How to Prevent Sales Training Decay
When I worked for FranklinQuest, I learned about the power of sales training.
We offered a seminar called Language of Selling. So, just to see what would happen, we put our sales reps through a full-day seminar of Language of Selling — and sales went up 20%. Their language on the phone was crisp, and we made more sales.
The only problem was, the training didn’t last. It seemed to start decaying in 3 to 4 weeks. We found they hadn’t built habits.
Franklin constantly quoted some pretty amazing research that showed it takes 3 weeks to build a habit; we later found it was closer to 4 weeks or 28 days. We weren’t holding our reps accountable to repeat what they had learned every day for even 1 week. After 3 months, the effect was almost gone.
I noticed the new reps who went through the training outperformed the old reps who hadn’t been trained recently, but they decayed in their organization and sales skills even faster.
That initial training was like a firehose. They understood a lot, but they didn’t actually learn the material. Understanding alone did almost nothing. Learning was the key.
We defined learning as “Could they teach it back to us, and could they do it day after day?”
Retrain your sales reps every 90 days
I didn’t know what to do, but then I thought, let’s train everyone again. In fact, let’s retrain them, or reimmerse them, every 90 days.
I got a little pushback because they thought we were training too much. Wait a minute, we were the world’s largest training company … right?
I ran the numbers to prove my point. Half a day of time management and half a day of sales skills in 3 months is just slightly less than 2% of our time. We were achieving a 20% bump with time management, and another 20% with sales skills. So, I was investing 2% of our time and getting roughly 40% returns.
Who could argue with that?
Training decay will sabotage your success
I later learned that Franklin found this immediate decay to be the primary problem our customers had, too. We called it training decay. It was the enemy of our success.
We did all kinds of things to prevent decay. Later, we bought a company called True North, which helped coach customers over the phone to help them maintain and increase their skills. It worked quite well, but not as well as reimmersion.
Franklin taught another way to avoid knowledge decay right in their seminar. They told us to teach the content to somebody within 48 hours. It was best to teach it to our colleagues, but even our spouses, our children, or ourselves in the mirror would help us remember the content.
If we had to see it and hear it, and then turn around and process it through our own hearts and minds, then speak it, we made it our own.
People ask me all the time how I can cram so much stuff in my head, especially stories and statistics. It’s because I get so excited about everything I learn, I can’t help but teach it to everyone around me. And I remember.
Teach what you learn within 48 hours to make it your own.
If we put reps through the exact same training again, they did fine the second and third times, and then we started getting complaints that it was boring. That was a tough thing to overcome.
We found we could shorten the subsequent reimmersion training sessions and add new examples and stories to reinforce the same original principles. We also let some of the reps teach the concepts to their teams, and the boredom went away.
Every time we would reimmerse reps in content, the net decay was less and less, and performance went up.
How often do you retrain your sales reps?