There is always something more sales reps can do to perfect their craft, but, unfortunately, there's not always enough time to learn what that is. Bob Heuber discovered the truth to this when he became vice president of sales and development at Athenahealth, a provider of cloud-based services and mobile tools for the health industry, and was tasked with improving sales reps' efficiency.
"Sales is not a nine-to-five job," he says. "It's a job of infinite possibilities, and you get out of it what you put into it. But reps work really, really hard. They don't have time to get onto seminars and training videos and things like that."
Heuber had tested various methods to keep his reps at the top of their game. He tried sending weekly educational emails, but found there was no way to know whether they were effective. "We'd [also] do a weekly sort of marketing update. [But] for a salesperson to take a half hour out of their day and listen [is not] always [practical]."
Heuber turned to Force Management, a sales consulting and training services firm in Charlotte, North Carolina. The firm steered Athenahealth toward its Command of the Message training program, which is designed to help reps solve problems that might come up in a sales scenario.
Force Management suggested supplementing the Command of the Message program with the QStream solution, which QStream CEO Duncan Lennox describes as "Jeopardy! for salespeople." The program, developed using research from Harvard University Medical School, incorporates psychology and neuroscience discoveries into the context of a learning program.
QStream works with a set of questions that are emailed twice a week to each sales rep. While each user receives the same sets of questions, the order in which the questions are given is based on sophisticated algorithms that cater to each user's needs. "[The program focuses] on [reps'] areas of difficulty and [doesn't waste] their time on things they've shown mastery of. Everyone gets a catered experience, even though they're competing in the same game against each other," Lennox says.
When designing QStream, Lennox wanted to ensure that the program would stimulate ongoing use, rather than cause reps to abandon it. What's most important, Lennox says, is that reps actually answer the questions they're given. "We need them to do that on an ongoing basis. What happens a lot with so-called 'gamification-type stuff' is that it's easy to do something novel that catches somebody's attention the first or second time, but we have to have a mechanism that gets people coming back every time."
Athenahealth's pilot run consisted of 85 salespeople, led by Heuber. Each session took two to three minutes to complete. Heuber found the sessions were enjoyable for reps and encouraged friendly competition. "As soon as I finished my questions, it would tell me what my score was overall. It would show me where I ranked out of the eighty-five and then show me who had the highest score. It was a way of immediately seeing not only who was participating, but adding a little fun to it [as well]," Heuber says.
After two months, almost 94 percent of Athenahealth's sales reps were engaged in the program. Participating sales reps went from answering the QStream questions correctly 69.25 percent of the time on the first try to 97.49 percent over the same period, an increase of approximately 30 percent.
Using Force Management in combination with QStream, Athenahealth saw the following results:
- a 94 percent engagement rate;
- a 30 percent increase in knowledge of core concepts after 2 months; and
- an increased visibility into user activity.