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The most important word in sales training:


Sales managers often wonder why there are no improvements in sales or changes in salespeople following one- or two-day, boot camp style training seminars. This problem is not uncommon, but the solution is simple. Just as you don't retain everything and can forget basic information almost as quickly as you hear it, salespeople require ongoing and repetitive reinforcement of the subject material. That doesn't leave you, the sales manager, off the hook. Ongoing training is necessary for you as well.

Regular repetition is a retentive method of learning a subject by listening to it repeatedly. Studies show that when you are exposed to an idea one time, you retain 50 percent of it after one day has passed. Two days later, you retain only 25 percent. The percentage continues to decrease for up to 16 days after originally hearing the concept, when it is estimated that you only retain about two percent of the original idea.

We've all heard of how studies show people learn gradually through repetition. And we know it since that's how we learn ourselves. Think about this. Do we complete our early school years or even a college degree in one day? Does a doctor or lawyer go to medical school or law school for just one day? Does a plumber or electrician learn his trade in one afternoon training session? Would you want any professional to assist you that hasn't had continual education and reinforcement in their chosen field? The answer is a resounding no. No one would want a doctor operating on him/her if the doctor hasn't had any further training since medical school 20 years ago. Ongoing, gradual and incremental reinforcement is what makes training work.

Researchers say that listening to a subject once per day, for six consecutive days, results in 62 percent retention for a long-term period from 15 years to life. With repetition, we are really talking about long-term development and not just short-term training. Long term development is what creates permanent, long-lasting change.

To illustrate this, complete the phrase: "Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a ..." Were you able to complete this without even thinking? You probably would have completed it with just the first four words, yet have you made a conscious effort to memorize what is on a McDonald's Big Mac? This was learned through repetition, and the same concept should be used in sales and management training programs.

Recently the Olympics were competed in Greece. If you watched the skill that many of these athletes displayed, it was inspiring. How did they do it? Well no doubt, most of them have some basic, inherent talent. But all of them receive regular, repetitive coaching to be the best at their sport. They didn't sign up for a one-day class on how to win a gold medal.

Companies often send their salespeople to a one- or two-day training seminars without follow-up reinforcement. No wonder people's behaviors never change and sales don't increase. We all know that boot camp style trainings don't change people, nor does it create any ownership of the subject matter. But in our fast-paced, microwave world, we want instant success, instant knowledge and instant results.

One-day sessions are often facilitated for companies in order to kick off a training program, but the session should actually be considered as "knowledge and awareness" training regarding an entirely different way to sell. If you want your salespeople to really own the material provided in training sessions, the only way to accomplish this is through repetitive, regular intervals of ongoing, reinforcement training. The one-day seminar introduces the new concepts. The reinforcement training instills ownership, change and permanent results.

So do you want a spike in sales after a one-day seminar, or do you want your sales to increase on a permanent basis? For lasting change, stop organizing or attending boot camp style seminars that you know in your heart never work without the commitment to have it reinforced. Recognize the studies that prove people learn gradually and incrementally, and implement an ongoing, reinforcement training program. It's the only way to make sales training count.
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Gary Harvey

Gary Harvey is the founder and president of Achievement Dynamics, LLC, a high performance sales training, coaching and development company for sales professionals, managers and business owners. His firm is consistently rated by the Sandler Training as one of the top 10 training centers in the world. He can be reached at 303-741-5200, or gary.harvey@sandler.com.


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