|  By  
Em Ascano, Head of Operations and Education Development

The Reinforcement Curve: How to Use it to Train Sales Reps

Practice is mutually beneficial - for your reps as individuals, and for your overall business. When reps practice, they'll have more enjoyable conversations with customers, increase their commissions, and help you achieve new revenue highs. 

When you facilitate practice, you unlock potential. Unfortunately, too many learning and development departments rely solely on ineffective, passive LMS. Because it’s hard to schedule, manage, and measure practice, many L&D pros don’t offer practice sessions at all, or they cross their fingers and hope that practice will happen organically. 

But practice should never be optional, and should not be a one-time thing. It is possible to help sales reps reinforce what they’re learning every week - and Upduo is one tool that can help.

Train your sales teams with quick virtual practice sessions. Learn how with the Upduo Playbook. 

The science of remembering

Neuroscience research shows that there are three very important aspects of learning and skill mastery:  

  1. Emotional experiences - We’re more likely to remember information if there’s an emotional experience attached to it. This is likely tied to our survival mechanisms. Scary, near-death experiences can keep us from making the same mistakes. But we don’t have to invent dramatic learning experiences for this to work. This exact phenomenon is why corporate conferences will hire performers, organize interesting break-out sessions, and create time for connection and collaborative reflection. 
  2. Utilizing the full brain (active learning) - Consuming content is passive learning and doesn’t use as many neural connections. Active learning, on the other hand, offers immediate application and forges new neural pathways. This format helps us to remember what we learn.
  3. Ongoing practice - If we don’t practice a new skill, we’ll forget 75% of the information within just 6 days. Practice offers an opportunity to retain what we’re learning and integrate it into our daily life. 
More complex thought processes are more beneficial for learning because they involve a greater number of neural connections and more neurological cross-talk. Active learning takes advantage of this cross-talk, stimulating a variety of areas of the brain and promoting memory. - Daniela Kaufer, Professor of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley

Why sales reps need continuous practice

Sales reps are practitioners. They rely on their skills and experience every day to put customers at ease, discover their needs, and satisfy them.  Offering continuous practice can reap the following benefits:

  • Increase employee satisfaction with training - Sales reps earn more money the more they sell. With effective and enjoyable training, you can help them increase their takehome pay. Reps will see the training as more relevant and useful. 
  • Combat forgetfulness - Practice gives reps the chance to actually retain what they’re learning. 
  • Reduce nerves and expand comfort zone - By practicing their pitch for a new product or promotion or objection, reps will feel more confident when chatting with customers.
  • Improve mastery - A seller who practices is a more effective seller because they’re armed with the right approach no matter the situation. 
  • Positively impact revenue goals - Better sellers achieve better numbers. Organizations can set and reach more ambitious goals.

What is a reinforcement curve?

Organizations need to create a reinforcement curve—a way for the sales reps’ expertise and skill set to grow the more that concepts are reinforced.  If your organization doesn’t actively create a positive reinforcement curve, the negative one will occur naturally, and useful information will be forgotten.

The Reinforcement Curve for Sales Reps

A reinforcement curve can’t just be left up to chance. It’s something that every L&D department needs to plan for and optimize. 

How to create a reinforcement curve for sales reps

If you want to create a reinforcement curve in your organization, follow these steps.

1. Choose a learning platform built for participation

A LMS can be good for company procedures and sales theory, but isn’t equipped for practice. That’s why the first step is to choose a learning platform that was designed for applied learning and continuous practice. 

Choose a platform with these features:

  • Enables short, virtual practice sessions
  • Pairs people up according to the framework you’ve chosen (such as senior sellers with junior ones)
  • Pairs reps in a way that fits the size of your workforce
  • Let’s you build a library of practice session prompts
  • Allows for open-ended sessions as well as guided ones
  • Includes session analytics and reporting

Here’s an example prompt from Upduo, where the sales reps are sharing the top features of the new iPhone: Instead of roleplaying, participants can simply talk about the prompt in a natural, enjoyable way. 

2. Pick a problem or goal to start with

Next, it’s time to start with a company goal or an issue that you want to solve.  For example, let’s say that your competitor just rolled out lower pricing than what your company offers for the same service. 

You want to make sure that your sales reps are equipped with knowledge and experience when handling objections surrounding your competitors’ pricing. 

3. Craft a practice lesson around that goal

Once you have a goal in mind, you can start crafting the lesson. For example, you might include these steps:

  1. Introduce yourself.
  2. Brainstorm best practices when a customer says that a competitor’s products are more affordable (what to do and what not to do).
  3. Discuss what you would say when asked about a specific competitor’s pricing.
  4. Give and receive feedback on your responses. 
“What differentiates sellers today is their ability to bring fresh ideas.” - Jill Konrath, Sales Strategist and Trainer

4. Roll out the practice lesson 

The next step is to roll out the content. If you’re using an app designed specifically for virtual practice lessons, this should be easy.  All you have to do is add the content to your library and make sure it’s on the to-do list for the right sales reps, groups, or locations in your organization. 

5. Collect feedback and participation data

In the next step, we’ll measure real business impact, but for now, it’s wise to start collecting participation data.  Pay attention to…

  • The reps who have practiced the most
  • The store locations or regions who have practiced the most
  • The most popular session content
  • Feedback on the content or experience from sales reps

Use this data to determine where you should improve participation and session content. 

6. Review the impact on the main business goal

Now it’s time to correlate practice and results. 

Check to see if top-participating stores have higher sales volumes, if new employees are being activated quicker, and if products and accessories whose pitches are being practiced more often have more sales.

7. Revise and repeat

Practice should be continuous. Update your lesson prompts as needed and keep making new ones that address different business goals, problems, or initiatives. 

Help your reps practice, and everyone wins. 

Train your sales teams with quick virtual practice sessions. Learn how with the Upduo Playbook.