Why 2 days of sales training isn’t effective.

We tend to forget quickly. Back in 1885, Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist who pioneered the experimental study of memory, discovered “the forgetting curve”.

Humans tend to halve their memory of newly learned knowledge in a matter of days or weeks (depending on the strength of their memory), unless they consciously review the learned material. From his discovery regarding the “forgetting curve”, Ebbinghaus came up with the effects of “overlearning”. Essentially, if you practiced something more than what is usually necessary to memorize it, you would have effectively achieved overlearning. Overlearning is the repeated practice of a skill or study of material to further strengthen memory and performance. Rehearsal enhances performance past the initial point of learning because the neural processes involved become more efficient and recall speed improves. Overlearning ensures that information is more impervious to being lost or forgotten, and the forgetting curve for this overlearned material is shallower.

For salespeople, reinforcement of conversation techniques and sales concepts is the best way to memorize and improve sales skills.

Spending time each day to remember information will greatly decrease the effects of the forgetting curve. Participating in a 2-day sales training every two years, therefore, doesn’t seem to be very effective.

Does classroom sales training still work in the digital age?

In January 2016, Aberdeen group investigated the impact of sales training. A survey of 254 companies resulted in three categories:

  • 20% were the top performers (best-in-class),
  • 50% were average
  • 30% were laggards.

The conclusion of this research was clear. Best-in-class companies were those that spent at least 3,5 hours of formal sales training per month, average and laggards spent less than 3 hours per month.

The best-in-class companies spent considerably more time with post-training reinforcement than the other groups (48% vs. 35% vs. 21%).
Clearly, it is not only the classroom training that brings the best results, but the reinforcement of what has been learned makes the whole training more efficient.

Best-in-class companies spend more time on sales training and reinforcement, which results in better sales performance.

Best-in-class sales leaders understand better how communication has changed since the last century. We go to Youtube to understand and learn how to carve a turkey, how to kiss, how to unpack and install our newest tablet. We don’t ask our boss or our mum how we should do that. Which is quite different from 15 years ago.
Business leaders understand that on-demand, just in time knowledge transfer is now the norm. Combining classroom training with multimedia reinforcement is a very effective way to increase the ROI of the training course.

What motivates sales people

Another research of Aberdeen group about the motivation of Business to Business salespeople shows how preferences are changing.

  • In 2013, 98% of sales reps of best-in-class companies were motivated by individual financial compensation, which dropped to 64% in 2015, which is a 35% drop.
  • In 2013, 25% of sales reps of best-class companies were motivated by learning new skills, which grew to 44% in 2015, which is a 76% increase.

In successful companies, it seems to become more important to motivate salespeople by offering sales training.

Why multimedia learning is important

Prof. Richard E. Mayer, professor of psychology at the University of Santa Barbara, researched the effect of using multimedia in learning processes. His research findings indicate that students learn better with multimedia. People have separate channels for processing verbal and visual material, and people can process only small amounts of material in each channel at any one time. Using modern quizzes and interactive techniques engage sales reps in knowledge capture and play well with millennials that have a shorter attention span spawned by their everyday digital lifestyle.
The field of educational technology is making rapid advances in this digital age. New multimedia technologies offer great promise to the field of education and are steadily gaining acceptance both inside and outside of the traditional classroom. Multimedia and video-based learning solutions give educators and instructional designers an important weapon to draw upon as they develop digital content for their courses.

Media has been an important tool in education from the beginning, but with digital technologies making it easier for anyone to access media-based content anywhere, anytime, it is more important than ever to use high-quality multimedia content in training courses and after training courses.

The bottom line

The millennials (those born between 1980’s and 2000) are native “digital lifestyle” practitioners, in contrast to the baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964).
For millennials, internet and multimedia is crucial in their learning processes. Most salespeople are millennials (young 20’s to mid 30’s). They are increasingly motivated by self-development. For efficient self-development, reinforcement is essential and multimedia is the best instrument to do that.

Successful companies are those, that recognise the importance of sales training, the value of multimedia in training and the importance of reinforcement.