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February 11, 2014

Fix the Leaky Faucet of Sales Training

leaky-faucet‘Tis the season for sales meetings, training and various kick-off events.  It’s the time of year when most companies invest a great deal of time and money to bring the team together, learn new sales messaging, introduce new products and provide the knowledge and support sales teams need to be successful.


That is the sound of leaking knowledge – the training, information and skills that are NOT being retained or reinforced when everyone is back “in-the-field” consumed with their day-to-day selling responsibilities. Research indicates that without systematic, ongoing learning and reinforcement, approximately 50% of the learning content is not retained within five weeks; that increases to 84% within 90 days.

This is often the #1 challenge we hear from sales and marketing executives responsible for training and enablement: How can we ensure that the investments we are making at training events are being built upon and reinforced once the event is over?  We have identified 4 Best Practices to ensure sales training pays off when the training event is over:

1. Practice, Practice, Practice


The best sales people are those who can transcend selling and can tell stories about success.  They can talk about new products without focusing on features but rather on business value for the buyer.  They can think on their feet and orient the conversation to the relevant issue for that specific customer.  The only way to achieve this level of comfort and depth of knowledge is to practice your presentation to the point where the facts and messages become part of you, and you can transcend the sales script.


2. Immediate Relevance & Impact


Content coming from training or sales meetings will be references and used more frequently if sales people know that it can have a direct impact on winning one of their deals.  To ensure the relevancy of training, nominate top performing sales people to create material to showcase how they used the training and content to achieve their own success.  Engage the same top performers to create best practice sales presentation videos (“this is what great looks like”).  And allow sales people across the organization to create peer-knowledge stories about lessons learned in the field.


3. Video for Engaging Content


Learning happens most effectively when information is shared through multiple sensory channels.  Studies show that retention rates of information that is both seen and heard is 80% compared with 10% retention for hearing and 20% retention for seeing. Video sales coaching promotes knowledge retention, connects emotionally and can accommodate real-word situations.  Short videos can engage sales people and convey key knowledge on a just-in-time basis.


4. Coaching & Feedback


In The Dirty Secret of Effective Sales Coaching, Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson noted that their SEC study demonstrated an up-to-19% sustained improvement in the performance of sales people who received quality sales coaching.   Combined with training and practice, coaching has been shown to have the greatest impact on sales performance compared to other learning methods.  Coaching provides a way for sales people to continually improve and perfect their skills and a way for sales managers to gain visibility to issues that can then be addressed and corrected.


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