What’s Missing from Today’s Sales Training Programs?
Think about the last time you attended a company sales training programs for onboarding, sales kickoff or any other corporate event. Now, compare that to your high school or college learning experience. Chances are, the two are vastly different. Students don’t become subject matter experts from simply attending one lecture. You need to study up a bit, do some homework and take a couple follow-up tests and quizzes on the material. In most cases, sales training simply doesn’t provide this so programs suffer as a result.
The Challenge with Sales Training
U.S. companies spend an estimated USD20 billion annually on training. Sales organizations spend much of this funding on elaborate events where they fly participants in, force-feed a steady diet of PowerPoints and then send off with little or no follow-up. Not surprisingly, the ROI of sales training simply isn’t there — in fact, studies indicate that participants in lecture-style training forget more than 80 percent of the information within 90 days.
The fundamental problem lies within the very structure of corporate training delivery: intense yet infrequent bursts — such as annual sales kickoffs — or lengthy, one-size-fits-all courses.
When sales organizations rely on text-heavy, one-time events they subject their reps to a well-studied phenomenon known as “The Forgetting Curve.” This phenomenon causes knowledge retention to steadily decline in the absence of continued exposure. In fact, as much as 50 to 80 percent of material can be lost as soon as the day after initial training and up to 98 percent within 30 days. Even if sales reps understand everything taught during a session, chances are they’ll have forgotten most of the content when they actually go to apply it. This is because baseline training courses only put new information into short-term memory. So if the forgetting curve represents the functioning of a normal, healthy mind, what can sales trainers do to combat it?
For more information on the forgetting curve and its impact on sales organization, download the whitepaper How the Forgetting Curve Saps Sales Effectiveness—Understanding and Overcoming the Top Barrier to Sales Learning
Reinforcement and Repetition are Key to Effective Sales Training
Borrowing from higher education, organizations can create successful sales learning programs that provide reps with ubiquitous access to materials, including supplemental resources that reinforce what’s already been taught. Additionally, these programs should deliver learning in bite-sized chunks repeated over time to move knowledge into long-term memory.
Mobile devices, video and audio recording capabilities can transform antiquated and episodic training techniques into modern, continuous learning experiences. Below are 4 examples of the technologies and techniques organizations can use to improve knowledge retention.
4 Ways Sales Organizations Can Improve Retention
Reinforce new learning
A technique involving the periodic reinforcement of new learning, called spaced repetition, prevents the forgetting curve by moving new knowledge into long-term memory. The brain determines which information is most important by registering how often it’s presented. The more we revisit a concept, the more we strengthen the information pathways for future recall.
Organize information into bite-sized pieces
Presenting information in small chunks reduces cognitive load and gives learners a sense of empowerment by reducing the perceived burden of learning. Microlearning describes any learning model that operates on the principle that people learn more effectively when content is broken into smaller units and delivered in short sessions. Since learners can review information on their own schedule, it’s much easier for them to engage throughout a busy week — even for just a few minutes between meetings or calls.
Reach reps when they want to learn
Just-in-time learning gives sales reps continuous access to training materials and content they can pull down at the exact time of need — usually at deal time — when they’re most motivated to learn.
Engage multiple senses
Research shows using pictures along with words improves retention, and people learn even more effectively when audio is included in the mix. For example, when people hear information, they usually only recall about 10 percent three days later. However, adding visuals increases the retention rate to 65 percent.
The Role of Video in Sales Training Programs
Video plays a key role in sales training programs and delivers massive value to millennial workers, who now comprise the largest segment of the workforce. In fact, not only do millennials prefer video as a training tool, but studies have shown that that 87 percent would choose to work for a video-enabled organization over one that’s not.
Once sales trainers understand the way the brain works, organizations can implement practices and technology that take advantage of the strategies outlined above. Supplementing traditional classroom training with just-in-time and reinforcement learning makes training more convenient, engaging and effective, and ultimately results in greater ROI on sales training.