We Just Had Our Best Sales Quarter Ever. Our Secret? A 17x Increase in eLearning

March 12, 2018

See how a focus on eLearning led to our sales team's best quarter ever.

Two things happened in the last quarter of 2017:

  • The sales team I manage had our best quarter ever in total sales.
  • Usage of LinkedIn Learning among my team went up 17-fold.

The fact that those two things happened in the same quarter was hardly a coincidence. The learning increase led directly to the performance increase, as it taught my team the skills they needed, when they needed them, to close bigger deals.

“Our Q4 learning initiative definitely made a material impact on my success,” Brittany Blum, an account executive on my team, said. “I was pushed not only to acquire skills that furthered my conversations and challenged me to confront weaknesses I would have otherwise avoided, but I also felt empowered to take my development into my own hands.”

The story

As a leader of a sales team here at LinkedIn Learning, I wanted the seven salespeople I manage to “drink more of our champagne,” i.e. use our learning product more often to become better salespeople. The hope was LinkedIn Learning courses would act as force multipliers, providing an anytime, anywhere coaching platform that would teach my salespeople the key skills they need to close bigger deals.

It worked. Our usage of LinkedIn Learning spiked 17-fold in the last two quarters of 2017, with my reps watching an average of 12 hours each in Q4, or approximately an hour a week. Yes, the increase in learning metrics was great, but so were the results of that learning: we had our best quarter ever in Q4 from a sales perspective.

A big reason why was our salespeople closed bigger deals, after watching LinkedIn Learning courses on how to do exactly that. Overall, our average size-of-deal in Q4 went up 75 percent, compared to previous quarters.

“For me, the most impactful sales-related courses I’ve taken on LinkedIn Learning were Asking Great Sales Questions and Selling With Stories,” Account Executive Chris Tamasi, who is also on my team, said.  “Asking more targeted sales questions has uncovered deeper pain with prospects and given me the ability to frame relevant stories to drive ultimate impact during the discovery phase of the sales process.”

3 Tactics I Used to Build a Learning Culture Among my Team

Here are three tactics I used to help build a culture of learning among my team, which drove a 17-fold increase in learning – and ultimately helped my salespeople have better results.

    1. Choose a team leader to help drive the initiative.

It made a huge difference to have someone other than myself helping drive our learning culture. I would not have been anywhere near as successful without the support of one of my sales reps who helped lead our learning initiative, Jake Bernstein.

Jake gave the program validity and helped avoid the feeling of a top-down initiative. He even created a slide each week that tracked KPIs, celebrated the person who watched the most LinkedIn Learning courses that week while also (politely) pointing out the person who watched the least. Having a colleague, instead of just a boss, helping push this along made a huge difference, both from a positioning standpoint and from frankly a bandwidth standpoint as well.

My advice for managers looking to build a learning culture: select someone on your team who has a strong growth mindset and will lean-in to help drive adoption across the group.

    2. Map course recommendations to the biggest needs of your team.

This seems obvious, but this played an integral role in the success of our learning culture.

On a weekly basis, I would identify sales skills my team needed to further develop (guided by my learnings from coaching sessions) and find LinkedIn Learning courses that mapped to those specific skills gaps. Whether it was Asking Great Sales QuestionsSelling with Stories or Solution Selling, I made sure it directly applied to what we were working on as a group.

The beautiful thing about LinkedIn Learning is the incredible Lynda.com content library that powers the tool. Any team, in any organizational function (HR, finance, IT, leadership, etc.), can find an abundance of relevant content that maps to what they are working on. And that’s key – at least in my experience, the more the course applies to an employee’s biggest development need, the better.  

    3. Empower your team to assign courses, too.

Giving your team ownership over their own development is, in my opinion, the most important piece to creating a culture of learning.

A frontline manager can assign content to their team until they are blue-in-the-face, but empowering team members to recommend courses to each other – possible through LinkedIn Learning’s admin console – is incredibly effective. The proof: every time employees were recommended a course by one of their colleagues, they completed it.

Additionally, the peer-recommended courses always aligned with what I would have recommended myself (if I had thought of it first!). Granting admin permissions to my team added tremendous value and empowered my team to own their own personal and professional development.

The takeaway

In today's business environment, it is hard to argue that learning isn't core to organizational success. Having a skilled workforce positively impacts productivity, strengthens retention and helps build a leadership pipeline to ensure future success.

But how can companies foster learning at the ground level without making it a top down corporate mandate? Based on my experience, it's about manager activation. Frontline managers are the best resource for companies to drive business outcomes through learning – but many companies struggle with engaging and supporting these managers as they embark on their learning journey.

Hopefully, these tactics show how a manager can overcome that and build a learning culture among their team.

Want to learn more? Happy to chat with anyone seeking to create learning opportunities for their teams, just shoot me or my team lead Jake an InMail and we can chat further.

*Image of Jason Abrams and his sales team