When I was a little girl growing in the Bay Area, I loved nothing more than driving to Berkeley with my father to cheer on his alma mater, the California Bears. Traveling westbound to the stadium on the 580, we listened to cassette tapes of Alan Sherman, and once in the stadium, devoured hot dogs and shouted from the stands.
As “American” Football season approaches, I’m reminded of those special times. Each week, millions of fans will gather around televisions, eat nachos, and if they’re lucky, cheer in stands for their home team.
Part of the joy of a ball game is we can appreciate the fruits of someone else’s labor without having to do the work ourselves. We watch the plays, but we don’t have to sweat. We criticize the quarterback, but we don’t have to practice through injury. We get to watch, but we don’t have to prepare, perfect, and perform.
Unfortunately, too many salespeople do the same when it comes to their training and development. They attend the course but fail to exert effort. They watch the learning, but they don’t effectively apply the information. Why is that?
I find that, while there’s an awful lot of talk about how the sales process must change to support today’s new consumer, there’s not nearly enough talk about how the training process must change to support today’s new learner.
So here are a few strategies to up your game when it comes to learning and retention.
Space out Your Learning
We’re taught early on that repetition leads to success. So, we practice, practice, practice a skill and hope we burn the skill into memory. Researchers call this kind of practice “massed learning.” And, while the mass learning approach does help you acquire new knowledge quickly, the information is often lost. According to the authors of “Making it Stick – The Science of Successful Learning,” practice is much more effective when it’s broken into separate periods of training that are spaced out.
The solution: Give yourself enough time to master a new sales skill or technology. Schedule learning times on your calendar over weeks rather than hours. Review what you’ve learned. Mastery in any field, from cooking to flying a plane to selling is a gradual accretion of knowledge, conceptual understanding, and application.
Stop and Reflect
I remember studying for finals in college and reading and re-reading material until my eyeballs hurt. You’ve no doubt done the same. We’re easily seduced into thinking that learning is better when it’s easy, when in fact the opposite is true. The more effort involved in retrieving information, the better the knowledge will imprint in your brain.
The solution: Practice a process called Effortful Retrieval. Stop and ask yourself, “How does the information I just learned relate to closing a stuck deal? How might I integrate this idea of consumer experience into my sales process? Last month after watching a webinar on customer experience, one of my employees reflected and got the brilliant idea to send a video, introducing each member of our team to new clients. It was a hit! Repeated retrieval not only produces knowledge that is more durable but produces knowledge that translates into winning more deals.
Find Mr. (or Ms.) Write
Most schools today only require handwriting and drawing in early grades. Then, the emphasis shifts to proficiency on computer keyboards. Couple that with texting and video games, and what do you have? A generation who texts and types at the expense of writing and drawing. “When we handwrite, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” according to Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris. “Writing is doing, a term called “haptics,” and the act of doing, as opposed to simply watching, increases learning, retention, and creativity tenfold.
The solution: Take more handwritten notes when learning something new. Try drawing a pictogram when taking an online course or when listening to a podcast. When writing a follow up is critical, write it out by hand and then transfer the information via a keyboard.
See below: This pictogram was sent to me from a participant, Jo Saunders, after one of my webinars last year.
I love watching Football, and I love a good tailgate party. But to excel in sales, or any worthwhile endeavor, you need to play the game, get dirty, fall down, and get back up again!