Did you know that more than half (56%) of organisations now deliver learning to external, non-employee, channel partners such as distributors, wholesalers – and yes, independent salespeople? While that’s an encouraging statistic, it does beg the question: Why are the other 44% not doing this?
A fully informed and customer-ready sales rep is worth their weight in gold – and in the world of direct selling, where the self-employed salesforce is often par for the course, extending L&D to these key customer audiences/channel partners, is fundamental to performance success.
Learning that links the supply chain
The reality is that learning should be optimising profitability across the entire business ecosystem. Why? Because it holds the key to making every individual – employee or otherwise – perform at their best.
In fact, when you think about the role that customer-facing sales representatives play in building brand loyalty, could it not be argued that business leaders should be prioritising learning for these end-of-supply-chain audiences?
Keeping pace with knowledge change
Add to this the fact that fast-moving product lines and continual knowledge change mean rapid upskilling is especially important in the direct selling industry. In this environment, field salespeople need ongoing, continual education if organisations are to support productivity, drive revenue, increase retention, and deliver consistently great customer experiences.
Modern learning technology is certainly a key driver here – but not just any technology. The solution lies in empowering direct sellers to access and instantly apply the exact knowledge they need to solve problems in the flow of work. To do this, independent sales reps must have continual access to the organisation’s corporate brain – a company-specific search engine full of explicit organisational knowledge and experience-based, tacit know-how.
Sales metrics that matter
Get this right, and the enterprise will be well on its way to building an extended learning ecosystem that generates bigger revenue return. But while revenue is of course central to business success, it’s not the only sales metric that matters. There’s also the significant cost-savings that come with reduced ongoing training costs, improved sales rep retention, and increased customer loyalty.
Avon: Accelerating sales with engaged learning
Avon – the direct to consumer beauty giant – is one company that is pioneering in its application of extended learning. The company has a direct seller audience made up of +5 million self-employed beauty entrepreneurs, spanning 53 markets worldwide.
To say that’s a vast and diverse audience, would be an understatement. Can you imagine being a senior sales executive in charge of even one of these markets? That alone would involve engaging with tens or hundreds of thousands of beauty reps who never work in-house, and who are disparately located. Ensuring that all of those individuals, each with their own needs and wants, are continually learning about new products and campaigns would be, to put it bluntly, a never-ending nightmare.
That is unless, like Avon, you have modern learning technology that not only supports learning to extended enterprise audiences, but which does so in a way that enables easy and instant access to knowledge in the flow of work. Technology that facilitates learning at the moment of need – and which therefore, crucially, enables direct sellers to keep pace with constantly evolving product lines. This is how we create better people experiences and drive measurable performance benefits.
Avon’s Digital Experience Manager, Andy Stamps, explains:
“We’d identified a 90-day tipping point with retention so we knew we had to create better experiences for our beauty entrepreneurs. Many have 9-5 jobs and childcare responsibilities on top of the work they do for Avon, so it was about making their lives easier by integrating the right learning content at the right touchpoints.”
After decommissioning its incumbent LMS platforms and replacing them with Fuse as one unified platform for learning – both for employees and beauty entrepreneurs – the positive impact on business performance was undeniable.
Just 16 months in, 45 of Avon’s 53 markets had been onboarded to Fuse, each offering a best-fit, learner-centric experience. The platform was being actively used by 700k beauty entrepreneurs, and there were +200 individual learning communities, and +1 million pieces of learning content.
Beyond this, the platform also began to provide Avon’s beauty reps with a vital sense of connection and belonging. Direct sellers began to actively engage with one another, answering each other’s questions and sharing tacit knowledge. As Andy says, “Fuse became a means for us to engage our beauty entrepreneurs with our brand and product in a way we hadn’t been able to do before.”
Channel learning that ignites performance
Clearly, there was a strong appetite for learning amongst Avon’s beauty entrepreneur community. The real ‘show me the money’ sales metrics came in the form of an undeniable discovery, however. Data revealed that even an incremental increase in monthly visits to the platform – the difference between low frequency (1-2 visits per month) and medium frequency (3-4 visits per month) – had created dramatic uplifts of up to 320% in aggregate sales in the first 6 months alone.
And as if that wasn’t enough, there was a 20% retention increase amongst beauty reps who were engaging with the platform at a medium or high frequency, versus those who weren’t – and those same beauty reps were also producing around 6% more revenue in terms of Average Order Value.
Case studies like these demonstrate the critical value of extending enterprise L&D to external audiences – and show that in doing so, there is huge opportunity to positively transform the top line.
If you’re ready to replace channel learning complexity with a high-performance extended learning ecosystem, get in touch with the Fuse team.
Written by Roberta Gogos. Roberta is VP of Marketing at Fuse – the learning and knowledge platform that ignites people performance by giving learner’s access to the exact answers or information they need in the flow of work. Roberta has over a decade of experience in the HR and learning tech space, and specialises in brand, position, and developing strategies that build market share and profitability.