In the two previous blogs we’ve argued that lecture based PKs or training sessions are not effective, and that good training sessions begin with having specific performance objectives. Simply telling sales associates about the features and benefits of your product, no matter how well you do that, will NOT result in achieving performance objectives. Product knowledge is not the same as sales results.
Now let’s zero in on the training session itself and the methods we can employ to help achieve those objectives. If successful training isn’t lecture based then what training methods work? Many years of research and experience support the use of specific types of learning activities that involve learners and are in some way tied to actually performing the desired objectives. Here are three examples of meaningful learning activities that have been proven to be successful:
Myth vs Fact
Using 3×5 cards write one feature of your new “whatjamacallit” on each card. Make half of the features true and accurate, and the other half false and inaccurate. Mix up the cards and distribute to the sales associates. Have them take turns reading the cards out loud and announcing whether the statement is “Fact” or if it is “Myth”. Follow up by asking any sales associate who has a “Fact” card to explain the benefit to the consumer of the feature listed. The idea here is that the salespeople are teaching themselves to convert the features of your product into benefits that can be used to sell the product to the customer. This activity can also be done as a group activity, and prizes can be given for best answers.
Write a one or two paragraph sales scenario or case study. This could be a customer profile, or an example of a customer problem or situation that your product might solve. The idea is that a sales associate should be able to analyze this situation and describe how he would use your product to solve the customer’s problem. This type of activity might also be good for a group to work on together. Using scenarios like this will get sales people engaged and start them thinking about ways to sell your product.
Mention the phrase “role play” in most training meetings and folks will mentally head for the exits (if not physically). But call it a simulation, and they’ll be more than willing to participate. Set up the simulation similar to the case study above by giving a sales associate a realistic sales situation so that she can lead the customer to your product. Either accept the role of the customer yourself or assign it to someone else with clear directions that they are not to act as a difficult customer, but should help lead the conversation towards a sale. The purpose of this simulation is not to create a situation for the sales person to fail, but for her to succeed.
These are just three examples of proven successful learning activities. It would be naive to think that we could distill fifty years of learning research in a single blog, but I hope these ideas will provide some insights to ignite your thinking about ways to improve training. Sign up to follow this blog by email for additional thoughts on effective training.