It’s a nonstop distraction for anyone interested. Social media will be buzzing with chatter about the funniest commercials and maybe even some spectacular plays.
But by the time you get to the office the next day, the details will have already begun to fade. You’ll often hear, “I liked the commercial with the baby and the horse, but I can’t remember what the product was,” or, “That touchdown pass was awesome” without being able to recount the details of the drive that made it possible.
Next-day recall is tough enough, but now, fast-forward a month when Super Bowl memories have faded and March Madness is coming into focus. How many of those Super Bowl commercials or play-by-play details can be accurately recalled, or are even top of mind? There’s that rare person with a steel-trap memory, but most of us lack that ability (or inclination). So for all the super hype and build up, as soon as the trophy is hoisted, the event itself quickly gets relegated to the cluttered shelf of experiences and memories.
What does that have to do with sales training? One can draw a compelling analogy between our differing abilities to recall anecdotes about a football game and your efforts to train your sales reps to learn new information, techniques, and behaviors. Bear with me …
Information and Skills Taught ≠ Remembered and Put into Practice
You’ve spent considerable expense, effort, and time (including lost opportunities) to train your sales reps, presumably with goals of developing your sales team and increasing sales. You have specific desired outcomes that sales reps should take away and apply to their selling.
But we don’t retain what we learn for very long after it is taught. In fact, studies have shown that within 90 days after a training event, 79% of what people have been taught is forgotten. (Read an earlier post on “The Forgetting Curve.”) That’s a sobering thought as you consider what goes into training and what’s at stake if it’s not effective.
Now, put that 79% recall rate in context. Think back to the Super Bowl story above.
- Four out of five of your sales reps are like me and my limited memory of the details of the game. (“Yeah, I remember going to that training, but I don’t really remember what they taught us. The dinners were fun, though!”)
- Only one out of five of your sales reps have that steel-trap memory, who can recall what they experienced in your training and have a higher likelihood of applying it in practice. Small victory, but is it enough?
How much of what you teach is remembered and applied? And more importantly, how can you reinforce these key messages and behaviors in order to increase your training ROI and move the needle as desired?
Improve Recall and Mastery through Gamification
The answer isn’t to scrap training — well, perhaps not in the traditional sense. The world changes, and so too do your product or service lines; the needs and desires of your customers; and the strategies, skills, and tactics your sales reps use to go after them. But you do need to be able to justify your expense and hold your sales reps accountable for applying what they’ve learned in place of old tricks and habits.
The first step is to start to think of training not as an event, but as a series of related activities and initiatives to help you move the needle and grow your business. There are pre-training assessments, measurements, and planning followed by the training itself. This is where sales leaders and training managers typically fall down on the job and don’t follow through to ensure the “stickiness” of the training.
One solution is to apply gamification to your post-training efforts. No, I’m not advocating Madden Football for sales reps, but a tool such as Richardson’s QuickCheckTM can be used conveniently to greatly extend the effectiveness of the learning for months beyond the close of the event.
Here’s a brief overview of how the QuickCheck works: Designers of the sales training take important points and learnings from the course and create a series of questions to be asked — each with several possible answers but only one best answer. Then, a response is given and an explanation for the choice of answer. Sales reps are forced to cycle though each set of questions until they’ve completed all successfully before moving on to the next level. It serves to jog their memory and help them to recall and apply what they’ve learned in short bursts. Here are the driving principles that make it effective:
- Convenient — Above all else, if it’s not convenient, it will likely fall by the wayside and be ignored. Make it available on smartphones, tablets, or laptops so that your sales reps can access it when they want in their preferred method.
- Relevant — Keep the questions relevant to the training and how it should be leveraged in sales reps’ jobs. Don’t dig up minutia that they’ll never use. Keep it on target and they’ll appreciate it.
- Fast — The name is “QuickCheck” for a reason. The idea is that while you’re commuting to the office on the train or standing in line at Starbucks, a sales rep can launch the app, answer the questions, and get on with their day.
- Frequency — It’s not daily, but it’s also not once a month or quarter. The right “spacing” is two to three times per week in order to stay top of mind without being a nag.
- Incentive — If you give sales reps a choice, some might use the app while others will ignore it. Sales managers can access leaderboards to see the level of use and success rates. Some of these leaderboard stats can be shared within the team to create friendly competition and peer pressure to keep up with the rest.
If you choose the right questions and answers, you’ll be able to significantly increase your sales reps’ abilities to recall and apply the training when they’re with clients. You’ll have successfully increased your sales training ROI and hopefully have achieved your goals from the outset.
Not every company will make the effort to gamify their learning and post-training reinforcement, but those that do will certainly have a leg up on the competition.