Why Reinforcement Is Necessary for Sales Success

Why Reinforcement Is NecessaryWhy Reinforcement Is Necessary for Sales Success is a subject discussed by other serious sales trainers as well. It's not just me. You hear me say, "Ongoing reinforcement is needed for getting results in selling." That a one-time seminar or lecture won't get you results.

Why is that?

Let's deal first with the lecturing. Why doesn't hearing a sales technique once at a seminar work? The answer is because actual learning did not occur. The salesperson goes into congnitive overload. They become defensive. The message is tuned out.

"I already do that."

"This guy isn't telling me anything new."

"I'm already a great salesperson."

Even if the salesperson does accept the new idea, after a couple of weeks they'll forget it. Back to their old comfort zone. Back to their old techniques.

Why Reinforcement Is Necessary: How It Overcomes Inertia

But the sales manager/trainer/leader has to have a playbook. The playbook can be a consistent sales process. It can be objections and rebuttals. It can be an equation to be applied to the customer's business--can we reduce their costs or increase their revenues? What is inside the playbook doesn't matter as much as having one.

Without the playbook, you don't have a target to aim at. If you don't have a target, will you have consistency? If you don't have consistency, can you manage your results?

The Three Learning Phases Showing Why Reinforcement Is Necessary

The plain truth is the way we learn is why reinforcement is necessary for sales success. Some approaches are based on studies of adult learning. Effective coaching simply bolsters that adult learning process. So how do we do it?

First, we perceive. We assess a situation and perceive which variables are critical to our success.

Second, we decide. Which course of action should we take? Thank goodness we have that playbook handy!

Third, we act. We practice, we roleplay, we rehearse--but most of all we use the new technique in real life.

The salesperson can practice. The coach gives ongoing feedback. That feedback can come in the form of ridealongs and a debriefing chat right after the prospect visit. It can come in the form of simulations. And it can be in the form of team coaching, where peers work with one another.

But the common key is that you need to see the new technique over and over again...interacting with real life. That's how it will stick. You must first perceive the need for it. Then decide to use the techique. And then really use it, taking action with the new technique in live selling situations.

Sounds simple? Doing this consciously is not nearly as easy as talking about it. That's why having a coach who will keep showing you why reinforcement is necessary helps so much.

Update: Is Ongoing Re-Learning of Sales Technique Still Needed In 2022?

Many years have passed since the first version of this post was written in 2014. Have people gotten any smarter? Are they more effective at learning and retaining information?

Of course not!

The belief that "I looked the course over one time, and now I know everything forever" remains an extremely common one. But let me remind you that * I * have to go over my own material several times a year—or else I'll forget the techniques just as easily as anyone else. And I'm more familiar with these concepts than anybody!

Humanity has a belief that just because we read or heard something and it seemed good, we must now know that thing and retain it for all time. You know just by reading the previous sentence that the idea is ridiculous; however, you go on acting as if it is true.

Don't fall for this unthinking belief. It's not just silly: it's harmful to you. Get a coach and a continuous sales training program in place to support your success.

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Sales Transformation: What Does It Mean?

Sales Transformation sales report cardSales Transformation is one of those phrases. The kind that many people bandy about without understanding, like "optimized solution". This leads to "mutual mystification", a common problem in selling, where the two people believe the other person in the conversation knows what they're talking about and agrees on the definition...but they do not. Not at all.

What Sales Transformation Is NOT

Sales Transformation is not an "upgrade" to existing selling skills.

It is not using the same process or techniques we were using before to achieve higher conversions.

It is not upselling.

This is the principle misconception we have to get past.

"Transformation" means, like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, the salesperson's entire approach must be different.

I have read many complaints that selling--especially as perceived by the public--is only about the salesperson collecting as many scalps as they can in a week; dropping the project right after collecting the money; and in general not giving a damn whether the whole thing works out for the client or not. In fact, retail sales expert Bob Phipps points out how Staples is concentrating on short term sales targets by using outdated techniques.

If this is true, Staples is in need of a genuine sales transformation.

Can you see the difference?

What Sales Transformation IS

The true sales transformation isn't in technique or even in approach. It's in PURPOSE.

Is your sales team genuinely interested in helping people?

If the solutions your company offers are not truly the best answer to your prospect's problems, are your salespeople willing to instantly and politely rule them out as a potential customer at this time? (I can hear the gasps.)

Having open and honest conversations with prospects--ones where the prospects really open up--is much easier when this is the case.

Training firm Force Management explains with statistics just how important ongoing reinforcement is in achieving this sales transformation. It isn't a one-time Rah Rah seminar and everyone's converted. It's WORK.

Check out these numbers, from the Force Management article, on how much a difference ongoing reinforcement meant to performance...and we're talking about average orders of $137,000 here:

Customer Retention 74% vs 67%
Teams Meeting Quota 79% vs 71%
Reps Meeting Quota 63% vs 55%

About an 8% increase in performance with the companies who had ongoing reinforcement. With a $137K average deal size, do you think this makes a huge impact on their income statement?

So how do you know whether your team can handle a sales transformation? This is a "There's No Going Back" decision. Your salespeople must be coachable and trainable. The truth is you will probably lose one or two top performers, who resent the change. It's the same as when you alter their compensation structure. Be ready for that. And realize you will need a program of ongoing reinforcement: the change is not going to happen overnight.

But the fact is it's necessary for survival in the world ahead.


What NOT to Do In Sales: Two Terrible Examples

What Not To Do In SalesWhat NOT to do in sales is just as valuable to know as what TO do. Yet sales leaders are not always in agreement about the best way to move ahead. Recently I found two articles that share, in my opinion, terrible advice. And I want you to be on the watch for misinformation like this.

Titles That Don't Deliver Show You What Not To Do In Sales

First, we have a piece entitled "Top Sales Techniques to Revolutionize Your Business". Sounds good, right? But the first thing the writer does is start talking about "the" sales process--as if there was only one!--and how well-known it is.

Believing there is only one sales process is a huge example of what not to do in sales.

We could swiftly begin by separating sales processes into the traditional features-and-benefits style and the consultative approach. Two right there. The fact is, though, that each company has its very own sales process. Many of them don't even have their process written down. They don't understand it. Their process is sloppy and undocumented, but by golly that baby is their baby...and even if they don't consciously know it, they're following its every wild twist and turn.

In short, there are millions of sales processes.

So don't tell me only one exists, and it's "well understood".

The initial of four "techniques" merely shows the author's lack of having worked with a true sales coach. "Get off my back and leave me alone!" is the cry of the front line salesperson, not a sales leader. And it demonstrates that in the author's experience, close supervision of performance according to quotas rather than behaviors has been the norm.

The only thing this writer does get right is the fact that sales training is an ongoing process. You won't get much from a one-time shot in the arm. Which leads us to our next bad sales article.

What Not To Do In Sales Training

"Train Your Sales Team This Afternoon" this author exclaims. Wow. And this is from a sales training outfit.

Expecting a magic return from a single short investment in training is another big example of what not to do in sales.

Was this article promoted by a slowdown in business? They of all people ought to know better. You cannot get very far at all in one sales training session. If you've been following my commentary, you know that ongoing reinforcement is an absolute requirement for sales success. Otherwise, the salesperson falls back into their old comfort zone and results.

The only possible plus I could take from this article is that it may get a company doing something about sales training...and something is slightly better than nothing.

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