Sales Kick-Offs, Weightlifting, and Cash Down the Drain.

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19th February 2016

Product knowledge leaking resized

It’s the beginning of the year, and for many sales organizations that means it’s Sales Kick-Off (SKO) season. Hundreds of sales people will fly off to (kind of) exotic locations, where they will prepare for their learning experience by hitting the bar at the hotel. The next day they will be bombarded with bullet points, plied with projections and deluged with data. They will be expected to retain and use all of this information to help them sell the new and updated products that are being shipped this year.

Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent to make sure companies will flourish. Sadly, most of the information poured in to the sales people’s heads at SKOs will leak out as fast as it went in. It’s a struggle to update your sales force when you need them in the field. And with more companies wanting their sales people to become challenger-type performers, it’s even harder.

Imagine if we trained our pilots with the latest product update (the planes you fly in) in the same way. Pretty soon the lines at check-in would be a lot shorter and more people would spend their vacation at home.

Hold that Pilot thought though. Pilots spend about 76 hours training in a simulator before they even get in the cockpit of a real plane. And they spend hours and hours every six months back in the simulator. All to make sure they can perform brilliantly under pressure and in all situations.

Precisely what you want your sales people to do.

Can you remember an amazing teacher from your school days? One who made their subject alive, fun and interesting? Maybe they even inspired you to dig deeper into that subject. What was it that they did to make them stand out?

Harvard Learning experts Brown, Roediger & McDaniel, authors of the bestselling book Make it Stick, have used discoveries in cognitive psychology to reveal a powerful formula for learning skills and knowledge quickly and deeply, so you can use them when it counts. Under pressure. That amazing teacher from your school days probably used this formula naturally and intuitively, but it’s a skill that you can learn too.

First of all you need to work hard to actually solve problems that mirror your role—a kind of flight simulator for sales people. The harder the effort needed to solve the problems, the stronger the connections made, and the more sustained the learning is.

What comes next is the counter-intuitive magic. You then need to forget a little bit—just a little. Leave it for a week or so. And then you re-apply what you learned for role simulating problem solving. The process is a bit like lifting weights where you stress your muscles, rest, and stress them again. They grow back bigger and stronger.

Top this up with testing—not exams to assess, but gamification: mobile app-driven quizzes and competitions—and you can instill the skills and knowledge of your best performers into your entire sales force. Blend the delivery using online learning, in-person role plays and gamification, and the result can be a highly articulate, knowledgeable and skilled sales force. A result achieved with very little time away from the coal face. Customers are better served, and companies get the growth they crave.

Next steps:

If you’ve got an SKO coming up:

  • Write down what you actually want to achieve
  • If you want sales people to learn anything they can use in their role, consider how you can simulate them using that information in their role
  • Schedule a recapping follow up session 2 weeks after the SKO
  • Consider using mobile and elearning solutions (before and after the SKO) to blend in person role plays with remote, mobile quizzes, competitions and games.

This is the approach Slingshot Guru is using to enable thousands of sales people internationally. Click here to find out more.