Podcasts for Sales Learning — Is that a Thing?
- Podcasting has witnessed a boom in engagement with more senior-level executives
- SiriusDecisions research reveals that while podcasts don’t prove to be effective for sales-specific learning, they are effective for communications
- Podcasts are most effective when they’re part of an integrated communications plan with the field
Over the past several years, podcasting has witnessed a boom in popularity — and it seems like everyone from [insert your favorite celebrity here] to your neighbor’s kids has gotten in on the action. 2019 has been a breakout year for podcasting, with more than 700,000 podcasts and 29 million episodes commercially available today.
So, color me surprised when the SiriusDecisions Sales Talent Study revealed that both B2B sales practitioners and their managers indicated that their least preferred way to learn is via podcasts. In addition, sales enablement professionals indicated that podcasts are the least effective tool in their kit when it comes to onboarding and ongoing education for their teams of “enablees.”
The reason I was surprised is that I am often asked by clients to recommend best practices for podcasts because their sales leaders have been pressuring them to get on the podcast bandwagon. I also previously worked with an organization that issued podcasts for sales that they really looked forward to. These podcasts humorously invoked the latest current event — be it the World Series, the Oscars, the latest trending meme, you name it — and tied it nicely with the week’s updates and latest “need to know” information. It was entertaining, engaging and created a great deal of awareness for key initiatives.
Oh, wait a minute … I just got it.
Here’s what the SiriusDecisions study revealed — podcasts don’t prove to be effective for learning. The delivery channel is a one-way communication with no means to see if the listeners “got” what was being taught. There is no visual that accompanies the podcast to help embed the content into listeners’ everyday behaviors. Thinking back to best practices of onboarding and ongoing sales learning — tell me what I need to know, show me what good looks like, observe me doing it — podcasts do fall short.
Maybe what your sales leadership is asking you to create is a way to “get to” and engage dispersed, remote teams. When creating a podcast, consider the following guidelines to effectively launch the latest tool in your kit:
- Present content or information that doesn’t require a visual component. Podcasts should focus on awareness, not learning complex subjects. A few examples of topics that work best with audio might include announcements for the upcoming sales kickoff, high-level details for the new product launch, short interviews or sales profiles where new team members are asked three to five questions. You get the idea — it’s about awareness and need-to-know.
- Get creative through good storytelling. Although it might be tempting to just “wing it” on a podcast — or simply read announcements that you were going to include in an email update — this won’t keep your audience coming back for more. Storytelling engages the brain differently and will capture your readers’ attention; therefore, you must carefully plan your content and provide value aside from the rote business update — remember, “facts tell, stories sell.”
- Don’t be a policy pusher. Sure, leveraging a podcast is a good opportunity to communicate updates on policies and procedures — but do so sparingly. Sales reps will want to hear success stories so they can emulate that big win. They’ll want to hear from their leaders to get the message they are part of something bigger than themselves.
- Provide easy access. Don’t assume that your audience will always listen to podcasts in their car on the way to customer meetings. Provide easy access to podcasts within their everyday workflow and deliver them in multiple ways to cater to different engagement cadences (e.g. email links, portals, channel subscriptions), and keep a podcast repository in the sales asset management system.
- Make the investment to do it right. It might be tempting to pull up your computer microphone and hit record, but remember that production quality can go a long way in engaging your listeners and keep them coming back for more. Don’t skimp when it comes to your production quality. No, you don’t need to hire out a radio studio to record, but at the very least, invest in a good microphone and editing software.
- Measure impact. If you can’t connect your podcasts directly to business results, even with the smallest investment of resources, make sure there is a way to measure impact and engagement with your listeners. Before embarking on the podcast journey, clearly define and communicate objectives and ensure the content aligns. Build in an easy feedback mechanism to continually get insight on your content, production value, delivery method, etc. This way, you can adapt as you go, provide podcast episodes your listeners will look forward to and ensure podcasts continue to be relevant and valuable.
Although podcasts provide a great opportunity to engage dispersed teams, recognize that this type of communication is one way. Podcasts are most effective when they’re part of an integrated communications plan with the field. Apply these guidelines and launch your podcast program with great buzz — not crickets!