A Better Approach to Sales Training - Spaced Repetition Education

   I've never worked for a tax preparation company, but I'd be willing to bet big money that the vast majority of all filing and preparation software is sold in the week or two leading up to April 15. How can I make that claim? Let's call it experience. It's the same reason most Valentines gifts are bought on the afternoon of February 14, and the shopping malls are full on Christmas Eve - humans are built to wait until the last minute to make a change or take action.

In fact, when it comes to adults, the best way to change behavior without an impending deadline is in dozens or hundreds of tiny little increments. Think of it as the radio commercial effect: you might not remember the ad the first time, or the 20th, but eventually it slips into your consciousness so naturally that you find yourself humming it without even trying.

The $64,000 question is: what does this have to do with sales training? In a word: everything.

    Most comprehensive sales training programs are one-day events. If the company is really serious, it might stretch over a weekend, or even a three-day course. That's fine, except that such a small amount of time will only change the behavior of a very tiny minority - usually that handful of producers who were bringing in most of the new accounts anyway.

The answer, then, isn't to jam all of your training into a few days and then forget about it - it's to teach the concepts and then reinforce them over and over. In scientific circles, this is called spaced repetition. It's the same thing that allows an athlete to have a 95-mile an hour fastball, or a chess master to survey a board within seconds. And, it can produce dramatic results in your sales team's efforts.

    Putting spaced repetition into action isn't all that complicated or difficult. All you have to do is take the highlights of the last sales training program while they are still fresh in your sales staff's minds and work on them on a daily basis. It's an easy idea, but you'd be surprised what 10 minutes a day can accomplish in terms of building new habits.

Lots of sales trainers will build materials and exercises that can be used to reinforce the material later into their programs. If they don't, however, be sure to ask if they could put some thoughts together, or at the very least, make notes so that you'll be able to work on the concepts in your own office.

    Using spaced repetition isn't just a smarter way to reinforce sales training programs - it's also good business. Why pay for a quality program only to use it once, or get a few days worth of extra motivation? By making sure your sales team internalizes the information concepts, you can create a cycle of constant improvement, rather than an expensive one time learning session.


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