Oh no, not more sales training?

By Bryan McCrae of Sales Motivations

We’ve all been there, subjected to boring, instantly forgettable training.

I remember, many years ago when I was training to be a sales person that some of the training consisted of sitting in a room by myself, watching the video and listening to someone drone on about various sales techniques. I’m absolutely certain that I slept through a significant proportion of them, despite my best efforts to stay awake.

Of course, in these enlightened times, we all know better, don’t we ?

Well, I’m not always very convinced, in particular when it comes to training and development activities delivered as e-learning. The trouble is that it is really easy to produce very poor e-learning materials very quickly. In fact there are quite a few tools out here that do it virtually automatically if you point them at a few PowerPoint slides.

Consider what happened when you learnt to drive. It probably went something like this;

The basic controls were explained and demonstrated.

The basic ‘rules of the road’ were explained.

From now on, you’re in the driving seat…..

You were taken through various tasks one at a time, pulling away, steering, changing gear, braking and so on.

 Over a period of several weeks you practised the skills, gradually adding in more as your level of skill improved, such as reversing, overtaking and parking.

 You probably practised the skills in between lessons, until they became habits.

 Some of those skills were more difficult to acquire than others, so you kept practising them over and over until you mastered them.

 You ventured onto different types of roads and traffic conditions.

 You learned what to do in unexpected situations, eg emergency stops, breakdowns

 Until finally you had the skills and experience to take and pass the test.

 Now consider how much corporate training and e-learning works.

You press play, sit back and watch, hopefully listen and possibly click the mouse to move forward occasionally. You may have to answer a few questions at the end to get the certificate.  You’ve probably forgotten the whole experience within a few days and nothing changes as a result. Much class-room based training is very similar; just replace the screen with a trainer,

So why is the learning to drive approach more effective than the one I’ve just described?

There are many important differences; here are just a few of them.

Timing, relevance and pace – you learn to drive when it is most relevant to your life and circumstances, at times that suit you, at your own pace. Frequently sales training is done on a ‘sheep-dip’basis, just put everyone through as quickly as possible, whether the timing is right or not and whether it is relevant to them at that moment.

Flood or drip feed ? – with driving, your learn over an extended period of time, allowing the skills to build through repetition and practise. If the training is delivered as a single ‘flood’ then it tends to wash away as quickly as it came as the memory fades.

Passive or active ? – with driving you are continually involved and active in the process, as opposed to just  observing it happen. By actively using the skills, over and over, you  establish new habits and replace old ones.

Follow-through ? – with driving, once you pass your test, you have a two year period where you are subject to special rules and you probably had someone keeping a watchful eye over your driving and supporting you as your confidence grew. Often with training, you’re on your own the moment you leave to room or quit the program.

Graham Jones, Internet Psychologist said: “Learning through experience is extremely valuable. Research consistently points to the fact that people recall more about a topic after they have engaged in experiential learning than through any other form. Online, far too much learning is through what might be described as ‘talk and chalk’ where a website provides you with instruction, but you don’t actually do anything. Rather like the interactive leaning of driving a car, online learning which is two-way and experiential is much more likely to lead to success.”

In a recent study on a Physics degree course, an experiment was done to test the effects of these factors and similar factors with 267 students. Those who were taught using an interactive approach scored twice as highly in tests as those taught using a conventional (sit and listen) approach. Engagement also doubled and attendance rates were 20% higher. Psychologists have found similar effects in many other studies too.

So, next time you are choosing some training for yourself or your team, consider the above factors and it will be much more likely to be valuable, rather than the waste of time and money that it sadly often is.

About the author
Bryan McCrae is a Sales Psychologist, Sales Coach and the founder of Sales-Motivations. He has a personal award winning track record in sales and sales management spanning almost twenty years and in 2003 he founded Cognitive Sales to help organisations improve sales performance. He founded Cognitive Enterprises Limited in 2009 to create Sales-Motivations.

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