Training vs. Educating—Aren’t they the Same?

In his recent blog about training versus educating (Training is Out. Education is In. Are You In or Out?), Gitomer made some interesting points about corporate training which are worthy of further discussion and thought. To begin with, I applaud his emphasis on educating. Educating goes beyond training and changes a person’s mindset. When you focus on educating the objective changes—the goal is more intellectual. You want to provoke thought so that the learning becomes internalized and the resulting behavior change becomes ingrained.  I love how Gitomer describes training as something you do with animals…

“Sit, Rover.”

“Rollover”

In today’s complex world, we don’t want to send robots into the field to sell. But we do want intelligent human beings who can sell effectively by getting their customers to think.

Gitomer also aptly describes how training is conducted in most companies—with a focus on doing the bare minimum. Organizations tend to conduct training on their products first and foremost; at least this is my experience. If they do train on how to sell, usually the training only deals with the basics. Those companies who hire reps who aren’t sales people will train them how to sell but this is usually only done as part of new hire training. And those that hire only experienced sales folks tend to share the mindset that “we hire great sales people who know how to sell so we don’t need to provide them with any additional training.”

All the research I’ve read about keeping top of your game confirms that educating and acquiring new behaviors (sharpening the saw) requires repetition and time. It is the way our brains are wired. Malcolm Gladwell refers to this research in his book “Outliers” and concludes that 10,000 hours are required to become world class. This is the same for whatever you do—whether you want to be a world class runner, a musician, a thief, or a sales person.

10,000 hours seems to be the standard. According to Wikipedia, the average work week in the US is 33 hours per week.  That means you need over 300 weeks to become expert which is nearly 6 years of working at it (without vacation time). When you compare that to the amount of time devoted to training and the subsequent reinforcement, it seems to highlight a big disconnect. Why do leaders feel that exposure to a new way of selling—whether it is in a 2 hour presentation or an all day event—doesn’t require further reinforcement and follow-up? [If you want to read more about this topic, read my white paper about how training typically dies an early death: “Avoid Death by Training”.]

Gitomer also cites the need for furthering communication skills. In the business world…and especially in selling, words are the armamentaria of any sales person. Most folks tend to underestimate their power. Words can make us seethe with anger or weep with joy.  Words are so powerful that you can create interest or resistance in as little as 20 seconds (when you begin your sales conversation).

Although the points that Gitomer makes in his blog may seem like common sense, it is important to revisit some of these key points. It serves as a good reminder of how we should be spending our time so we can be more productive and more effective. It is true that as humans we tend to require reminders of what is important and what to keep top of mind. Let this blog (and Gitomer’s) provide that reminder and give you some food for thought.

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