When it comes to absorbing important information, all of us have almost certainly heard the expression “drinking from a fire hose.”  The mind is not hardwired to absorb, learn and comprehend material in a meaningful way by the fire hose method. Just as most of the water from a fire hose would end up on the ground and not in your stomach, so it goes with traditional training approaches that jam one-size-fits all material into marathon sessions that are rapidly forgotten and soon out of date. In fact, research shows that event-based training is highly ineffective on its own, with an estimated 98 percent of the information learned at an in-person training forgotten within the first 30 days.

Fortunately, the principles of a modern approach to learning are becoming clear, including in sales training. Traditional approaches can’t keep up with the cutthroat competition and rapidly evolving markets that salespeople face. In response, sales training and enablement teams have evolved their approach, incorporating new technologies and learning science to enable their sales teams and managers to learn, retain and execute more successfully. When training combines technology and learning science, sales reps are increasingly able to hone their skills and gain the knowledge they need to make the most of each selling situation.

The foundation of modern learning is based on five key principles.

1. Modern learning content is easy to create, access and absorb.

Traditional learning content takes weeks or months to create, has a finite shelf-life, and cannot always be accessed on demand in the field. In order to reimagine traditional learning, technology has a paramount role to play. Social networks and mobile technology, in particular, have fundamentally changed the way we communicate and share information, from quick text messages to compelling social posts. Technology can also dramatically enhance the way we learn and train. To keep sales teams current, modern learning content must be easy to create and share, with all contributions rewarded. Technology must enable it to be “fingertip-accessible,” wherever and whenever reps need to educate themselves in order to stay ahead of the competition. Modern learning content must also be easy to absorb using video and other complementary formats.

2. Modern learning is both bite-sized and spaced over time.

Instead of overwhelming salespeople with too much information to comprehend all at once, modern learning delivers bite-sized content distributed over time, enabling reps to digest and build on each piece to achieve mastery. The material then takes on a practical, actionable form that also eases the perceived burden on reps and reduces the costs of both lost knowledge and lost selling time that comes from taking reps out of the field.

3. Modern learning is personalized.

In aiming for consistency, most organizations tend to deliver training using a cookie-cutter approach. While well intentioned, subjecting all sales reps to the same material ignores the sellers’ individual needs. Seasoned sales reps may be inclined to tune out the training and miss critical new information, while new reps may be overwhelmed by more information than they can comprehend. Modern learning eliminates the clutter to identify knowledge and competency gaps unique to the individual and shore up those areas to prepare them for specific selling situations. This customized approach is not only more efficient, but the more useful, relevant material motivates learning.

4. Modern learning incorporates reinforcement.

As with most things, in sales training, practice makes perfect. In the absence of consistent follow-up activities, sales reps are likely to forget much or even most of what they learn, and as a result, performance suffers over time. Modern learning incorporates reinforcement, coaching and short exercises spaced over time to ingrain training into long-term memory. Then, salespeople can easily recall pertinent details and incorporate them into their customer conversations. Mobile devices are vital, as they allow reps to continuously access new learning material – for example, through short quizzes delivered via push notifications.

5. Modern learning includes informal learning.

While formal training establishes knowledge foundations, true learning takes place in the application of that knowledge in the field. Many of us have heard that on average, 70 percent of a person’s learning at work is internal and experience-based, 20 percent comes from interacting with fellow employees and 10 percent is the result of formal training. Modern learning complements formal training with informal, on-the-job exchanges with managers for coaching and with peers for immediate, just-in-time content.

Overall, people think in stories and visuals. We would rather consume information that doesn’t overwhelm us, and we appreciate feedback and best practices shared by both managers and peers. While almost everyone has had to drink from the fire hose at one time or another, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who benefited from it in the long term.

Modern learning considers the way the brain learns naturally, which can help employees across the corporation – not just in sales – to more easily and effectively learn, retain and use new information. Where the human brain leaves off, technology takes over, providing easy access to critical information so that employees don’t have to learn everything; they simply need to be able to access it where and when it’s needed.