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Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks How to Engage the “Been There, Done That” Crowd

Ok, let’s face it. Your salespeople don’t wake up in the morning eager to train any more than your prospects line up to purchase your product. So how do you create the desire for them to acquire the skills needed to increase their income? Do you have to keep barking at them?

It’s no secret that training is linked to performance. However, according to new research in the Harvard Business Review titled “The Internet Makes You Think You’re Smarter Than You Are,” Yale doctoral candidate Mathew Fisher and his colleagues concluded people are more confident that they know the answers once they have access to the information.

What’s fascinating is once they have access, participants weren’t more confident they could find the information, they’re more certain that they knew it. This got me thinking. Do salespeople assume they know a certain training concept simply because they bought the book or the online course? Fisher’s research indicates an answer in the affirmative.

I may know all about rock climbing – the knots to tie, the difference in difficulty between a 5.13 and a 5.6, but that doesn’t ensure I’ll confidentially navigate the climb once I’m on a sandstone slab.

So how can you encourage your sales and marketing teams to open the books and courses at their disposal, and apply the material inside?

Remember, only 20% of your team will wake up and automatically increase their knowledge if left unattended. Those are the facts! So to motivate the other 80%, employ these three methods:

    • Offer Rewards and Recognition. Salespeople respond well to the instant gratification of public praise. Offer an incentive for the task of learning itself, not necessarily the outcome of a new sale. Results follow behavior.
    • Create a Contest. Many salespeople revel in competition. Put together a contest for those who reach a particular learning objective. Have a contest board, pop-up dashboard, or some other visual for all to see and engage.
    • Mandate Learning in Small Chunks, Not in Large Assignments. Attention spans are much shorter than they used to be. The prospect of reading an entire book, or even taking a 45-minute online lesson can feel overwhelming. Assign lessons that are no more than about eight minutes in length. Short, poppy pieces of wisdom will inspire and entertain. They’ll offer instant solutions to common problems, resulting in a series of small wins.
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