Sales training programs. We’ve all done them. We’ve all endured those nine-hour-days of information landslides, stuffy seminar rooms, and really, really bad coffee. Employees think it’s going to be a nice break from the daily grind. They think they’re going to walk away with sales skills that’ll improve their rapport with customers and double their turnover.

But the unavoidable fact is that for all the value these sales training seminars promise—for all the experience of the mentor, the voluminous dump of information, and the trees that had to die to print the 300-page reading materials—for ALL of that, employees are only skimming a fraction of the benefit.

They're not really getting any sales skills.

Online sales training is no better (although it does save a lot of trees and the coffee at home is better). This is because the mode of delivery is practically the same: “Here is a mountain of information for you to cram in the next few days. Read it, do the assignments, tick the boxes, get your certificate, and then fly free, little bird, and good luck with the rest of your career!”

Dolphin jumping in the water

[Read also: What's missing in your company's eLearning strategy?]

This mode of sales training, no matter how potentially useful, simply doesn’t stick. Two weeks later, all that information has vanished from your employees' heads. They haven't improved their sales competencies.

So, how can you make sure that your employees are receiving in-class and online sales training that will actually translate into improved revenue for your company?

That’s exactly what we’re going to answer in this article!

Hi, we’re Brainscape

We’re obsessed with figuring out how humans learn. We’re so obsessed, in fact, that we’ve trawled through decades’ of cognitive science literature to find the "secret sauce" of quick and effective learning. 'Cause wouldn’t that be awesome? If your team could spend HALF the time learning and actually remember what they learn?

Brain holding barbell, online sales training
Most sales training tools don't work. Brainscape is here to fix that.

Our exhaustive and caffeine-fuelled research is what informed the development of our online and mobile microlearning app, which, today, sees millions of serious learners from all over the world preparing for some of the highest-stake exams around—from AP biology and history to the bar (law), MCAT (medicine), and NCLEX (nursing) exams.

What we have learned about how humans learn applies just as rigorously to the realm of business, where ongoing education is important for keeping sales folk at the peak of their game and raking in those hundred dolla' bills.

So, what exactly is the problem? Why do online sales training programs so frequently fall short of delivering the benefit you’d expect for the price you pay? More importantly, what is the SOLUTION? Let’s dive in!

[Read also: Does your eLearning Use Good Cognitive Science?]

Why are most sales training programs so ineffective?

Teacher in front of blackboard teaching sales skills
Sales training programs teach in a linear fashion, but that's not actually how we learn.

More importantly, they are delivered in a linear fashion. In other words: an employee hears the information ONCE in a seminar, video, or by reading, and then they never hear it again.

The human brain simply isn’t wired to remember everything it sees and hears for all eternity. In fact, HALF of the content of a sales training event is typically lost in five weeks, according to a study by Sales Performance International.

Employee retention graph
Sales training knowledge is usually lost quickly. Image Source: Yesware.

The longer the time that transpires, the more of that expensive sales training the employee will forget. So, while you are spending all this money on advancing your employees’ sales skills, it simply isn’t making much of a difference in the long run.

The key to effective in-class and online sales training

The key ingredient that is missing from almost ALL forms of sales training tools, programs, and courses is systematic repetition, spread over time. Yep, even those popular "microlearning" videos make the mistake of only showing employees information once (albeit in delicious little bite sizes), and allowing them to "check the box" and call the training "done".

You see, the more someone hears information, the more likely they are to remember it. Then, at a certain point, that information will become so deeply ingrained in their brain, they’ll never forget it. This is why so many people still remember the telephone number from their childhood home.

Without repetition, employees will forget 90% of what they learn within a matter of months. But, without some kind of system in place, these employees aren’t voluntarily going to redo the entire course again and again until they remember it from scratch. Ain't nobody got time for that!

Systematic repetition. THAT is the key to vastly improved sales training knowledge retention. But what online sales training program offers this?

Brainscape does! And we’ll look at how in just a moment.

[You might also like our articles on ‘How Great Companies Use Brainscape’ and ‘Can digital flashcards transform L&D?’]

Understanding the most important sales skills

Man in suit

What are the most important skills in sales? Of course, they are “soft skills”: non-technical skills that relate to how an employee works, such as problem-solving, time management, and interacting with customers and colleagues, etc.

In the classroom, soft skills are developed through hands-on simulations with guidance, usually in animated scenarios (online) or acted-out performances in front of a class. But this sales training neglects to develop the KNOWLEDGE behind the soft skills, in other words: the goods to back up the banter.

You could sell ice to an Eskimo, but if you don’t know your product, you won’t inspire the trust and loyalty of your customers, which is what employers really want: sweet, repeat business.

An excellent salesperson:

  • Knows their products and services inside and out
  • Knows the common problems these products and services can solve for customers
  • Knows their target audiences and how to approach each
  • Knows their company’s competition and where their weaknesses lie
  • Knows what questions to ask at the various stages of the sales funnel
  • Knows the answers to all the possible client questions and complaints

The soft skills can be developed with real-world practice, but this list of powerful sales assets can only be mastered by onboarding quantifiable facts and knowledge. And this is done MOST EFFICIENTLY through online sales training that leverages the power of systematic repetition.

The best sales training tool for the job?

Once again: Brainscape!

Brainscape’s online sales training for companies

Mobile phone in a hand

The Brainscape app trains employees EFFICIENTLY and helps them REMEMBER what they learn by leveraging three key cognitive science principles:

  1. Active recall: The ability to remember information from scratch, without being prompted by multiple choice answers, for example.
  2. Metacognition: Thinking about how well you know something is fostered by Brainscape’s confidence self-assessment tool.
  3. Spaced repetition: View key principles and concepts repeatedly at optimal time intervals for learning.
Brainscape's spaced repetition algorithm
Brainscape’s web and mobile app breaks down the information you need your employees to learn into logical bite-sized question-and-answer pairs. These compel employees to engage active recall and metacognition to learn, while the spaced repetition of flashcards ensures more efficient learning.

Your brain is hard-wired to learn in these ways—through active recall, metacognition, and spaced repetition. So, Brainscape works WITH your brain’s hardwiring to help you establish deeper, more significant memories of the information in as much as HALF the time it would ordinarily take you.

So, all those problems we mentioned: you spending thousands of dollars on expensive training only for employees to forget most of what they learn ... or employees not acquiring the knowledge behind those all-important soft skills ...

Yep. Brainscape solves that. And at a fraction of the cost.

With the app, companies can:

  • Create custom flashcards using text, images, sounds, videos, and any other media that works well in a bite-sized study format.
  • Securely invite employees to access their custom training program on Brainscape, both online and on their mobile devices. This keeps your sales secrets and product information safe from competitors.
  • Track their L&D ROI by viewing detailed data on their employees’ activity, ensuring they’re spending the necessary time on their training (so you know which employees are taking it seriously and which aren’t).
  • Brainscape can also be used by employees as a quick mobile reference tool, which can be very valuable in situations where they need guidance or additional product information to better serve and/or advise customers.

For more insights on where your online sales training might be failing your company, read: "How to develop eLearning that will increase employee engagement".

The right training tool for the sales job

Hand shake through the laptop during online sales training

As someone who has very likely made it through the education system, you probably know just how ineffective knowledge cramming is. You’ll also probably be familiar with repetition as the best way to master new facts.

This is as true for sales competencies as it is for traditional education.

And yet today’s sales training programs fall right into these two pitfalls. They dump a load of information onto employees and then expect them to remember everything without refreshing their knowledge in the coming weeks and months.

When you consider the price tags attached to these products, the last thing you want to feel 6 months later is that your business is simply not getting its money’s worth.

Employers need to invest in sales training that leverages the power of systematic repetition AND can teach employees the knowledge supporting those all-important soft skills. That's how to build sales competencies.

Bottom line: Brainscape is just the tool for the job.