In today's world, the adage of “work smarter, not harder” is usually well-accepted, even sought after. We see brand after brand offering solutions and novel ideas that can help you “do more with less” and be the super parent or the super employee that you know you can and want to be.
Yet in the world of sales training and learning, the long-held belief that more is better somehow remains.
Rather than “learn smarter, not harder”, we see a continuation of multi-hour, chunky training agendas that operate mostly from a fear of omission (which is a cognitive bias, by the way), sometimes even unfortunately coupled with gimmicky gamification tactics that detract rather than add to building meaningful cognitive connections for the learner.
For instance, I was recently asked to vet an approach that was meant to motivate sellers into doing more accurate deal forecasts. The representative of this solution proudly shared that the approach involved the sellers learning the concepts for 12-16 hours via a combination of asynchronous and synchronous training.
When I asked how the sellers' ability to assess deals would be improved by these 12-16 hours, the representative simply emphasized the comprehensiveness of the learning themes, and how these themes were gamified.
But sadly there was no clear answer as to how the sellers' approaches, and therefore their abilities, would ultimately change.
I had posited then that this business could achieve much higher margins and better outcomes with their solution set if they first defined what specific behaviors they’d like the sellers to create or move away from, and how.
Approaching training this way, they wouldn’t have to deploy their instructors and instructional designers against all those divergent learning pathways. Not to mention it would save reps from being taken off the floor/phone/Zoom for hours at a time, and the associated revenue-generating implications.
That’s why we at EnableU advocate focusing on shifting behaviors -- one at a time, in fact -- to perpetually and progressively drive better results in each learner that over time generate higher levels of skills and performance.
Most of us can’t realistically take in more than a few pieces of information at a time. (Try memorizing and writing down six people’s phone numbers if you are skeptical about this.)
Yet most training efforts focus on how to cover EVERYTHING rather than focusing on the few critical things we need/want the reps to do differently, more/less, or better at.
There’s a lot of cognitive no man’s land that we start to venture into when we ask the learners to absorb all these learning concepts at once. People start to space out and minds start to wander. “Boredom” in this case is our brains telling us that we aren’t spending the time wisely.
So, instead of taking up time to make sure you cover everything, reconfigure your training plans to identify what’s critical to bringing about meaningful change in how a learner will respond to a particular stimulus, aka behavior.
The concept that “change is the only constant” couldn’t be more true than when applied to the sales discipline, yet many sales teams still hire based on a seller’s past performance. The question of “Did you achieve your annual goal in your previous roles?” or “How much of your annual goal did you surpass?” is both an inaccurate representation of a seller, and is used too commonly in job interviews.
I’ve personally found that a rep’s ability to make their goal in a previous role does not mean that they would be great in the NEXT role. Rather, the focus should be on a new hire’s ability to learn and pivot behaviors. The more specific you are about how the high performers in your organizations behave in everyday scenarios -- internally and externally -- and how you can share those behaviors with new candidates, the higher probability of success there will be.
We adults tend to prefer having choices. Very few of us enjoy being told what to do, and even fewer of us can remember the exact instructions we’ve been given. More importantly, our brains work better when we make decisions, as our being in control represents safety and certainty for our noggins.
For that reason, the key outcome of learning and coaching should be to engage the learner in a decision-making process.
Also, when we are presented with new information that isn’t aligned with our viewpoint, we tend to either fight or flee the information -- or the person giving us that information. “Don’t shoot the messenger” became a commonly-used idiom for a reason, after all. That messenger is usually the sales manager or the sales coach in this context.
A great way to enable the brain to calmly and openly take in new information is to give someone choices, for when the brain is able to relax without feeling under threat, people can feel more engaged and satisfied at their job.
Instead of pinpointing how a seller didn’t know something or didn’t do something well -- which can be very threatening to the brain and the individual on the receiving end of this commentary -- the manager or the coach can enable better results by focusing on what part of the seller’s behavior to tweak in order to see the outcomes they want.
For instance, rather than simply criticizing the rep for sounding “wonky” on a prospect call and losing the chance for a deal ,the manager or coach can help the seller consider how they would incorporate better/more prep (this is the seller’s behavior change). It also re-centers the focus of the coaching/supervisory conversation from someone’s intrinsic attributes (aka who they are) to what they do, thereby instilling a growth mindset aimed at improvement that leads to more resilience, persistence, and grit.
This growth mindset you've fostered in your sellers will not only transform your sellers' existing behaviors, but will, in doing so, improve your sellers' abilities to sell. And ultimately, when it comes to developing a sales enablement strategy or updating your sales training program, this is what you should aim for.
If you’re looking to learn more about how to develop the best -- most effective in the long term -- sales training plan for your team, then join us and our featured Ppanelist Dr. Chris Bray, CEO of the Adaption Institute, for our upcoming webinar: How to Generate More Sales Through High-Performing Behaviors.