Yesterday I spent over two hours perusing the richest mother lode of entertaining time-wasters ever gathered into a single assemblage – YouTube. What began as a search for a certain clip from a political speech devolved into a delightful, meandering sojourn through my past in the form of two-minute snippets from sitcoms, sports moments, concerts, and comedy routines. Rainy Saturdays haven’t been the same since the invention of broadband.
It was while watching some old Saturday Night Live clips that I came across several featuring my favorite SNL character, Father Guido Sarducci. The Cleric of Comedy could always make me laugh, but it was one of his routines that got me to thinking. The bit was “The Five Minute University,” in which the good Father states that he is going to start a school where in five minutes, you learn what the average college graduate remembers five years after leaving school.
For example, in the Spanish class, you learn “Como esta usted?” To which the answer is “Muy bien.” This is enough, says Sarducci, because if you take two years of college Spanish, five years later, that’s about all you’ll remember anyway. Economics – “supply and demand.” Accounting – “assets equal liabilities.”
Funny stuff, but like most good routines, it’s funny because of how closely it resembles reality. We attend college and pursue a certain course of study in order to gain a competitive advantage in the job market. A job interview is not a good place at which to come in second.
Neither is selling. Sales is a winner take all competition and as such, salespeople are among the most frequently trained individuals in the business world. Yet studies show that far too often, sales training doesn’t drive improved performance or results.
An ATD (formerly known as ASTD) study states that 80% of new skills are lost within one week if not used. An HR Chally study found that 85% of sales training fails to measurably improve results. And Xerox research concluded that 87% of new skills are lost within one month. It turns out Father Sarducci was on the right track.
Sales training isn’t an event, but the statistics are what they are because that’s the way most companies treat it. The best selling methodology, trainer, and classroom presentation won’t move the needle very much if that’s all you do.
In order to actually drive lasting behavioral change, the kind that will produce sustainable results, learning must be made available within the context of business processes and tools used every day by people in the sales organization. Managers and sellers engage in metrics reviews, opportunity reviews, account planning, joint sales calls, sales meetings, etc. Learning that would typically be presented via a three-day, instructor led training class must be inherent in all of these activities, along with a step-by-step, guided process by which managers coach.
While I’m not recommending the Five Minute University approach, imagine if a seller could spend five minutes prior to a customer meeting reviewing a key skill, while working in a tool he uses every day. Or if a manager could get a specific coaching recommendation simply by spending five minutes reviewing an opportunity with a seller. That’s better than Father Sarducci’s Business class – “Buy something, then sell it for more.”