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When Timing Isn’t Everything - The Timing Trouble in Traditional Training

Imagine a salesperson we'll call Jack. Jack just sat through a week-long sales boot camp (in person or otherwise). By Friday, his brain is like a sponge that's been left under a running faucet—dripping with excess information and incapable of soaking up another drop. Jack, like so many in his field, is a victim not just of bad timing in training, but also the corporate belief that when it comes to training, more is always better. Spoiler alert: It's not.

When Just-in-Time Beats Just-in-Case

Traditional sales training operates on a "just-in-case" model. It's the equivalent of learning how to fix a tire before you even know how to drive—sure, it might come in handy someday, but by the time you need it, you'll probably have forgotten which tool does what. Contrast this with the "just-in-time" model, which is like having a mechanic show you the ropes when you're roadside with a flat. This method ensures that learning is immediately relevant and applicable.

The benefits of just-in-time learning aren't just anecdotal. The Forgetting Curve—a concept first introduced by psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus—demonstrates that without reinforcement, we start losing the memory of learned knowledge in a matter of days. In fact, research suggests that within one hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50 percent of the information presented. Within 24 hours, this number rises to 70 percent, and if a week passes without that knowledge being applied, up to 90 percent could be lost. That’s not just a curve; it’s a cliff.

Imagine we plot Jack's training retention on a graph. It wouldn't be a slow, gentle slope but a steep dive, like a rollercoaster when you've just reached the peak and are bracing for the drop. Now, that’s the type of adrenaline rush you want your sales team to avoid - right?

Cognitive Overload: When More is Less

Then there’s the information overload. It’s the age of big data, but bigger isn't always better, especially when it comes to learning. Cognitive load theory tells us that our working memory has limits. Bombard it with too much information, and you'll jam the gears. Sales training is full with too much information, and crammed with complexity.

In our age of multitasking myths, cognitive overload is the supervillain. It swoops in when we pile up the sales techniques, sales methods, strategies & tactics, industry insights, pollical know-how, psychology, neuroscience, expecting sellers (young & old) to switch gears at lightning speed. But here's the kicker: A study published in the journal 'Computers in Human Behavior' found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced significant performance drops. In terms of sales training, this means that the more we dump on our trainees at once, the less they’re actually learning. It's like expecting Jack to learn to juggle while riding a unicycle. Entertaining, yes. Effective? Not so much. And as our window of opportunity to spend time with prospects continue to close – we have to be at our best when these opportunities present.

It's complicated…and expensive

There's a peculiar badge of honor that traditional sales training seems to pursue—complexity. Somewhere along the line, we started to measure the effectiveness of a training program by how intricate it could become. Instead of sticking to the core principles of sales—connection, understanding, solution, and closure—we've entangled the process with a labyrinth of techniques, acronyms, and processes that would make even Da Vinci's head spin. This convoluted approach may have succeeded in making sales training seem like an arcane art only accessible to the few with a Rosetta Stone, but in reality, it has done a disservice to many sales professionals. They're often left with a toolbox so overstocked and disorganized it's nearly impossible to find the right tool when the moment of truth arrives in front of a potential client. Simplicity is the soul of efficiency, but traditional sales training has forgotten this, opting instead for a complex system where less could truly be more.

Shining the light

So, what’s the takeaway? The old approach to sales training needs to be put out to pasture. Instead, it's time to water the garden gently—with targeted, timely readiness thinking, ideas and tools that get sellers better prepared, faster and with less effort. Let's give Jack and his colleagues what they need when they need it, so that information is a tool they use, not a flood they feel will drown them.

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