Are you creating the right expectations for learners?
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Are you creating the right expectations for learners?

What makes sales training successful? It’s not just the content. It’s not just the delivery. It’s also learners’ expectations.

A key element in making training effective, according to a NASA-funded meta-study, is creating the right expectations among learners. In short, if learners believe that training is effective, it will be more effective.

There’s a lot that goes into establishing these expectations, and the NASA study emphasized that the overall organizational climate must support learning in order for it to succeed. But the research found that an often-overlooked place to start setting expectations is when you notify people about upcoming training.

Psychology of Sales

Notification is more than an administrative task. It can profoundly influence the leaner’s expectations, which in turn will affect your outcomes. Here are some recommendations from the study:

  • Don’t overpromise. If you hype the training or the results that learners can expect, one of two things will happen, neither of them good: Learners won’t believe the hype, creating an expectation that the training will be bogus, or they will believe the hype, only to be disappointed when they get less than promised. If the training is worthwhile, you don’t have to “sell” learners on it; instead, give them specifics about what they’ll learn and how it can be applied.
  • Demonstrate a process. The research showed that learners are more committed to training when they see it as part of an ongoing process, instead of a casual or one-off event.
  • Don’t try to “fix” them; help them be “even better.” This requires a subtle shift in emphasis, but the research shows that a positive message translates into a deeper commitment to learn.


Source: Salas, E., et al. (2012). The science of training and development in organizations: What matters in practice. Psychological Science in the Public Interest 13(2), 74-101.

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