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How “sticky” is your sales learning?

By Tim Magwood

Whatever the focal point, one of the most challenging aspects of sales learning is causing lasting change. We have found that designing multiple “learning touchpoints” vs. classroom-only is a critical success factor. This article aims to provoke some thought and provide some useful tips on reinforcement techniques to facilitate “on the job” improvements.

Before we dive in, let's face it, most of us are pretty engrained in our habits. Whether it is our approach to leading sales conversations, presenting or prospecting, we have a current “way of doing things.” So, any learning approach needs to: be simple; be engaging; be clear about benefits of trying a new or alternate sales approach; and needs practice and follow up. Here are a few reinforcement techniques to consider when designing your next sales learning solution:

1. On the Job Coaching

Coaching is often the most powerful way to reinforce learning and new approaches. Field or Phone coaching is always best so that both observation of skill application and feedback conversations take place. This means that Sales Managers need to attend training with professionals (as “stripes off” participants). This technique also requires that Sales Managers have a coaching skills baseline. Finally a coaching “work-with” form is a useful tool to help focus feedback on specific selling behaviours.

2. Teleconference Sessions

This is a great option for geographically disperse Teams. Try a 90 minute teleconference with 6-9 participants about 3 weeks after the training. Here is a format that we have found effective:

  1. Introduction – 5 minutesSet clear purpose/benefit/timing for the conversation.
  2. Application – 45 minutesTake 5 minutes per participant on the following questions:
    • what are 3 examples of what you have put into action from our recent training?
    • what was the result/benefit?
    • what are you doing to further develop this skill area?
  3. Sales Challenges – 30 minutesIn this section, ask participants to volunteer current sales challenges they are facing. Draw out one per participant and listen for the patterns. Get agreement on addressing top three challenges. For each of the challenges, first draw out more detail on the nature of the challenge and then facilitate a dialogue around a possible solution(s).
  4. Conclude & Commitments – 10 minutesSummarize some key elements from the discussion and draw out one commitment per participant to continue working on a skill from the training.For these teleconference sessions, it is always best to email the proposed structure and some key questions a couple days ahead of time to help maximize the quality of the discussion.

3. Skill Drills

This is a practice session in a specific skill area. In all sports, professional athletes practice specific skill areas. For example, in hockey, most practices include various drills on passing. In sales, professionals can always benefit from practicing targeted selling skills. For example, your Team may need to refine their ability to handle objections. Here is a format for a skill drill for handling objections:

  1. a) Brainstorm common objections.
  2. b) Review handling objections process (if you need help with a handling objections process we would be happy to support you!)
  3. c) Practice handling objections. Give each Team Member an opportunity to play the role of Client and the role of Salesperson. This allows everyone an opportunity to hear various ways to handle objections.
  4. d) Debrief on success of role play and opportunities for improvement.

This is a great technique to integrate into a weekly sales meeting.

So, when devising your next sales learning solution, make sure that you include great content design, strong facilitation AND include at least a couple reinforcement techniques to make the learning “stick.”

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