In my career as a sales training professional, I have seen sales training programs fail time and time again, because they are not reinforced. Participants leave the training eager to leverage new knowledge and test new skills, but if the content is not reinforced, the participants quickly forget what they learned and return to old habits.
Sales training can be reinforced in many ways:
Design your training to reinforce newly learned concepts and information. Assessments and interactive activities are great ways to bolster participants’ knowledge and practice new skills during the training itself. All training workshops, in person or through technology, should include these elements so the participants strengthen their knowledge and apply it through action. Remember, people need to hear new information more than one time in order for it to stick. They also need to apply what they learn in a safe environment so they can build their confidence to try it in the real world!
Also, include reinforcement activities before and after the training occurs. Pre-work and homework can help emphasize the content and key learnings. Require the sales manager to review and discuss the pre-work and homework to further support the training.
Lead by example and coach for success! It is vital for frontline sales managers to go through the training and know the content before their people participate. How can the sales manager lead by example if they do not know what is being taught? In my experience, sales managers make the BIGGEST impact on the success of sales training programs. It is up to them to “walk the walk” and “talk the talk.” They also need to coach their people by giving them specific, constructive feedback. Sales managers need to fully engage in working with their people to leverage their new knowledge and apply new skills.
Make the training a priority. Sales managers need to show their people that the sales training is a priority by supporting their time commitment to the process. They also need to actively engage in pre-work and homework activities.
The sales manager’s involvement takes the training beyond the classroom into the real world where the REAL impact will be made.
Provide simple tools that will reiterate and reinforce new knowledge and skills. Make sure your sales organization uses tools that are consistent with the concepts and skills taught in your training program. Tools should highlight key concepts and tips for sales people to remember. The goal is not to provide TOO many tools, just provide the RIGHT tools with the RIGHT information.
Incorporate new knowledge and skills into coaching forms and feedback tools for sales managers. This will ensure that sales managers reinforce the concepts and provide appropriate feedback to their people. Like I mentioned earlier, I think the frontline sales managers make the BIGGEST impact on the success of sales training programs. The organization can help them achieve success with the right tools.
Before the training, communicate its importance and objective. All participants should understand why they are being asked to attend training. Help them understand the WIIFM, “what is in it for them.” Give them a reason to give the training their attention and make it a priority.
After the training, communicate ideas and successes! Give participants a forum for sharing their successes and ideas about how to leverage the training for success. In my years of sales training, I have heard salespeople tell me over and over how much they value time to share ideas with their peers. By providing such an opportunity, the training will be reinforced and come alive in the real world.
By reinforcing sales training through design, leadership, tools, and communications, you can ensure your program makes a long-term impact and achieves its objectives. Training is obviously a big investment in time and money, and we all want to maximize our return on the investment by making it stick.