Personally, I know that I’ve become lazier about focusing on good learning habits and committing information to memory. Technology makes it so easy to look up facts with a quick keyword that I can relax knowing I have a safety net. This isn’t something I’m proud of, and I’m committing to changing my habits on how I absorb and internalize information. I’m encouraging my salespeople to be better learners as well, and reinforcement is the key.
How well my team members learn will make a difference in their daily performance. If one of my sales reps is having a sales conversation, his or her focus must be on the customer and discovering the customer’s true needs, not searching on the internet while talking on the phone. Obviously, this way of working would be disastrous during a face-to-face meeting with a prospect.
No one wants to see the sales team stumbling through calls. Sales training is designed to teach new techniques and skills. Most of us do a great job at the beginning of the year with our traditional sales kick-off meetings. However, when we are just a few weeks into the year, this training is already starting to fade. Often, we don’t have a plan for reinforcement. According to the Aberdeen Group, only 44 percent of organizations use post-training reinforcement to provide long-term support for their sales teams after initial training. At those firms, the investment pays off, with an average of 79-percent team attainment of sales quota versus 69 percent for those without continuing training.
Act now, before it’s too late. Build on the momentum you created at the sales kick-off, and add repetition and practice to cement the desired sales behaviors. This reinforcement will turn the behaviors into habits. Post-training reinforcement continues to refresh the sales team to make both short-term and long-term goals easier to reach.
By neglecting this next step in training, we inadvertently set ourselves up for failure. Brain science has proven that most of our learning is lost after the first 90 to 120 days, yet usually, sales training is planned around a fun two- or three-day motivational event. Often, there is no intentional follow-up after that. No matter how great the event was, the enthusiasm fades, and true long-term learning simply doesn’t happen.
Here are some best practices that will help your sales team internalize the training and improve their skills:
- Design training for the long term: Develop an overall plan that includes refreshers throughout the year.
- Chunk information and keep reinforcement learning modules short. Use brief (five minutes or less) learning capsules containing solid information that immediately helps salespeople at the time they really need it and on their schedules.
- Make information easy to access, searchable and fast. Information and training should be part of the daily workflow. Make it accessible in just two or three clicks. Integrate it into your CRM to eliminate the need for another system.
- Combine content, training and coaching. Having all three in context, when a sales rep needs it, is most effective.
- Create interactive activities. Challenge salespeople with examples, and have them participate in providing answers. Games and exercises are fun, and they improve memory.
- Track training modules and virtual coaching activities. As the sales leader, review regular reports. They are a quick snapshot of how well salespeople are progressing and improving. Gaps will become obvious, and you can make adjustments along the way.
Technology can make post-training reinforcement even easier, since tools are at everyone’s fingertips and available all the time. Keep in mind that these tools are designed using brain science to help with memory retention and skill adoption. With the technology available today, learning modules can be automated and fun for everyone to use, and, even better, they don’t add to the workload. We know that with reinforcement and practice, it’s possible to make learning stick.