Let's Reduce Partner Learning Scrap

Even the strongest enablement programs, ones that have great learning content and resources, need to consider learning effectiveness for their intended audience.

Even the strongest enablement programs, ones that have great learning content and resources, need to consider learning effectiveness for their intended audience.

Not all environments and business cultures are conducive to all learning delivery methods.

Take, for instance, pressured sales environments - particularly those that involve complex cycles and solutions, like partner ecosystems.

Make time for effective partner learning

Collaborative sellers are constantly multi-tasking - and they have to. They are on calls for much of their day with little if any time to prepare for sales presentations, follow-up with customers, or complete their administrative work. They are constantly re-prioritizing their time based on their prospects’ schedules and needs.

When the time comes for learning, it can be hard for collaborative sellers to mentally put away all of the sales activity, lean in, and focus on learning new information. But they need to because that new information is important. It can help sellers do what they do best… work with partners to sell more, faster.

In partner ecosystems, new learning content is most likely describing a new partner or a new process that can help generate new leads or whose services or integration could increase deal size. There could be news on resources for more effective customer interactions or systems enhancements that could reduce administrative time.

You can’t learn while distracted

Whatever the learning content - it’s only helpful to a seller if they can remember the information and apply what they learned. We know this is difficult because learning time is also prime multi-tasking time. Webinars, training videos, and self-paced learnings are usually completed under a time-crunch alongside other competing deadlines.

Sellers just aren’t going to learn much under those circumstances. Realistically, who could?

It’s seen as just another task that needs to be completed - much like other administrative work. When the learning checkbox is complete, it's back to other priorities - back to business as usual. As time passes, that learning is quickly forgotten.

There’s too much learning scrap

When sellers can’t recall their learning or don’t apply it, then that learning time and effort is wasted. Such waste is referred to as learning scrap.

Learning scrap is a term that was popularized by the learning consulting group KnowledgeAdvisors (now a part of Gartner) about a decade ago. It is one of the many measures used to evaluate the effectiveness of learning programs.

Enablement leaders are re-evaluating the importance of metrics like learning scrap. It’s an exciting time for learning analytics. There are a lot of new business intelligence tools that can give insights into learning effectiveness. Many of these tools didn’t exist a decade ago.

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Leaders don’t need fancy analytics to examine learning scrap’s impact.

In its simplest calculation, learning scrap takes the total time and/or resources invested in learning and multiplies that by the percentage of scrap to get a loss estimate.

According to Training Magazine’s 2021 Training Industry Report, companies spent $1071 on training per employee on average in that year.

Learning scrap estimates fluctuate anywhere from 45% to 85% - depending on the study done and the industry examined. A fair estimate of learning scrap could be 65% (right in between) which we will use as an example.

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That means the cost of learning scrap would be $1071 * 65% = $696.15 - almost $700 per employee. But this doesn’t tell the whole story for today’s collaborative sellers.

Most learning scrap studies were done pre-pandemic when learning often took place in a face-to-face meeting room. By nature, face-to-face training reduces a lot of outside distractions and allows attendees to focus on the information being presented.

Most seller learning is now done remotely, which means no distraction insulation. The more distractions, the less is learned. Less learning means a higher learning scrap percentage, much higher than the 60% pre-pandemic benchmark. Higher learning scrap rates make training and enablement much more expensive.

The estimates also don’t consider all of the costs associated with learning and enablement dollars - like the opportunity cost for sellers or the cost of retraining.

Then there is the cost of content production, distribution, management, and reporting, which often isn’t factored in for home-grown learning programs. According to Forrester, seventy-five percent of B2B sales organizations have a dedicated sales enablement function.

If learning scrap is over 60% - then a lot of sales enablement effort and overhead is wasted. This doesn’t mean that organizations should reduce partner enablement. In fact, enablement, as a whole, is on a huge growth trajectory.

How to improve partner learning rates

Instead of doubling or tripling down on partner learning and enablement efforts that continue with the same learning scrap rate - partner enablement functions should look to reduce the scrap rate, thus getting more return for the effort and budget.

One of the most effective ways to impact the scrap rate is to reduce the time between learning and application. Learning scrap isn’t just what sellers aren’t learning; it’s also what they are not applying.

If a seller can learn key partner information and use that information with their prospects right away, then the forget-and-move-on effect can be reduced significantly.

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Sales managers can have a huge impact on learning scrap by helping their sellers apply what they learn as soon as possible.

Sales managers and partner enablement need to be aligned. There should not be compromises and priority conflicts for partner selling and partner learning - they should be integrated.

There should also be a tight feedback loop between sales leaders and partner enablement functions, so everyone knows that the information is being applied. Only then can the information and delivery methods be evaluated for effectiveness.

If the content isn’t learned or used, it can’t be fairly evaluated for effectiveness.


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