There are lots of studies suggesting that people learn more when training is delivered in a series of small doses rather than all at once. But most of those studies focus on simple tasks like memorization or motor skills. So what about complex, skills-based training, such as, oh, sales training?
A 2010 study looked at sales training in particular and found that smaller is indeed better.
The study compared 64 salespeople working for a major German bank. They were enrolled in a course that trained them on six key topics: finding prospects, initiating contact, needs analysis, proposals, closing and cross-selling.
All of the learners were exposed to the same content and taught the same way, with one exception: One group was trained for one day, then went back on the job for a few days, then returned for another day of training, and so on. In all, they received six full days, spaced out over several weeks. The other group got all six days of training at once, and then were sent back to their jobs.
Curiously, both groups ended up learning about the same amount of information. But the group that got the spaced training were more likely to apply what they learned. In other words, spaced learning was more likely to result in behavior change, which of course was the goal.
This finding expands the notion of why spaced learning is effective. Most studies find that people remember more of what they learn when the lessons are spaced. This study concluded that spaced learning worked because it gave salespeople the opportunity to practice what they’d learned before moving on to the next topic. These practice opportunities not only improved their skills, but also proved to the salespeople that the content they were learning was effective and relevant to their jobs. That meant they came to the next training session in a more positive and accepting frame of mind. That made them more receptive to the training, which produced better results, which made them even more receptive to the next lesson, and so on.
And here’s the icing on the cake: Not only did spaced learning result in behavior changes, it also resulted in better outcomes. The salespeople who were trained that way generated more revenue than the ones who went through the all-at-once training.
Source: Kauffeld S., Lehmann-Willenbrock, N. (2010). Journal of European Industrial Training 34(1): 23-37.
Subscribe to the Sales Blog
Get the latest research on workplace learning with weekly posts delivered to your inbox