What makes really good sales training anyway? I spent last weekend in Chicago with 26 of the best minds in sales training and consulting. One of the things we talked about was how to design and deploy more effective sales training. Everyone wishes sales training programs could be way more “sticky.” In other words, increase the long term benefit by driving lasting changes in behavior. Whether it’s an internal program or an outsourced one, what are the barriers to behavioral change? Here’s some of the ideas we came up with during our summit:
Do they remember?
Retention rate is hard to raise and is known to fade over time. Simply remembering what was said in training is a big issue. The ideas we hear in training tend to get crowded out by the stuff of life. In order for new concepts to become a part of our existing lives, we need to be able to relate to them, to link them to our daily experience. The ideas need to be in nested in a familiar context; something that can be easily recognized and visualized when we are in the thick of things with a client.
Do they care?
Having the right information does not always solve the problem. Internalizing new ideas makes them sticky because it means I’m compelled to make them my own; incorporating those ideas into my consciousness alongside my preconceived notions, belief system, world view, habits and sentiments. Any new ideas have to pass muster with all these and then find their place in harmony with my existing experience; forming a practical application that works within my current schema. If it’s not all that important to me, I’m not likely to make the effort to assimilate it to all else that I’m already doing. If I am going to care about this, I need to see how it makes my world a better place and how it plays well with my current way of life.
Do they want this change?
A mother may nag her young son daily just to get him to comb his hair, and he may reluctantly do it, but when he is a little older and a lovely girl catches his eye, suddenly he’s showering three times a day and mom needn’t say a word. Motivation can take many forms, but most of us will resist change until we are convinced it’s in our best interest to do so. Here’s where setting me up for some small wins early on can have a big impact. I’m much more likely to embrace a change when I have hard evidence that it’s good for my deal.
All this and my regular job too, huh?
Suggesting change as an addition to my already jam packed day just sounds like more work to me. More work = bad. I want less output and more income. However, if you show me that the suggested change can replace an activity that is not very effective or is a time waster, now it’s aligned with my priorities: it’s shortening my path to success. It’s taking less time to get what I want. Don’t just show me ideas for improvement but be sure and show me how much it’s costing me now to do it the wrong way as well.
Do they use it?
Forming new habits can take time. Understanding, retention, internalization, motivation, and alignment need to be reinforced with repetition and practice. Some studies have shown that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a habit. Accountability can help; some form of ongoing checks and balances to make sure the new idea is being practiced and to ensure the change becomes a new regular habit. Accountability is also a great way to replenish retention, which tends to diminish over time.
Do they believe in it?
Sometimes a change will provide immediate confirmation and reward. In many cases though, the true benefit of a change may take months to pay back and it may seem cumbersome at first. It’s always better to provide incentives to lumber through early stages of the desired behavioral change as positive reinforcement. Increase the likelihood of adoption of new ideas and practices with early rewards until their long range benefits become self-evident.
What other barriers to change must be overcome in order to have more effective sales training?