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ATD Blog

Sales Training: Boot the “Boot Camp” for Spaced Learning

Thursday, September 23, 2021
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Sales training and return on investment (ROI) have a complicated relationship. While sales leaders generally agree that training is valuable and necessary, it doesn’t always translate to desired results. A big reason for why training doesn’t stick is the way it’s traditionally been delivered and whether it’s reinforced.

The widely used traditional, event-based boot camp-style training has had difficulty driving results. Sales teams that ditch it in favor of spaced learning can notice long-term performance improvement.

The Fire-Hose Approach

To understand why sales training has traditionally been mixed in its impacts, you must first examine the common delivery methods. Even today, instructors deliver most formal sales training efforts through real-time or virtual workshops. Many companies bring sales reps together into a classroom and deliver full-day or several-day workshops covering a wide range of material.

This fire-hose approach of delivering a ton of content at once, or during a few days, covers a lot of information, but most sales reps aren’t able to retain much of it. Days, weeks, and even months later, only a few high-impact moments stick with the participants.

The Forgetting Curve and Sales Training

I’d be remiss to not mention the Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve. The human brain simply can’t retain a lot of new information, particularly if it’s provided all at once.

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The boot camp approach to sales training makes little sense when you realize other information delivered this same way is only retained in the short term. Why would you want to convey an important, performance-driving package of skill development and expertise in a way that is not built for long-term retention?

The Case for Spaced Learning

Sales training is designed to bring a new skill set or new area of expertise to the learner. Stacking together too many concepts—such as hours of product knowledge, skills, tactics, mindsets—is a formula for overload. In contrast, consuming one area of content at a time, with appropriate time to digest it, allows sales reps to absorb, process, practice, and—most importantly—apply the information.

SPARXiQ’s Modern Sales Foundations program provides 25 to 30 hours of learning and application exercises, and we recommend consuming the information at the pace of an hour per week. Many sales training boot camp events deliver this amount of training during three full days, only to have little impact six months later. In contrast, focusing on training content one hour at a time enables a seller to develop new skills during those six months. Best of all, these new skills become long-term habits.

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Leveraging a Hybrid, Flipped-Classroom Model

Employing a virtual version of the flipped-classroom concept, salespeople watch the core content on a topic on their own time before joining together as teams or cohorts to conduct a follow-up reinforcement meeting. These follow-up meetings are best led by the frontline sales manager, who then becomes a continuing resource for the team while also leading by example.

Properly deploying training in a hybrid way not only minimizes the necessary commitment to the sales team (by not taking them out of the field for a full week) but also sets them up for long-term retention.

What Will Stick Six Months From Now?

For sales leadership, sales enablement, and sales training professionals, it’s critical to know that effort and investment put into training pays back in key metrics. Revenue needs to grow. New business needs to ramp up. Customer retention needs to improve.

Many companies have done boot camp, or workshop-based training, only to find that little has changed in their reps’ everyday sales conversations. Properly chunking, spacing, and reinforcing the right training content is necessary to convert your investment into performance improvement and realize a significant ROI.

About the Author

Doug Wyatt leads SPARXiQ Product Management with the goal of providing powerful analytics and training solutions to our customers. Doug brings a background that includes sales, marketing, sales training, and sales enablement roles in industrial business-to-business markets. Since joining the company, Doug has worked closely with clients to deliver strategies, tools, and training solutions that drive profitable growth. Based on his insights and track record, Doug was recognized as a Sales Hacker Top 50 Award Winner in 2019. Collaborating with Mike Kunkle, Doug also served as a subject matter expert designing the Modern Sales Foundations training program. Doug’s hands-on experience and understanding of what it takes to improve performance informs the SPARXiQ product pipeline and go-to-market strategy. Doug strives to thoroughly understand our clients’ business needs and brings solutions to market that meet them.

1 Comment
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Great article! I'm running into the same issue with product technical training; way too much information in a short amount of time.
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