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How to Accelerate the Development of Selling Skills?

By Percy Chong, 5th February 2015

Selling is an abstract art that is challenging to pick up. With most sales training programs conducted in the classroom setting, and focusing on one dimensional skills/knowledge downloads; the trainees are sometimes hard press to see the real picture of the job!

In order to facilitate the most effective learning, the training curriculum is best approach in 2 parts:

1)      Through providing visual demonstration of the job;
2)      Through the application of real life on-the-job training (ie. Joint-sales or Joint-fieldwork).

ASG has observed that trainees are usually weak in their application of the lessons taught, partly because of poor follow-through as well as the lack of a picture in their mind, on how to apply the skills learned, as well as how correctly they are applying it.

The solutions proposed serve to tackle these learning “disabilities” with the inclusion of visual demonstration of the skill to be taught, either through role-plays or video demonstrations. This snapshot of the skill is further confirmed or clarified when the trainee observes his supervisor executing the skills on the field through joint-sales activities. And because the training curriculum has embedded the on-the-job training (OJT) activities, it forces the trainee to apply the lessons taught, hence achieving the desired program follow through.

However, we can’t learn to swim by watching at the side of the pool!

The OJT is more than just a passive observation but an active participation as well. Because the trainees cannot begin to learn and improve unless they are aware of their problems or mistakes. The trainee’s performance observation by their supervisor during Joint-sales activities provides the insights into their blind-spots and mistakes. This picture of self performance is equally important compared with the picture of the job.

To fully appreciate why ASG suggested the training curriculum above, it is necessary to look deeper into understanding the learning “disabilities” that blocks learning.

The 2 primary obstacles for learning are:

1)      Perception gap
2)      Execution gap

No matter how well the role-play demonstration, picture or video demonstration of the job are made or delivered, there is no guarantee how the trainees will see it or perceive it in their mind. Their perceptions are often convoluted by their background, experience, preferences etc. Everyone wears a tinted lens when they see the world, and few trainees can really accept the unadulterated picture presented in training without introducing of any personal “bias” or opinions to it. The trainees therefore create these gaps between their own perception and the original picture that was introduced to them. This is part of the perception gap.

And everyone is guilty of introducing gaps into everything we see!

The other element of learning “disabilities” takes its roots from how well or how closely the trainees apply the lessons that they have learned. The execution gaps exist in everyone who is learning something new. It is contingent to trainee’s ability to emulate or replicate the skills that has been taught. Again, the previous experience or habits that trainees have developed over the years may hamper them from executing the new skill correctly.

It takes time to “unlearn” their old ways and figure out how to behave and coordinate themselves according to the new set of requirements (ie. relearn); until eventually their new “muscle memory” has taken shape and a new skill-set has emerged.

So, when developing sales training, be sure to consider the perception and execution gaps and include in the training curriculum, a picture of the job/task, plenty of activities to apply the skills and a constant eye-ball to make certain that the trainees will shape up correctly.

Article contributed by Percy Chong (through Asian Sales Guru)
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