I am writing this at the Philadelphia Airport on my way back from meeting with one of my clients. Three weeks ago, we offered a training program for their staff in basic selling skills. She reported that they saw an immediate increase in sales after the program. Since these are all telemarketers, she listened in on their calls to see what had changed. To her pleasure they were asking good, open-ended questions. They were taking time to listen to the client's responses and using their comments to match them with the right product. They were even closing right at the correct time. She was thrilled.
Unfortunately, not all of the reps kept it up. Within weeks, some of the rep's sales had slipped back to their original level. Another listening survey showed the cause. Each of the reps whose sales were down had slipped back into their old way of operating. It was as if a giant rubber band had been stretched during training, and now it was returning to its original size. Should we be surprised? I'm not. For years these reps had been trained to operate in a lecture mode. They read scripts and gave the same pitch to every caller. Now we were asking them to change, and change takes time.
So what do you do? Forget training? No, but you may want to think about the steps that must follow a training program to make it stick. These can include email reminders, peer coaching, and manager mentoring. In this case, we are adding audio ‘mini-seminars’ to the mix. Each rep will be encouraged to call into a voice mailbox for a short refresher on the subject they need help on. Each 10 minute message will give them tips and examples designed to overcome their area of weakness.
Whether you are offering training for your team or simply taking a training program yourself, recognize that old habits die hard. Build a reinforcement regiment to turn that training into practice and the practice into habit over 30, 60 or 90 days. Just like planting a garden, putting the seeds in the ground is only the first step to a bountiful harvest.
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Stephen Waterhouse is Principal and Founder of Waterhouse Group (http://www.waterhousegroup.com ), a sales training company that helps companies increase their sales and profits. He can be reached at 1-800-57-LEARN or email@example.com