Want to know a great way to squander a sales opportunity? Let your salespeople practice proper sales techniques and good decision-making, in front of prospects. Yes, you can teach salespeople in a classroom, or through meeting-style role-plays, but is your sales training and sales process translating into real performance gains? These common problems stem from the same source — and there is a solution.
Great performance requires great coaching. Sales is no different. It’s a situational-thinking game.
Optimal performance requires both practice and expert coaching from those who’ve mastered your sales processes. We all know this, but acting on it isn’t easy: Setting up one-on-one, expert sales coaching is difficult, and expensive to scale. And sales managers often lack the aptitude to be great coaches.
Technology can help! We’re not proposing a mad scientist’s experiment to clone your best sales coaches here... the real solution is better! There is a realistic, optimal coaching strategy that can be implemented in a scalable way.
As our mothers often say, “practice makes perfect.” Where do you practice in your sales organization?
Practicing through role-plays, with a sales trainer in a classroom, or on a field ride is fine — but it’s out of context: not in the actual selling environment. Speaking of that, how much time does a sales trainer really get with a sales person, coaching in the field? The answer often is: “Way too little.”
So practically speaking, where are your sales people practicing? They probably spend far too much time practicing in front of your company’s real prospects, resulting in slower ramp-up times and lost sales. Let’s not do this!
We need to build safe, scalable environments where sales people can practice and make mistakes, without the fear of losing a deal.
Of course, the sales team wants your training program to impact sales. But is your sales training program designed to improve sales performance? Certainly you’re inclined to answer “absolutely.” It’s your job, after all.
The real question is, are you using the right learning tools to make it happen?
Humans are still the best pattern-recognition machines on the planet! (At least for now.) Yes, we have suffered losses to man-made machine, in Jeopardy, chess, and recently the game Go. But we recognize complex patterns in everyday life and transform them into actionable steps, in ways that machines cannot.
What’s our secret? Cognitive Flexibility. This trait allows us to diagnose, design, and problem-solve in highly unstructured situations where “rules” do not yet exist.
So, if we humans are so good at this cognitive flexibility thing, how can we use it to develop more effective learning programs?
Think for a moment about someone you know that is an expert at something. They could be great at their job, defusing conflicts, or managing their health. Now think about how they do it, and how you would build a program to help others achieve better performance in that area. Pretty challenging, right? Why is it so hard?
Does realism really matter in training? The short answer is... yes.
Realism is essential when the goal is to create virtual learning environments to transfer knowledge from the classroom or an e-learning program to real-world behaviors. Two cognitive science concepts provide the underpinnings for why experiential realism improves knowledge transfer.
Why do so many e-learning programs focus on acquiring knowledge and then afterwards, expect learners to master the knowledge transfer to practical situations on their own? That’s like offering a course on flying a plane and then expecting learners to climb into a plane and take off.
What’s missing? Well, it’s an enormously important part of the learning process: skill acquisition. This is the skill to apply learned knowledge in fluid, real-world situations, and make more optimal decisions. This skill-building process – the flight simulator – is the critical part!