Without even the slightest prodding from you, every night your sales team goes home and curls up by the fire with their cup of General Foods International Coffee, sets Pandora on the Yianni channel, and reviews their sales training binders over and over again.
If you don’t reinforce sales training, make it easy for the team to stay engaged, and stay on it with enough energy (most don’t), even good training is likely to fail eventually.
Months after a sales training event, salespeople too often say:
- “I don’t remember what was covered in the sales training program.”
- “I don’t know enough to use the tools and apply the advice.”
- “I didn’t get enough practice to feel confident enough to give
it a try.”
- “I tried something and it didn’t work…not sure if I did it wrong.”
- “I’m pretty sure the powers that be don’t remember that this was a priority anyway.”
Most sales training is focused around a two- or three-day event where salespeople learn and practice new skills. The problem with event-only training is that the effects of the event fade.
Without reinforcement, it’s nearly impossible to make learning stick. Then you don’t get the changes in behavior and increased performance results you’re looking for.
With event-only training, after short-term bumps in sales improvement, salespeople forget learned skills and knowledge, forget how inspired and motivated they were given what they covered, and the learning effectiveness decreases.
Indeed, ES Research estimates that 85 percent to 90 percent of sales training fails after 120 days because sales training is not reinforced. The team may even remember, “We had that great training,” but they don’t remember what they covered enough to put it to use over the long haul.
Adult learning is an ongoing process. Only through repetition and practice will your sales team internalize the training and consistently put it to use.
7 Ideas for Reinforcement
If you want to get reinforcement right, consider the following:
- Live in-person training: Sales training and learning to play golf, or piano, or dance are not dissimilar in one respect: one lesson won’t do it. Having continued lessons, practice, concepts and discussions are instrumental in building real capability over time.
- Content email: Reinforce concepts, tips, and expectations of behaviors in regular email. An easy-to-read email one, two, or three times a week keeps the mind engaged and improves retention.
- Scenario emails: Give salespeople a chance to practice their situational skills by giving them situations to analyze, and a number of possibilities from which to choose. Then use web technologies to allow them to make a choice, and give them immediate feedback on whether their choice was most advisable and why.
- Live webinars: Creating reinforcement and deep-dive 45 minute programs on specific topics can help reinforce and deepen learning.
- Online lessons: These days people remember they learned something, and want to access it right when they need it. Providing always-available online lessons that learners can access when they need is essential in any reinforcement program.
- Online best practice community: Nothing creates engagement more than ongoing interaction. Sharing tips, ideas, and insights via online best practice communities (and managing them well) creates and sustains engagement, and can raise the bar on overall productivity.
- Coaching: Here’s the greatest reinforcement technology of them all: a person that knows what their doing, dedicated to supporting the continued learning and performance success of salespeople. Coach around specific goals and expectations of actions, and then hold the team accountable to the coach, each other, and themselves, and learning and behavioral change have the best chance of taking hold permanently.
Reinforce Training for Lasting Impact
When you attend to the before, during, and after of the training here’s what’s possible…
According to Peter Ostrow’s report, Sales Training: Deploying Knowledge, Process and Technology to Consistently Hit Quota, “Best-in-class companies outpace laggards by nearly a two-times factor in providing post-training reinforcement of the best practices commonly learned in classroom-style instructor-led sales education sessions. These firms have learned that long-term success depends on underscoring the best practices in sales training deployments…”
And the reinforcement makes a difference in results…
The concept that learning needs to be reinforced won’t be much of a news flash for most readers. Still, strong post-training reinforcement is the exception in sales training.
For those companies that get it right with reinforcement that works, it makes a tremendous difference in sales training effectiveness and sales results.
Mike Schultz, President of RAIN Group, is world-renowned as a consultant and expert in sales performance improvement. He's co-author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Rainmaking Conversations: How to Influence, Persuade, and Sell in Any Situation (Wiley, 2011) and was named as the Top Sales Thought Leader globally in 2011 by Top Sales Awards. You can find out more about RAIN Group at http://www.rainsalestraining.com or follow their blog at http://www.rainsalestraining.com/blog.
Written for TrainingIndustry.com