logo image

ATD Blog

Practice Makes Perfect: Harnessing the Power of Agile Learning


Tue Jan 21 2020

Practice Makes Perfect: Harnessing the Power of Agile Learning

Brought to you by

Until May 6, 1954, no human being (as far as we know) had ever run a mile in less than four minutes. Experts believed it was impossible. But in Oxford, England, Roger Bannister broke the barrier that day by running a mile in three minutes and 59.4 seconds.

Then something fascinating happened: 46 days later, a runner named John Landy broke Bannister’s record with a time of three minutes and 58 seconds. A year later, three more runners broke the four-minute barrier during a single race.


How was this possible? How could a once-miraculous athletic achievement become almost routine in such a short period?

The answer: observational learning.

The Power of Observational Learning

Observational learning is the process of learning by witnessing a real-life example. Instead of imagining that the four-minute mile is possible to achieve, other runners could now watch the film of Bannister’s performance and connect deeply with their own potential to perform the feat.

Companies have long used observational learning to develop higher-performing employees. This approach has the added advantage of combining observational learning with hands-on learning. It allows new reps to ask questions and make requests of veterans who can show them how to handle particularly tricky topics or complex sales messaging.

The big drawback is that face-to-face shadowing isn’t cost-effective. Every minute an experienced sales rep spends speaking with a new hire instead of selling equates to revenue lost.


Mimic Face-to-Face Observation With Video

Adopting a sales learning and readiness system overcomes the problem of cost-effectiveness. Reps can watch and hear top salespeople delivering persuasive sales messaging and product demonstrations and play back the videos as often as they need to absorb the information. They absorb not only the words and concepts but the tone of voice, body language, and the like.

The Role of “Muscle Memory”

Because sales conversations and demos comprise concepts and words as well as vocal intonation, gestures, and body language, success can also hinge on developing “muscle memory.”

If you’ve ever played a musical instrument or a sport like golf, you know that muscle memory comes from repeatedly practicing a sequence of actions. In time, that sequence of actions no longer requires any conscious thought and effort. Instead, you can execute one good swing after another or breeze through a piano piece without any major hiccups.

The key to applying this to sales readiness is to follow a few basic rules. These include:

Get Plenty of Practice: The more you do something, the faster your brain instructs your muscles to do it well. Sales training platforms capture and analyze real-life sales conversations as they happen and give reps the opportunity to practice the best messaging on camera before going on calls. Solutions use randomized screen prompts to “interject” with actual prospect questions and objections to simulate customer conversations remotely. That way reps can observe themselves immediately afterward to self-correct as well as share with their manager for feedback and coaching.


Break the Task Into Bite-Sized Segments: If reps need to learn new sales messaging, divide it into portions. Present opportunities in the flow of their daily work for them to absorb short videos featuring other reps simulating and describing key conversation points.

Practice the Right Way of Doing Things: Muscle memory doesn’t distinguish between good habits and bad habits. Without a mindful approach, you risk incorporating bad habits and techniques into your sales process. Increase team cohesiveness by empowering organizations with sales learning and readiness technology that incorporates video-based collaboration tools to elevate and refine best practices in an automated fashion.

With today’s sales learning and readiness technology, reps can harness the power of agile content to observe and imitate new tasks and behaviors far faster than traditional mediums. They can short-circuit the learning curve and achieve peak performance in a fraction of the time.

Be sure to attend one of my How Agile Learning Kicks Sales Performance Into High Gear sessions at the ATD TechKnowledge conference, on the Advance Stage at the TK Playground. You'll discover the strategies and technologies to empower your team with agile content and learning to more efficiently close deals in today’s dynamic selling situations.

You've Reached ATD Member-only Content

Become an ATD member to continue

Already a member?Sign In


Copyright © 2024 ATD

ASTD changed its name to ATD to meet the growing needs of a dynamic, global profession.

Terms of UsePrivacy NoticeCookie Policy