Training the A.D.D. sales force — wait, was that a butterfly?
  • sales
  • Blog post

Training the A.D.D. sales force — wait, was that a butterfly?

Every successful salesperson I’ve met has been at least a little bit A.D.D.

And believe me, I know A.D.D. when I see it…. I’m sorry–were you saying something?

I don’t think the link between sales and A.D.D. is an accident. In fact, there’s a theory in academic circles that we should stop thinking about attention deficit disorder as a disease and start thinking of it as a difference — one that’s helped the human species survive.

The qualities that we associate with A.D.D. — impulsiveness, impatience, difficulty following directions — could be assets in the right environment. If you’re tracking prey through the forest primeval while possibly being tracked as prey yourself, it might not be the best course of action to sit quietly and await further instructions. You need to go with your gut and react quickly to whatever crosses your path. (The same goes for sales calls, which could explain why folks with A.D.D. tend to do well in sales.)

The real problem, the theory goes, is when you put these highly evolved survival traits in the wrong environment — for example, a first-grade classroom or sales training session. Instead of trying to make the behavior fit the situation, perhaps the better approach is to adapt the situation to the behavior.

If you’re creating sales training for short-attention-span learners, it’s going to look very different from traditional training programs. It won’t be linear, logical and complete. It’s going to consist of short, disjointed learning experiences. It will be accessible when and where reps need it — for example, on their laptops and smartphones so they can review a key concept right before a customer meeting, or when they’re trying to figure out how to get a prospect to return a voice mail. It’s going to look a lot like YouTube.

This approach to training, by the way, doesn’t just work better for people with A.D.D. Research suggests that it works better for all learners. It’s possible that we’ve all inherited a bit of the A.D.D. gene — because it helped our ancestors survive in the jungle.

I’d love to tell you more about how to create this kind of training, but my attention seems to be drifting. So instead, let me redirect YOUR attention to a useful overview by RLI’s CEO Stephen J. Meyer, which was just published by Workplace E-Learning That Sticks.

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