A simple way to make sales training stick
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A simple way to make sales training stick

The last thing a sales trainer wants is to sound like a broken record.

Let me say that again. The last thing a sales trainer wants is to sound like a broken record.

Just about every trainer knows about the Forgetting Curve — that classic piece of 19th century research which shows that people forget 80 to 90 percent of what they’ve been taught within 24 hours. They also know the remedy: repetition. When learners revisit what they’ve learned, the knowledge eventually gets locked into their brains. Countless lab experiments have demonstrated the value of providing follow-up on a set schedule, with the first “retrieval event” happening within 24 hours, and subsequent events at increasingly lengthy intervals.

But even though we all know how to make learning stick, follow-up continues to be the exception rather than the rule in sales training. There are plenty of excuses: Salespeople are busy; managers see follow-up as a waste of time; people are easily bored; what works in the laboratory doesn’t work in the real world. And besides, the last thing a sales trainer wants is to sound like a broken record.

Fortunately, retrieval events don’t need to be time consuming or difficult. Simple quizzes work really well.

If it works in middle school, it’ll work in sales
Consider, for example, a 2011 study in an environment that may bear some resemblance to a typical sales department: middle school.

Researchers ran an experiment in several eighth-grade science classrooms. They put students into two groups. Both got the same lessons. Afterwards, one group got three review sessions. The other group was given three quizzes.

On the final, the kids who got the quizzes scored 13 to 25% higher than those who got the presumably more in-depth review sessions. The average grade for the quiz kids was A minus. For the others, it was C plus. Eight months later, the quiz group still tested higher.

For sales trainers, these findings suggest that follow-up doesn’t have to be onerous for you or your learners. You don’t need to get them all back together to revisit the topics you taught. Reinforcement can be as simple as sending them several quizzes in the days and weeks following the training.

That’s a pretty painless way to lock in learning. Which is great for learners, and also great for you. Because the last thing a sales trainer wants is to sound like:

A. Mom.
B. Nails on a chalkboard.
C. A broken record.

Source: McDaniel, M. A., et al. (2011). Test-enhanced learning in a middle school science classroom: The effects of quiz frequency and placement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103, 399-414.

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