Just like learning to ride a bike

We all remember when we learned to ride a bike. The lectures we attended on balance. The books we read on pedal pumping. The presentations we sat through on steering.

Of course not.

We learned to ride by getting on a bike. We fell a few times, scuffed our knees, and maybe had a helping hand on the back of the seat. We learned to ride by doing.

Modern jobs require skills as complicated as riding a bike. And just like riding a bike, there isn‘t time to think. That customer/patient/client/manager standing in front of us doesn’t have time to wait while we try to remember Step 4 of the sales/feedback/diagnosis/troubleshooting process. We have to react on the job, and quickly.

That’s why we train people to develop skills that become like reflexes. And the only way to do that is to put them in simulations where they practice, again and again, while receiving real world feedback. Just like learning to ride a bike.

Why typical training fails

How would you train people to learn the 5 Steps to Successful Selling?

  • Build Rapport
  • Identify Needs
  • Propose a Solution
  • Overcome Objections
  • Close the Sale

You could have them read the steps out loud in order. Take one away and have them do it again. Take two away and so on. Repeat this enough times, include a catchy mnemonic (Birds In Paradise Over Canada), and most people can memorize these steps.

Ask trainees an hour later and many can retrieve that knowledge. Success! A month later, some can still recite all five. Woo-hoo!

But there's one small problem.

Memorizing steps does nothing for your company. You want people to sell more.

The secret to custom learning that works

Scan the human brain and you'll see a neural network: 100 billion nerve cells wired together with a million billion connections.

When your trainees recite the words “Build Rapport," Step 1 lights up in their neural network. So does Step 2, “Identify Needs.” When their brain stored the steps as information, it also strengthened the connections between those chunks of information.

For people to learn to build rapport, not just memorize Step 1 in a process, they need to be trained differently. What if trainees practice asking empathetic questions of potential clients while receiving realistic emotional responses?

Now we see a brain with neural connections between building rapport, tone of voice, eye contact, empathetic body language, and asking about someone's family. The concept of building rapport and the skills required to build rapport are now linked.

By developing the right neural connections, we train people to build skills, not memorize knowledge. That's the secret to custom learning that works.