differently, for example.


It is especially painful when you invest in training, but adoption is weak because the learning experience doesn’t truly reflect what is necessary to be successful.

We have worked with hundreds of clients to develop solutions that satisfy the diverse learning and development needs and preferences of their salespeople and managers. We’ve even helped clients go a step further to enable and apply new learning on the job faster and easier, using a concept that we call Learn-Ablement.

Learn-Ablement aligns learning, development and enablement around three key questions:

  1. What does a good approach to selling look like for our organization?
  2. What does “good” look like for personal development for individuals in specific roles?
  3. What does “good” look like for improving skills and abilities in specific sales situations?

We define the approach at each of these levels as MacroLearning, MicroLearning, and NanoLearning. Each level is optimally supported by different enablement technologies.


MacroLearning – Developing and enabling what good looks like for the organization.

Organizations have traditionally implemented new sales methodologies through live, instructor-led training, and then deployed enablement technology, such as automated sales process playbooks, sometime afterwards. When this happens, learning is not immediately and directly reinforced, and most of the desired new sales behaviors don’t happen consistently – or not at all.

Learning of new methodologies and skills is best done through the use of the actual tools a learner will apply every day on the job.  For example, a learner is introduced to best practices for preparing for and executing a sales conversation with a prospect. They not only learn about and role-play the approach, but they do so in the context of where they would be executing that activity in their selling process as reflected in an automated playbook. In this example, the goal is supported by an activity of preparing for a conversation by creating a questioning prompter accessed within the online playbook.


MicroLearning – Developing and enabling around what good looks like for the individual.

Often a sales organization will construct a competency model with different areas of focus and levels of proficiency for on a given sales role. For example, as illustrated below, an individual could have a learning plan, or plans, reflective of that individual’s specific areas of need that are identified as part of knowledge and behavioral assessments.

With efficient authoring tools in the marketplace today, it’s much easier to create highly tailored, bite-sized portions of learning content that can easily be consumed by the learner from any device. Furthermore, advancements in learning technologies are making it much easier to reinforce learning using adaptive and spaced repetition principles – making it much more likely that the individual will retain and apply whatever they are attempting to master.


NanoLearning – Developing and enabling around what good looks like for the situation.

Once learners reach desired levels of proficiency for their organization, as well as for their own individual development needs, they should be applying these lessons learned consistently in their selling role. One of the most impactful ways to help with learning application is to provide sales professionals with contextual, just-in-time content that can help them execute specific activities in the context of their everyday sales situations.

For example, consider the situation where a sales professional had 15 minutes available, right before a sales conversation with a prospect. They want to refresh their memory about what a good, consultative sales conversation looks like. They could simply access their on-demand library or sales playbook, and launch that specific content, whether it be a short video, a soundbite, or text tutorial.


Again, the ability to create useful content quickly, and even make it from one’s own mobile device, and then make that learning available to colleagues, is just one of many avenues for providing this contextual type of learning in an easy to access and highly digestible fashion.

Another Benefit of the Learn-Ablement Architecture

While the objective of this architecture is to help identify and support the three levels of what good looks like for your sellers, the use of technology at each of these levels also provides more points of data of value to sales managers. With this data, a manager can see correlations between opportunity win-loss ratios in relation to when different playbook and related tools are used by sellers.

With these kinds of data analytics, sales leaders can ascertain if desired behavior change is occurring, and even predict earlier and with greater certainty whether or not business results will to be achieved.

Getting Started with Learn-Ablement

Putting this type of approach in place might seem overwhelming – where does one begin? There are steps that a sales organization can take to make the approach manageable. SPI consultants often help clients to execute these actions and develop a tailored Learn-Ablement structure.

MacroLearning•      Define your selling framework for each go-to-market model

•      Create common learn-ablement plans for these groups

•      Infuse core enablement playbooks in training

MicroLearning•      Use analytics to assess areas of individual focus

•      Determine the most strategic competencies to develop for your  key sales and management roles

•      Configure learn-ablement plans for individuals

•      Base plans on required proficiency levels

•      Reinforce desired behavior change (management function)

NanoLearning•      Identify your key selling situations

•      Create NanoLearning assets (JIT “How Tos”: videos, text entries, etc.)

•      Embed the assets in sharing portals, playbooks, and/or enablement platforms (e.g. CRM)

No longer do sales and learning functions need to debate where learning and enablement efforts should be focused – they can be integrated at the organizational, individual, and situational level – all working in concert to support strategic sales objectives.

Sample NanoLesson


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