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About This Episode
There’s a scientific reason why cramming for exams doesn’t help you learn.
It’s called the forgetting curve.
If you want to train your SDRs, you have to help them conquer the forgetting curve with a few learning strategies…
You need to implement spaced continuous learning.
“The forgetting curve is a way to map out how quickly information is lost after you’re initially exposed to it,” Shawn said. “Within 24 hours of learning something, you’ve lost close to 90% of that information.”
The forgetting curve
So, when reps go to trainings with an enablement leader and then do no “homework,” they flunk the exam.
Meaning that without practice, when the meeting comes up with the prospect, they can’t implement their training.
“In any course of study, atrophy happens really quickly,” Shawn said. It happens to runners, it happens to college students, and it happens to the best reps and the worst ones alike.
This concept of transience over time is just a part of our human biology. Because we’re imperfect, our memory is imperfect. (Everyone knows this because it’s happened to us.)
As soon as salespeople stop investing in their continuous learning, they lose their velocity next quarter.
Reinforcement doesn’t have to take much time — 10 minutes reading up on a buyer persona or 5 minutes reviewing those product release notes.
“Just a little bit of a varied but spaced and continuous learning can help people to maintain the right habits over time,” Shawn said.
Spaced, continuous learning
Here’s how Shawn explains how spaced learning helps us overcome the forgetting curve:
“Stories and narratives are how we ultimately remember things, and those narratives take place over a period of time. Spaced learning that can fit into that narrative helps us remember the broader concept even if we might lose some of the specific details.”
There are two spaced learning techniques that can keep reps from forgetting what they’re taught.
- Mnemonic devices — a clever acronym that helps people remember the steps in a process or a series of techniques (think “V2MOM”)
- Active recall — a forced return to the information, repeated in the form of roleplay, rereading, or a workshop
Even taking notes is a form of active recall, because you’re essentially translating the information to yourself in a form that will resonate with you later.
Thus, asking your reps to write down an idea in their own words is a fabulous active recall technique.
If you’ve got 60 minutes of training, don’t plan material to fill the whole hour.
- Present a concept: 20 minutes
- Exercise (breakout group, workshop, roleplay): 20 minutes
- Recap: 10 minutes
- Exercise: 10 minutes
This pattern cycles through presenting information twice and active recall twice.
“If the memory plants better initially, I can space out and deliver short pieces of content, short additional trainings, later on for 5 to 10 minutes as a refresher on a regular basis,” Shawn said.
A culture of continuous learning
As an enablement person, creating a culture of spaced, continuous learning is essential.
Shawn’s strategy included implementing software and using positive reinforcement.
“We had a lot of great training materials, but people couldn’t find them when they needed them,” Shawn said.
He created a Slack channel for his team to share and find resources, whether external or internal. He also implemented HighSpot to deliver micro learnings and is pleased with how it allows reps to go in depth when they’re ready.
Rewards for reps
“If you want to build a culture, you have to provide incentives for people to engage in that culture,” Shawn said. “Positive reinforcement and recognition is one of the most powerful things.”
Catch someone doing something right, and send a 2-sentence email praising them for it. They and their peers will see that doing the right thing is appreciated.
“Validation delivered directly, earnestly, and in the moment is so much more meaningful than someone sending out a sales-all email,” he said.
Shawn left me with some parting tips for how to balance and focus this cultural development.
- Have a north star. If a request to create enablement content doesn’t match up with one of your pillars of success, then say no.
- Do a few things really well. If you have 100 things on your list, don’t try to get through 90 in a day, but spend a week or a month doing 15 of them excellently.
- Talk to the middle 60%. Honestly, neither the top 20% or the bottom 20% are going to benefit from sales enablement as much as the people in the middle. Invest in moving them from good to great.
Reach out to Shawn at LinkedIn or his website.