One of the most popular modules in our Selling Essentials training platform is called “Why You Miss Your Goals — and How to Start Hitting Them.”

The module is based on fascinating research about something called “implementation intentions.” In a nutshell, the idea is that you’re much more likely to achieve a goal if you write down a specific “intention” indicating how and when you’ll do something.

An implementation intention follows a specific format. For example, if your goal is to make more prospecting calls, it might look like this: “By March 1, I will make 60 prospecting calls.” If your goal is to get to the gym more often, it might be: “Every Tuesday at 7 a.m., I will go to the gym.”

It seems almost too easy, but the research shows that these simple statements, which include a specific behavior, a specific time frame and, in some cases, a specific place, triggers something in our brains that makes them more likely to come true.

Now, a new study suggests that implementation intentions can have a big impact on sales training. Specifically, it can help solve that pesky problem of training transfer — getting salespeople to actually change their behavior based on what they’ve learned.

The study encompassed two experiments. In the first experiment, salespeople were trained on active listening skills. The experimental group was then asked to create implementation intentions for applying these techniques. They implemented the skills more quickly, and more thoroughly, than reps in a control group who didn’t write implementation intentions.

A second experiment was conducted in the field, where observers rated reps on how well they applied the skills they’d learned. Reps who were asked to create implementation intentions scored higher than those in the control group.

The takeaway for trainers: If you want people to use the skills you’re teaching, have them create implementation intentions at the end of your training program.

Source: Friedman, S., and Ronen, S. (2015). The effect of implementation intentions on transfer of training. European Journal of Social Psychology 45(4):409-416.

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