Small Victories: A Paradigm Shift in Sales Training

by on May 21, 2015 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Webinars for Sales Managers

On May 7, 2015 Stephen J. Meyer, CEO of the Rapid Learning Institute joined over 80 top sales and marketing influencers for the InsideSales.com event, The Sales Acceleration Summit. Below you will find the recording of that program.

Video Transcript

Hi, I’m Steve Meyer, co-founder and CEO at the Rapid Learning Institute. The title of my talk is Small Victories: A New Paradigm in Sales Training.

You know, I don’t think I’ve ever met a sales manager who doesn’t believe it’s REALLY important to train and develop sales reps.

If you think about it, selling is just like any other skill, like swinging a golf club, or playing a musical instrument. To be good you’ve got to practice the fundamentals, you’ve got to play in front of other people and get feedback and work on problem areas. Even the best golfers in the world have swing coaches, right?

And yet, most of us struggle to find time for training and developing our people. At the Rapid Learning Institute, we sell an online sales training system, and do you know who our biggest competitor is?

It’s not some hotshot trainer with a best-selling book? It’s not Sandler, Miller Heiman or Richardson. It’s not another e-learning company. Our biggest competitor is “doing nothing.” That’s right, during discovery our reps find out that a huge percentage of sales managers do no ongoing SELLING SKILLS training at all.

How can this be? I’m going to explain to you the reason it happens, and it’s not what a lot of people think. I’m going to describe to you a new paradigm for sales training that will help managers start doing the selling skills training that needs to be done, that will improve managers’ coaching skills, and that will vastly improve rep performance.

So, why is it that so many managers find it difficult to embrace their talent development role? Is it due to lack of motivation? Do we need to be CONVINCED that developing our reps is good for sales? Based on my own experience as a sales manager, I don’t think so. We know it’s important and we’re plenty motivated. So what’s the reason it often doesn’t happen?

Well, because it’s hard.

And I mean two things when I say that. First, sales managers are incredibly busy. Their reps are incredibly busy. And selling is always going to seem more urgent than training, right?

The second reason is that sales managers tend to get promoted because they’re good at selling, not training. A lot of them never got formal training in sales management, and teaching selling skills is a little bit outside their comfort zone.

Add to that the fact that most sales managers frame talent development through a wide lens, as in “My job is to teach my sales reps EVERYTHING there it to know about selling.” That task can seem overwhelming and it’s very common, when we face a really big, really overwhelming task that we end up doing nothing. It’s one of those things that lands on our priority lists, but it just keeps getting pushed down.

So the solution is to make training and development seem EASIER.

Let me show you a really simple, but really interesting model from a guy named B.J. Fogg. He’s an expert on behavior change and he founded the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University. Here’s a picture of his model.

Fogg ‘s model says this: If we want somebody to change – and when I say that I want you to be thinking “How can I get myself or my sales managers to invest more time in developing reps?” – we need two things:

  1. Motivation (that’s the vertical Y axis – you either have high motivation, or low motivation, or something in between);
  2. Ability (that’s the x-axis – you either find something “hard to do” or “easy to do” or again something in between) So, if you are below the orange line, you’ll tend to move training down your priority list and you won’t get it done. If you’re above the line, you will get it done.

The brilliance of this simple model is that it tells us exactly what we need to do make sales coaching and training actually happen.

We need to make it SEEM easier. We’ve got to move to the right on the “Ability” axis. Because when you’re out here in “easy to do” territory – that is, if your managers perceive training as easy to do – you don’t need nearly as high a motivation level to get yourself above the orange line. You could be here, with a relatively low motivation level, and training is still getting done.

But how do we make this happen?

I’m going to introduce two new ideas, both of which are key to making selling skills training seem easier.

The first is called “rapid learning.” Some people call it “micro-learning,” “bite-size” learning or “chunked” learning.

We define rapid learning as “brief learning events for today’s short-attention span workforce.” In technology-enabled training, or e-learning, that means six- to 10-minute programs. Those of you who have some experience with e-learning know that short modules are NOT the norm. Until very recently most e-learning modules were 30, 60, or even 90 minutes long, which is way too much for busy sales reps.

Even in other types of training, such as instructor-led training, there’s a trend right now toward delivering more training value in less time, and being more focused.

Which leads me to the second key to making training seem easier – and this is the ONE idea I want you to take away from this presentation – it’s called “single-concept learning.” Think about some of the classic models for sales training you’ve experienced. Probably the most common is the two-day sales workshop. You sit in a hotel ballroom in Las Vegas and a sales trainer delivers a fire-hose of really great ideas. You take lots of notes. You go home with a big fat binder.

This model is the exact opposite of single-concept learning. It’s MULTI-concept learning. And there’s a big problem with it. There’s tons of research out there on something called “cognitive overload.” It says that the amount of information human beings can process at one time is surprisingly low. That explains why when you go back to work after one of these events you rarely look at those notes you took. You almost never open the binder. And worst of all, you never deploy what you learned. What happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas.

Now, this isn’t inevitable. There IS a way for a sales manager to make sure that reps actually deploy all those great ideas and make more sales as a result. But think for a moment about what it would take to actually make that happen. You would have to travel to Vegas and attend the two-day workshop yourself. You’d have to take detailed notes. Then you’d have to process all that information, prepare extensively for meetings where you’d review the 10 or 20 great selling concepts the trainer presented. Then you’d have to follow up individually with all your reps to make sure they’re doing everything right.

Now, back to the BJ Fogg model. Where does what I just described fall on this chart? You’re probably thinking, “it’s not even ON THE CHART”. It’s way over here. It’s not just hard to do, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to do, and your motivation is zero.

“Single-concept learning” makes that impossible task seem possible.

Single-concept learning, or what we call “thin-sliced learning,” is a paradigm shift in the way we train people. Instead of trying to give your sales reps a fire-hose of knowledge all at once, you give them ONE concept, designed to bring about ONE behavior change, and achieve ONE desired outcome.

You may have heard the term “thin slicing” before. That’s what Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” was all about. Thin slicing is a term used in psychology to describe the brain’s ability to intuitively spot “thin slices” of experience, and draw powerful conclusions from very limited information.

We hi-jacked the term and applied to learning. Single-concept learning is about identifying “thin slices” of learning, and delivering a powerful impact with very limited information.

So, imagine a training event where you teach reps how to handle the first 20 seconds of a cold call. That’s a pretty narrow concept, isn’t it? You’re not trying to teach them EVERYTHING you know about cold calling. Just one thing. And that’s exactly what “thin slicing” is about.

Now, there are two major benefits of single-concept learning. First, it’s far better for your reps. They’re busy and have very short attention spans. Even if they’d like to take time for sales skills training, if they see it as a major time commitment, they won’t do it.

The second benefit is for managers.

I said earlier that if we frame talent development through a wide lens, as in “I need to teach my reps EVERYTHING about selling, that task seems overwhelming and won’t get done.

But if we frame it through a narrow lens and see ourselves teaching just a single concept, as in, “I’m going to teach my reps how to respond to a price bully, or how to get past a gatekeeper,” the task seems doable. It moves in the direction of “easy to do” on the chart, you cross the “activation threshold,” and training starts getting done.

I didn’t mention a third key component in Professor Fogg’s model. He calls it a “trigger.” A need that suddenly pops up could be a trigger.

For example, if a rep is being stalled, you’d coach them on stalls. Or sales meetings could be a trigger.
That’s how a lot of our customers use single-concept learning. They kick start a meeting with a single-concept modules and then discuss it as a team.

So, Professor Fogg says you get behavior change, you get ACTION, when you combine motivation, ability and triggers. As I said before, I believe most sales managers are motivated to be better talent developers.
They know it’s good for the performance of their reps. They know it’s good for their careers to develop this skill. And they feel bad when they can’t get around to doing it. With single-concept learning as a model, they CAN get around to doing it.

Let me conclude by going back to our title, which referred to “small victories.” Since the whole point of this talk is to make training seem easier, we might have said, “Instead of swinging for the fences and trying to hit a home run with training, just go for a single.” That’s the spirit of single-concept learning. And what happens is that every time a manager teaches a “thin slice” of learning successfully, they hit a single. They achieve a small victory.

Let’s plot an initial small victory on the chart with a red dot. Let’s say you spent a whole month teaching a rep, or all your reps, to make better cold calls. And they’re getting incredible results. That’s where the real magic of small victories kicks in – when you get a positive result one time, you want to go out and tackle a different “thin slice.” Over time, you start accumulating more and more small victories. You create what Professor Fogg calls “success momentum” and you start getting better and better at coaching your reps.

Success breeds success. Eventually, if you follow this model, you acquire the holy grail in sales management – you master the ability to replicate in others the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors that made you successful as a salesperson. You build a core competency as a talent developer.

Now, to help you get started with single-concept training, I’d like to send you a free e-book called “10 Researched-Based Sales Concepts Ideas you can use to kickstart your sales training.” It’s got 10 really powerful “thin sliced” selling concepts you can share with your team. Try kick starting a meeting with a few them and see what happens.

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