“Okay team, the numbers don’t look good. We’re going to be short again. To help us figure this out please welcome the trainer for our sales conference session today who will show you fun new ways to Open-Probe-Present-Overcome Objections-Transition & Close.”
It’s estimated that corporations globally spend between $4 and $7 billion a year on training sales professionals, so it’s likely many of you have participated in event-based sales training where the aforementioned sales manager spiel is common. It can be fun, and may involve some travel, and dinners out, and a chance to get to know your colleagues and co-workers better. And it certainly provides a break from the normal routine.
The problem is it doesn’t work. The American Society for Training and Development notes that one week after traditional sales training, the average salesperson will lose up to 70% of the new skills he or she learned. Further, while most sales training programs result in a short-term increase in sales productivity, fewer than 20% of companies show a productivity increase that lasts over a year.
One week after traditional sales training, the average sales person loses 70% of the new skills or concepts they learned.
So why are companies spending so much if the return on investment is so low? And why doesn’t traditional sales training work?
The answers to those two questions, respectively, are “quick fix” and “mastery.”
There are lots of companies at any given time looking for a quick fix for their sales numbers, that next magic pill, the new formula. There is no quick fix to sales effectiveness problems however, and sales training typically helps only if it is used as part of a complete training and development solution.
Traditional sales training doesn’t work because the concepts are not taught to the point of mastery.
Now, the answer to the question why traditional sales training doesn’t work. It’s simply because the concepts that are taught are not taught to the point of mastery.
While we might be able to understand a new concept almost immediately, this initial understanding alone isn’t very useful.
The reason is, in order for your brain to be able to use this information in real-world situations, it needs to grow between 100,000 and 100 million new connections. These new connections create the new programming that gives you the ability to do something you couldn’t previously.
Scientists call this adaptive reasoning skills, or mastery. Without enough new brain connections mastery is never achieved. Without mastery, it is impossible to improve performance.
So put another way, if the brain doesn’t grow enough connections to achieve mastery, then we soon forget, and even what was initially understood fades away.
Without enough new brain connections mastery is never achieved. Without mastery, it is impossible to improve performance.
Mastery requires post-lesson reinforcement. That’s why differentiated instruction, role playing and ongoing follow-up has to be a part of sales training for it to be effective. The concepts also have to be taught – and taught again – using a variety of delivery channels such as podcasts, short videos, interactive webinars, quizzes and tests, and so on.
Here’s the thing. Most of us have from four to six working memory slots. However, listening to what someone is saying, thinking about deadlines and our “to do” list, etc., takes about half of those slots. So we are left with only two or three slots to process problems, master something, etc.
Now if we can relegate something to the subconscious then we are on to something. There we have processing centers with about 40,000 processing slots, far more than our conscious memory slots.
This is why mastery is so important.
10% of what we read
20% of what we hear
30% of what we see
50% of what we see and hear at the same time
70% of what we say
90% of what we do (creating, making, manipulating, writing about, etc.)
Improving anything is a process, not an event.
The sales team is an integral part of every organization, sales rep development is important, and sales training is an important part of that development. So by all means invest in your people.
But realize, as with your other new year’s resolutions, improving anything is a process, not an event. The vast majority of successful performance improvement is in the follow up, when we work at new ways of doing things, forming new habits and doing the correct things consistently. In other words, when we master them.
Here’s to mastering new sales, strategies, tactics and processes in 2014!