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December 8, 2016

A Single Trick You Learned in 3rd Grade Can Help You Master Sales

At this point we’ve probably all heard the advice about cramming the night before a big test: You’re wasting your time since the human brain isn’t equipped to take on so much information at once. You would do better to relax and get a good night’s sleep.

This actually isn’t true.

There is a common misconception that cramming the night before is the wrong way to go about acing a test.  According to Robert Bjork, psychology department chair at UCLA and a top expert in human learning and memory, cramming can actually be a good thing when it comes to getting a good grade.  Studies show that even if a student doesn’t know the material and hasn’t appropriately spaced their studying across the semester, cramming all night may actually enable them to perform well on the exam.

But (you knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you?) – shortly thereafter the information they were able to accurately recall for the test starts to disappear from the mind.  Cramming only forms temporary connections in the brain. The information only gets stored in short-term memory.  For attaining a depth of understanding that can carry over to other courses or areas of life, cramming is a poor strategy.

So while cramming can work for students looking to survive a single test, the question is, does it work for sales professionals? Because that’s essentially what the classic “fly-everyone-in-for-two-days-of-PowerPoint” sales training amounts to! And unless each of your sales engagements is a one-off (in which case you’ve got bigger problems), it’s obvious that for articulating a complex value message to a hyper-informed 21st century buyer, you’ll be dead in the water without a deep understanding of your buyer, product, and more.  We can’t afford to rely on cramming when it comes to the crucial information needed to inspire buyers to say “yes.”

Spaced Repetition – The Key to Mastery

The only effective way to truly retain and understand the information that matters most is to align our learning strategies with the way the brain works.

We know that new information entering the brain is immediately put on a path that leads to eventual disappearance if it isn’t used.  Studying new information in intervals over an extended period of time – instead of doing them all at once – lets the brain know this information is important and must be retained.  This reinforcement learning technique, known as “spaced repetition” learning, has been studied and utilized for many years in a variety of contexts.

Learning with flashcards is one of the most common applications that we probably all have some experience with.  A widely used technique is to go through and try to answer one flashcard at a time over a specific time interval each day – creating a workflow for yourself that contains both a stack of cards you got right and a stack you got wrong.  The ones you answered correctly, you put into a stack that you’ll revisit less frequently in the future, whereas the ones you answered incorrectly, you move into a stack scheduled for frequent visits.

Performing these repetitions for just a very brief period of time each day drills this information deep into memory.

The Modern Seller

A key objective for us at Allego has been to apply these principles to the modern sales learning platform. This week we are excited to announce the release of Allego 4.0 which includes a “Flash Drills” feature that we believe will take our customers’ sales performance to a new level.

This capability provides a gamified use of flashcards and spaced repetition learning with push notification or email alerts reminding reps to practice using the Flash Drills – all in intelligently spaced intervals determined by the software.  How can managers be sure reps are using the flashcards in the right way?  The software uses artificial intelligence capabilities to identify improvement areas to drill reps on, as well as occasionally provide a refresher on information they’ve already mastered.

Automated, video game style accolades engage users and encourage participation, while progress read-outs keep reps and sales managers apprised of progress and mastery (no surprises!).  Reporting features will allow managers to monitor Flash Drills performance and participation by topic, team, and individual rep using heat maps.  Managers can track various groups and time periods to allow for comparisons over time and across teams.

The B2B buying landscape has undergone dramatic changes in recent years and we know that customers have already gotten a slew of information about our products, market and competitors on their own before they ever talk to us.  It is essential we ensure our frontline reps have superior command of the finer points of our products, as well as our buyers’ business problem so they are fully equipped to fluently articulate how our solution is the only answer to it.

For more on how you can revolutionize your organization’s sales performance by implementing spaced repetition learning using Allego Flash Drills, click here.

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