5 Sales training critical mistakes you could be doing

Managers responsible from sales productivity must have control of learning results, to ensure an efficient knowledge consolidation. Using the evidences of the neuroscience of successful learning is the key, even most times its proposals go against the traditional academical teaching way.


Salespeople need to master a large amount of information, and they must be able to use it with ability, to win the clients confidence and close any sales. So, their training goal is to help them to successfully solve complex situations, that can be presented at any time, in favor of their sales results.

The most difficult challenge to overcome is the human brain forgetting process. The continuous training of the commercial team is usually a sequence of courses and events that build extensive learning peaks, which shortly after descende with a drastic slope towards a valley with a very few consolidated knowledges.

The 2017 Workplace Learning Report5 quantified that employee’s development is a priority for 80% of executive teams, but only 8% of companies can see any learning business impact, and just 4% get ROI. These are very alarming data, don’t you think? The explanation can be in the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve: in 2 days they forget 70% of information received and keep reducing what they can recall to the basic 3 main ideas, unless later they study hard and effectively by their own.

It is not enough to teach sales reps in a room or by e-learning and providing them that information in a consultation support later. Traditional training only impacts on short-term memory because it is not aligned with the way the human brain really learns. Its only goal is to get familiar with new concepts or to pass an exam in a certain day, but not to master them. The new established neuronal connections are as unstable as a small path opened in the jungle, which if not maintained shortly will be covered again by the abundant vegetation. When a new concept passes into long-term memory, it becomes knowledge and it is as if the neuronal connection is a robust highway through which memories travel quickly.



Let’s review the wrong extended practices that makes very difficult that sales team training could help them increase their sales, and how to solve them to have reps KNOWLEDGE UNDER CONTROL:


Our brain does not learn a new concept until it is actively processed, and the deeper the processing, the greater reminder is achieved. Listening to presentations or reading e-learning courses are therefore inefficient passive formats. Multiple choice test questions have demonstrated to be one of the most effective tool to actively process the concepts in mind, and probably the most simple one to implement in a sales team. Other good solutions are project base learning, or peer-to-peer learning, when a rep becomes the reference teacher to colleagues for any subject he elaborates in depth. Self-appraisal quizs help people to organize knowledge in memory, and to be aware of what they don’t know yet, learning from mistakes to focus higher attention on those concepts.


Our brain deep attention time to receive new information is limited to around 15 minutes. Extending information exposure for a longer that time is highly inefficient, and the extra information received will be easily forgotten. It is usual to concentrate the sales team in a hotel room and keep them receiving information for than 6 h/day for 2-3 days, with of hundreds of power-point pages full of strategic information shown. Microlearning sessions of content pills no longer than10-15 minutes during some days or weeks is the solution that can help reps to digest content excesses.


There is no learning without emotion, because there is almost no attention neither. The brain considers uninteresting all the information that bores him and so disconnects attention immediately, looking for better thoughts to focus on. This disconnection between content and audience can be slightly reduced by presenting it in sensory visual formats and changing in tone and rhythm, but even that, it is difficult to extend attention for a long time.


It is a mistake to consider the commercial team trained as soon as certain information has been given to them. In an over-information context, the way that human brain validates the usefulness of what to retain and what to forget is the simple “use it or lose it” principle. As well as advertising campaigns need multiple impacts in customer brain to achieve any impact in changing a person’s behavior, training should work the same way. Sales reps can only use in client calls those concepts that have been strongly consolidated in their long-term memory, and for that propose a single exposure to content is not enough at all. Training sales professionals means remodeling their mind, interconnecting neurons to build ways to recall information. New circuits are very fragile at creation time, with a tendency to disconnect and forget new concepts soon, unless they are re-stimulated shortly after to stabilize the new connections. To stabilize neuron networks the brain needs spaced repetition impacts of each concept, and the most effective way to do it is distributing them at increasing periods of time, interleaving reviews with resting days.


Usually for each content a single type of training is chosen, between face-to-face or any e-learning support, and this decision means betting everything unnecessarily to one single card. It seems also logical to sequence the training content by topic, and do not pass to the next one until all the subject claims are fully developed. But the human brain is not prepared to pay attention to the same subject for a long time. So, interleaving different subjects in the same training session has demonstrated to be more effective to extend attention time and content retention.

How many of those mistakes you must correct? Leave me your comments below.

The mission of our team at Siltom Institute is to help trainers to take advantage of the neuroscience of learning in a very easy way taking the chance of technology. After collecting hundreds of neurodidactic study results about how the brain works when learning, we considered gamification as the best vehicle to extend attention time. So, we created or smart-game Trainapp introducing in its dynamics other brain-friendly methodologies (microlearning, personalized spaced repetitions, distributed practice, interleaving topics, sensory stimulation, …) to achieve an effective learning. After 2 years of commercial experience training sales reps at 5 countries, we really believe in the value that science can have for trainers that expect to build a high performance sales teams.