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You can throw out those old sales manuals now

The three-ring binder is getting a digital upgrade.

Companies long have relied on written sales materials and in-person training sessions to ensure their sales reps are on the same page.

LearnCore has moved sales training materials online and taken advantage of webcams to allow salespeople to do virtual role-playing. Using screen-capture technology, the company also can record how salespeople explain and demonstrate products for customers. The training can be delivered virtually when it's convenient for the user. It's also easier to track employee progress and completion online than on paper.

The company was launched in late 2010 as VLinks Media by University of Michigan grads Vishal Shah and Ethan Linkner, who were unimpressed by traditional study guides and prep classes for graduate school exams. As an alternative, they built an interactive online platform and signed up education companies Kaplan and Pearson as customers.

“We generated early revenue from education, which helped fund the company,” says Ryan Leavitt, a fellow Michigan classmate who joined LearnCore in 2012 as chief revenue officer. “Corporate training had innovated as little as education. We took it to corporations, and they said, 'We like this. How do we get it?' ”

Shipping company C.H. Robinson uses LearnCore in Chicago, where it has a sales force of about 500, for training programs that last four weeks to six months. “New employees are able to sell faster than we'd seen in the past, because they get so much more practice,” says Carmen Smith, a human resources manager at the company. The cost per user—Learncore licenses its software for $4 to $34 per user per month—“is about what we'd typically pay for a two-day in-person training class.”

Among LearnCore's other 90 or so customers are online computer seller CDW and tech companies AOL, Zendesk, Bazaarvoice and RSA Security. The company says sales quintupled last year and the business is profitable.

Matt Spiegel is a Chicago advertising-technology entrepreneur who invested in LearnCore. “Most places I've worked in corporate America spent so little money on training,” he says. “If you look at millennials and what they want in the workplace, leaders are recognizing they have to invest in their people.”

LearnCore plans to double staff by year-end to about 60. It also has to crank up its sales engine to take on competitors Brainshark of Waltham, Mass.; HireVue of South Jordan, Utah; and Cornerstone OnDemand of Santa Monica, Calif.

Shah, 31, worked in finance after earning a bachelor's degree in economics in 2007. Linkner, 32, graduated in 2006 with a bachelor's in psychology and philosophy and went on to work for a digital marketing firm now known as HelloWorld. Shah and Leavitt also co-founded Catapult, a co-working space for startups, with two attorneys from law firm Foley & Lardner. The River North shared office was LearnCore's home until last year, when the company moved to the Loop.