Sales and product management success through collaboration

Developing the Sales Team & Product Management Relationship for Success – CEO Insights

In this post our CEO Debbie Lawley discusses the development of effective Sales teams, and how the relationship with Product Management is crucial for success.

It depends on the business of course, but sales collaboration with product management is as important as working with the marketing team when it comes to developing the skills of the sales team. Both market intelligence inbound and proposition communication, attack and defence strategies come from product management. Recognising the blend of sales skills, with product knowledge is fundamental in developing impactful sales team development programmes.

Sales and product management success through collaboration

Supporting excellence in sales competence

I recently blogged on the development of sales teams and how, all too often, their skills development needs are a low priority. Of course, sales teams have to be led by targets, and yet well applied effort in developing the skills of sales teams can have the most rapid impact on company results.

The issue here though is that impact on sales targets through skills development comes from contributions from a number of quarters, not just from external sales trainers. The most successful programmes bring together experienced sales champions within the business, sales skills specialists, product management and programme delivery capability. The best of these are via the optimal blend of contributing parties, working together .

WillowDNA is currently delivering a number of sales development programmes, working with Kojo – a specialist company focusing on blended programmes. This combination is getting exceptional feedback. Why? Largely because we aim to work in the shoes of the learners, those sales people for whom results are key to the business, key to their customers and key to their businesses.

Kojo plans the programme by starting with a tailored value chain, one which is results focused but then shows the relationship between the knowledge flow and the outcomes.

Developing the sales and product management relationship

Click image to expand

Working with the client, we workshop the value chain for their context in order to arrive at the programme design that will hit the mark for that customer. This helps then to build the most effective programmes, pulling together the correct competence. The blend of online assets, e-learning together with well-focused launch workshops to build engagement and interest.

Developing great sales teams relies on understanding the current context. Understanding the maturity of the sales team is a key starting point. To give you a brief insight, try taking a sample of one of our diagnostics – the Sales Maturity Test (opens an interactive PDF).


For more information on our approach to supporting sales development through online and blended learning, please contact or call +44 (0)117 370 7735.

Business survival and L&D strategy

Business survival in challenging times – L&D’s strategic role

During challenging times in the form of strong competition, new legislation or economic downturns / uncertainty, the L&D team can play an important strategic role in helping to ensure business survival – and even capitalising on the challenge. Here we look at some key tools and approaches that learning and development leaders might adopt to adapt.

Business survival and L&D strategy


Supporting excellence

Excellence in innovation is a tricky capability to instil in any organisation. It doesn’t sit within a team but in an attitude. And yet it is increasingly at the heart of survival for most businesses. Watch the high street – there are survivors, ‘thrivers’ and sad departures. Most of this is down to the organisation’s capability to innovate through learning fast enough. Can L&D support this capability?

It can, but only by being at the heart of the biggest challenges the company faces. If L&D specialists are not in the discussion, they are not in the solution. How L&D engages with the biggest challenges is largely down to the way in which they help to instil the most helpful behaviours in the leadership team. So openness to ideas, exposing proposals and developments early in the cycle to a wider, critical audience are all part of those behaviours.


Tech tools as part of the solution

Including well-focused tools to enable collaborative working and problem solving is part of the answer and there are plenty out there. Digital literacy for L&D is not optional, much the same at it is for most roles within organisations. It is a question of finding the right tool for the job and there is a confusion array of options out there, the most obvious one being the Learning Management System itself.

There is the very helpful list of tools for learning put together by Jane Hart of C4lpt. The directory changes all the time and the variety is considerable. Tools like Slack and Trello are the team working/project collaboration aids, whereas Snagit and Scoopit focus on collection and collation. Then there are die-hards such as SurveyMonkey and new kids like Typeform. There are tools that are not on that list yet – ideeter sits neatly in the innovative support area as a rapid insights tool by setting challenges where either closed or open groups can participate in idea gathering. Quick, neat tools that address particular needs are invaluable to the L&D specialist.

Distilling the output in creative courses, resources and online academies is the way to ensure that effort is well-collated, curated and ‘owned’ by the people closest to the subject. Keeping the learning effort focused on performance, the beating heart of the company, is the best insurance for direct business impact.



Learning before doing, during and after is all part of the solution and creating toolkits to do this is key to L&D success in supporting collaborative behaviours. On top of this, collaborative behaviours are key to successful innovation. As ever, platforms and tools need people and supportive behaviours to result in innovative places to work and learn. The role of L&D sits at the heart of this.

The differences that mark innovative cultures apart from zombie cultures are pretty easy to spot.

Strong collaboration

  •  shared outcomes
  •  feedback on results of projects/launches
  •  subject matter experts identified and available to help
  •  good practice captured and shared
  •  opportunities to learn from others
  •  members contribute to improved process and procedures
  •  peer assists

Weak collaboration

  •  ‘feels political’
  •  one-way communication
  •  lack of commitment
  •  low participation
  •  low visibility of work and outcomes
  •  focused only on immediate individual task delivery
  •  lack of consistency
  •  reduced capability to innovate


The role of the L&D team

L&D’s ability to build a toolkit to support leadership can make the difference. This includes tools to capture challenges and achieve input outside the usual boundaries, techniques for learning from others before embarking on new projects, problem sharing and exposing failures for wider discussion.

Pulling those assets together as a set of resources is where Learning Management Systems (LMS) can sit well. So rather than being the repository for compliance alone, the LMS becomes the hub of distilled learning and practice for the organisation. The success of this is likely to be down to who ‘owns’ the challenges and the expertise which is collated in the LMS.

The relationship between those who feel responsibility within the business, the pain of the problems and the drive to succeed with the well-framed practice within the LMS will be at the heart of this – not sitting still, but timely, relevant and constantly adapting – just like our organisations need to. L&D teams are catalysts in this and they can be the agency that addresses innovation in problem solving through behaviours and tools resulting in agile business outcomes.


Sources & Tools for Further Reading

Every Company Needs An Innovation Tool Kit by Soren Kaplan


Matt Donovan for a whistle stop tour of innovation and new tech in 2018


End of the enterprise era


Practical applications in gamification


Julian Stodd – a guide to the social age


Harold Jarche – Four basic skills for 2020


Jane Hart – Top tools lists

Sales Training Blend

Learning and Development of Effective Sales Teams – CEO Insights

In this post on learning and development for sales teams, our CEO Debbie Lawley offers insights from her experience in helping global companies to increase both efficiency and revenues.

Supporting excellence in sales competence

Sales teams do not sit still and are at the sharpest end of business. Frequently led by challenging targets, development of the sales team and management capability can be low down the list of priorities. And yet results in this area of team development can have the most rapid impact on company results.

The question is how do learning and development approaches make a difference – and make a difference that is timely, impactful and sustainable. The reality of sales performance is that it is actually a combination of multiple competences. Capability in selling techniques is one, product knowledge is another, competitor knowledge and capability in using the organisation’s platforms and systems are yet more.

Sustainable and effective development programmes address all these and ensure the key knowledge is available at the point of need. The reach of the L&D team has to be broad enough to cover all these areas and is unlikely to be addressed in face-to-face training alone. Blended learning programmes bringing together experts, stories, competitor knowledge as well as systems and sales support are key to impactful outcomes.

In our observation of client sales academies over an extended period, we have noticed that many do well on the training and talent area, but are weak in the other three areas. Common pitfalls include:

  • The sales methodology is too vague or generic and therefore not actually used by any sales people in practice.
  • The sales methodology is “inside-out”: It was designed from the supplier’s viewpoint about how it wanted to sell rather than how clients actually buy.
  • New hires are not brought into the business effectively meaning time to competence is slow and worse still, there is a higher than necessary drop out rate.
  • The early years of the learning journey work well, but organisations struggle to develop their best sales people who’ve completed the basics.
  • The jump from sales person to sales manager is precarious and badly managed.
  • Sales enablement is non-existent: sales and marketing fight because there is no well thought out collaboration mechanism in place.
  • It’s very difficult to discover where best practice resides during changes in sales strategy or product / service focus, meaning sales are slow to grow.

The right blend can make the difference.

Sales Training Blend

Direct impact on performance, time to competence of new hires and reductions in churn rates are all achievable.  Excellence in sales development is achieved by bringing sales skills together with access to market knowledge, by involving sales managers as mentors and setting on the job assessments.

This provides Sales people with realistic and context-based learning tools to hone their skills.

For more information on our approach to supporting sales development through online and blended learning, please feel free to contact us here at WillowDNA.

Sales confidence and selling consistently

Sales Confidence: Is your team selling consistently across your offering?

How do you feel about your team’s sales confidence and can you honestly say your team is selling consistently across your whole offering?

Sales confidence and selling consistently


How Confident are Your Sales People?

If sales people lack the confidence to sell certain products within the range of your offering, figures and profits are going to suffer. Over 40% of salespeople interviewed for the 2017 state of inbound report confirmed that for them, prospecting is the most challenging part of the sales process. If this is the case then a natural response from many salespeople could be to stick to what they know – by prioritising some products over others.

Only by initiating a behavioural change can your team gain the confidence to implement the correct and most effective sales methodology, strengthening the sales across your whole product or service offering. You can achieve this by providing practical, online training that is specifically tailored to reflect your sales team’s day to day environment.

WillowDNA specialises in crafting bite-sized elearning content, using a range of mixed media assets that allow sales people access to relevant resources in the field according to their unique requirements. This ensures continual development and maintains consistent levels of best practice, ushering in the behavioural change you want to see in your team.

The Sirius Decisions sales onboarding report confirms these results, stating that high-performing sales organisations are twice as likely to provide ongoing training as low performing ones.

WillowDNA’s online platform, Pathway LMS, can be structured to give your managers direct control over their team’s ongoing training programme, making it easy to facilitate this continual development and culture of growth in your team.

Do you think the challenge of prospecting is negatively affecting your staff’s sales confidence and their approach to selling?

Contact us at WillowDNA to discuss how we can help you and your team.

Learning Technologies

Learning Technologies 2018 in Review: Microlearning, Video & Social Focus

After working with a much more diverse range of clients during 2017 and having felt my outlook as an Instructional Designer change, I was very intrigued to see what the atmosphere would be like at Europe’s leading L&D exhibition for 2018.

One thing was for certain – I did not expect the level of turnout that greeted me as I entered the Olympia centre. Everywhere I looked I could see bustling crowds of people listening to a wide range of speakers from different nations and business backgrounds; sharing their most important messages for the industry going forwards into the new year. But just what exactly were these messages? Maybe more importantly were any of them worth paying attention to?

Well the short answer is yes, but it may not be the ones you think. As I walked around trying to find the most controversial or up and coming trend, keeping one eye out for unexpected or unusual topics, I couldn’t help but notice how popular the tried and true discussion points were still, despite their relatively aged positions in the industry.


Learning Technologies


Microlearning still retained a solid and noticeable position, with multiple speakers dedicating their stage time to the deeper application of its potential. For me, and the rest of the team at WillowDNA, this proved just as exciting as any of the more fringe discussions like the role of AI chat bots in elearning and so on. It showed just how innovative and pioneering WillowDNA was over a decade ago when it first emerged on the organisational learning scene.

If microlearning is still being discussed and explored in 2018, then it is definitely a mode of learning that is here to stay. This is good news for our business as microlearning was a founding tenant of our cloud based LMS Pathway.

But it wasn’t just microlearning that retained its relevance in the 2018 conference. Seminars related to social learning technology generated a fair amount of interest, with the fostering of a user driven learning culture seemingly tapping into the ascendancy of social media within the wider world.

Ease of access and consumption convenience are facets that bleed over between social and microlearning, which could explain microlearning’s impressive buoyancy in contemporary debate. While social learning as an industry term is not a new phenomenon, by the sounds of it, the true potential and scope within elearning has yet to reach its peak. While being fairly circumstantial from business to business, social learning still has a place at the forefront of L&D debate.

Video based content also boasted a healthy contingent of speakers, who focused on angles from knowledge retention and inciting culture change to instant gratification through bite-size knowledge clips. Video as a content medium is incredibly potent, but similarly to social learning assets, it must be rendered and deployed carefully and conscientiously. We will cover the details of its effectiveness in the near future, looking into research conducted by the Fosway Group, but being emphasised within several talks indicates video based learning is still growing into its role within L&D.

These well-known L&D topics are apparently still at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds despite newer terms such as Alternate Reality and AI starting to establish beach heads in wider discourse.

I am by no means writing off these fledgling additions to the L&D arsenal, but with WillowDNA’s decade-long championing of microlearning being a case in point, things take time to emerge as dominant learning solutions. Whether that’s because the sceptics amongst us demand rigour and endurance from hot trends before accepting them or some parts of the industry arrive later to the party, the same will apply to these emerging sub-fields.

I suspect it will be some time before we see them being discussed as confidently and vigorously as the big three, Micro, Social and Video – which for me, the 2018 Learning Technologies exhibition seemed to confirm.

Rory Birch – Instructional Designer, WillowDNA 


Contact us to find out how at WillowDNA we capture social, video and microlearning within the heart of our learning solutions.

Talent Development and Learner Reflection

Learner Reflection Critical for Talent Development

Here at WillowDNA, we offer a range solutions for improving talent development, and on this post we look at how learner reflection is a critical success factor.

Talent Development and Learner Reflection

In the crazy world of L and D, half the battle is getting learners to reflect on how they work and what approach they take to learning. Reflection is how we develop as people, and within a work context, it ensures continuous development; making your people better at what they do.

Who doesn’t want that? So it makes sense that an LMS should encourage learner reflection as much as possible. Here is where Pathway LMS comes into play.

Personalised learning journeyDelegates will usually be presented with a diagnostic when they first access content on Pathway.

This can really help to bring awareness to the delegates regarding gaps in their knowledge and how the learning they are about to undertake will help to fill these deficits.

Bringing this knowledge to learners’ attentions is great for reflection, and by reinforcing this opening message throughout their journey, we can ensure they stay motivated to reach their potential.

One of the chief ways in which Pathway can retain this message throughout their delegates’ journey involves Learning Logs. This is the principle functionality that provides a reflective space for learners to pause and take stock during their learning experience.

Further to this, based upon the initial diagnostic, if level selection is enabled then certain Learning Paths may be suppressed away from the learner and others opened, depending on what they scored in the diagnostic. This curation of content also acts as an indicator to the learner that how Pathway has delivered content to them has been informed by their initial input. This is great as it again reinforces the desired message and shows learners the link between their existing skills, and the next level of competency that Pathway is steering them towards.

Learning paths checklistAnother tool that we deploy on Pathway for learner reflection is the reliable survey. Rather than cramming vanity questions as was customary for some companies in the past, surveys on Pathway can perform a powerful dual function. Not only can they induce critical reflection within the learner but they can also yield valuable data for content custodians such as HR managers and subject matter experts; so you can see where your learners are thriving and where they are struggling.

All of these processes and functionality help to foster an atmosphere of reflection along the learner’s journey. When applied effectively to a learner’s specific work environment, they can enforce positive behavioural change, something that is very valuable for talent development teams within large size corporates.

If you are interested in harnessing this power for your learning solution, come and find out how this can be achieved with Pathway. Feel free to contact us for an informal discussion about your talent development needs.
+44(0)117 370 7735


Personalised learning journey

Take Control of Your Learners’ Journey

The scope that Pathway LMS offers our clients for creating an effective learning journey is huge to say the least. Our roadmap for Pathway is based on a client-driven continuous development cycle and has plenty of exciting enhancements in store. However, for this update we thought you might be interested in finding out about the defining features of Pathway as it stands, and why it has taken its current form.


Personalised learning journeyPathway is brimming with functionality, and there are a few features that have acted as major developmental keystones. Right out of the gate is Learner Diagnostics. This functionality provides recommended level selections for initial content access. This is especially helpful for learners that are not too sure about what content they need to explore and which assets are necessary or relevant to them. Level selection is great for streaming learners based on ability or experience; this functionality helps to boost user engagement as learners will appreciate knowing that the content they are accessing has been specifically selected for their aims and needs.


Content Control

Learning content controlHaving control over your content is fundamental when it comes to delivering effective learning solutions. Pathway allows for content managers to directly access and instantly change content without third party involvement. This functionality is particularly useful for certain businesses that need to rapidly respond to industry changes and roll out compliance updates to their content.


Timely Deployment

Deployment trigger functionalityTrigger functionality allows clients to control when learners can access content and alert their learners to certain updates regarding content, assessments or evidence uploads. Suppressing content is extremely valuable for deploying lengthy programmes as the learner remains focused on the right content at the right time. This functionality works both ways, as content managers such as HR teams or learning tutors can be notified when learners access or complete content. This functionality is especially useful for businesses who need regular confirmation that their employees have accessed or completed training.


Feel free to contact us for an informal chat about your needs and to find out how WillowDNA could help you create an effective learning journey for your training requirements.
+44(0)117 370 7735


Micro-Learning: Develop, Manage & Deploy Bite Sized Training

There are many widely discussed training technology trends that fail to really take hold or that get quickly superseded, but the concept of micro-learning is one hot topic that is here to stay – because it works. Here we look at how to develop, manage and deploy bite sized training to engage and train your learners to maximum effect.


Learning messagesMost of us have probably heard by now the phrase ‘micro-learning’ floating around in industry literature. But what does it actually mean? And what kind of concrete example would take shape if we put micro-learning into practice?


Mixed media training contentAt WillowDNA we have always developed our training solutions as a mix of bite-sized assets and activities so although the term ‘micro learning’ has been buzzing around technological training for the last 18 months, we have been rendering training interventions in this way for the last 10 years! WillowDNA’s expertise lies in crafting the blend of mixed media learning designs for any client, from medium sized corporates to global institutions; bite-sized content delivery is a universal winning strategy for e-learning solutions.

Micro-learning downloads


A Micro-Learning Platform

Firstly, our cloud-based learning platform, Pathway LMS, has been developed specifically for the management of blended programmes. Pathway is made up of modular Learning Paths, which can hold any number of mixed media assets. Our clients can provide a seamless blended learning experience by creating learning paths which are made up of learning objects. These objects can range from videos, discussion boards and SCORM modules through to uploadable evidence-based assignments and podcasts.


Creating Learning Paths

Learning paths checklistLearning Paths can provide a chronological course of content, or focused packets of information that learners can quickly access. This ‘just in time’ approach is the underpinning philosophy behind micro-learning. Bite-sized training is consumable for learners, they can easily manage to fit training into their day and put aside 10 – 20 minutes per day to learn. The blend can be defined by the audience, for example exercises and tasks that can be performed in the field or assets that can be easily accessed while they are out and about, such as podcasts for people that spend much of their time in the car or downloadable job aids for those that have episodic access to devices.


Scalable e-Learning Content

Easy learning administrationThe scalability of bite-sized learning also benefits the custodians of content, from HR teams to tutors and subject matter experts. The ability to quickly respond to change and enforce that change within e-learning content is an imperative when managing any kind of learning. Pathway allows administrators to quickly and easily update or supplement content by adding and removing learning objects instead of ‘unpicking’ lengthy SCORM files or re-recording videos. Pathway allows administrators to simply insert a new Case Study or develop a new PDF/Infographic to ensure their training material keeps up to date with internal or business changes.


Bite-Size for Success – The Takeaway

Bite size learning takeawaysAs a final takeaway message, being a learner centric organisation, we know our success will always be measured by the learner experience. We have conducted extensive research across our various learner audiences and continually receive an overwhelming response that they prefer a mixed media approach and are unable to simply ‘choose’ a favourite medium. End users consistently feedback that the mixed media, bite-sized approach keeps them engaged and offers them a rich learning experience.

Feel free to contact us for an informal chat about your needs and to find out how WillowDNA could help you develop a micro-learning solution for your training requirements.
+44(0)117 370 7735

eLearning Advice from Cambridge University

What’s next for e-learning?  Short and sharp is the view from Cambridge

Commentators at Cambridge University published an article earlier this year exploring the future of e-learning and role of short snappy content, supported by the guidance of an expert tutor.  This would shape the future delivery model for students.  Back in 2013 we published a White Paper exploring exactly this concept of created and curated content that powers our learning path design concept.  

It’s a model that our clients have used across the globe to deliver more impactful learning experiences and ensure collaboration and application are sustained.

eLearning Advice from Cambridge University

More and more, our team are working with clients to create short, high impact content, from animations and quick how to videos through to game style challenges and scenarios.

Debbie Lawley, MD at WillowDNA says ‘It’s great to see the recognition that content can inspire and start a learning journey but is recognised as part of the process.  Our role as learning content and technology suppliers is to help organisations set the scene for great performance through engaging the audience and inspiring change’.

A great example of this was our work with Mediabrands on a new tools launch back in 2016

As well creating formal performance content, a key element of the programme for their new tools launch was high impact comms content, designed to feed curiosity about the new tools and start conversations throughout the business:

To accompany the formal content and encourage independent research and application of the knowledge covered in the e-learning modules, e daily google quiz, developed using Articulate Storyline was released every day for a fortnight, encouraging learners back to the LMS to take part in daily challenges and win prizes.

Online quiz

YouTube Challenge

YouTube Tools

As a compliment to this, each global office were encouraged to upload video case studies of how they were using the campaign planning cycle in new work pitches and discussing the revenue generated.  Top case studies as rated by their peers won prizes for their local office and provided useful content for the business as a whole.

Getting to know you – a video on delivering what people really need

Our head of learning solutions, Lisa Minogue-White recorded a quick video on why we need to work harder to get to know our learners and what will really make a difference.

In this 2 minute piece, she explores;

  • how to make best use of technology to help create and share resources
  • why we should create a choice architecture rather than invest in big budget programmes and,
  • how we can really make a difference through focusing our time on helping people in the application of learning