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Can’t Practice in the Field? Try Practicing in the Virtual Field.

Oct 5, 2017 2:54:40 PM


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.

“If we can help sales people emulate the decision-making of those who’ve mastered the sales game at your company, their sales velocity will improve.”

Our mothers were onto something. “Practice makes perfect” is embedded in modern learning theory. Intuitively, we know this works from the apprenticeship model, which has been used with thousands of years. Skill mastery requires practice. Because sales is largely a thinking game, cognitive apprenticeship learning methodologies are a perfect fit. If we can help sales people emulate the decision-making of those who’ve mastered the sales game at your company, their sales velocity will improve.

So how do we go about doing this? As we discussed in a recent post, we need to set up an authentic, realistic learning environment to practice in. This approach to skill acquisition has been demonstrated across all kinds of training, from military, to medicine, to aviation. Placing sales people in common sales situations is a practical way to accomplish this, though logistically it’s difficult to do frequently in live situations.

Now, in order to practice, your sales people could learn through repetitive trial and error, in the learning environment, as they receive feedback. This is not much different from the real-world process they’re already doing, except they will not lose a sale when they make a mistake. A much better way, is to have an expert coach mentor them, to accelerate their mastery of your sales process. We’ll discuss how one can utilize a “scalable” coach/mentor system to create new behavior patterns more quickly, through practice, in our next post.

About Syandus: Virtual immersive learning technology that transforms knowledge into real-world performance. We immerse participants in realistic virtual situations with one-on-one expert coaching that gives them experience making optimal decisions. Syandus Learning Modules combine cognitive science principles, the realism of game technology, and our customer’s proprietary content, to deliver rapid skill acquisition. Modules are cloud-based for easy deployment, fully trackable with embedded analytics, and can be used on any web-enabled device.

Topics: Sales Training

Douglas Seifert, PhD

Written by Douglas Seifert, PhD

Doug leads a team at Syandus that combines cognitive science with virtual game technology to create rapid skill acquisition. The company has won several awards from the National Science Foundation’s Education Division.