Hey marketing and sales leaders, it’s that time of year again. You’re getting ready for the big annual event for your sales organization. You’ve got a lot of announcements to make. There will be some new training. You’ve picked a keynote speaker. And, even though you won’t be bringing back the dancing bears, you’re determined to make a bigger splash this year than last. That’s all great. But there’s one thing to ask yourself before you get too far in your planning …
“What’s the one thing?”
It’s great for your sales teams to be exposed to all kinds of new skills, products, marketing messages, and so on. But you simply cannot expect them to learn it all – especially not in a couple of days of wall-to-wall presentations. So, the one thing to ask yourself is, “What’s the one thing?” What is the one thing you want every sales professional to take away from this year’s event? You could even ask what’s the one thing in each key area, such as:
- What’s the one change in behavior you want to see from your sales teams?
- What’s the one message that you want everyone to learn?
- What’s the one new product/service/feature that everyone needs to understand deeply?
- What’s the one competitor everyone needs to watch?
- What’s the one industry change that everyone needs to know about?
When you narrow it down to one thing, you’re doing two things …
First, you aren’t leaving anything to chance. You’re telling your teams what matters most. And in doing this, you will force yourself to make some hard choices about what really are the key skills, behaviors, and products that will drive sales in your organization this year. Otherwise, you’ll be throwing all kinds of information at your teams – and leaving it up to chance and each individual’s personal preferences as to what, if any of it, will actually stick.
Second, you’re making learning possible. Give me a dozen different things to grasp at once, and I’m overwhelmed. I won’t even try to learn them all. Give me one thing to learn, and I’m confident I can master it. Sure, you can expose me to a dozen things, but make sure you tell which one thing is most important right now. Teach it to me carefully. Give me some examples of how it works. Demonstrate it. Model it. Write it down for me. Let me practice it. Test me on it. Then, next week or next month, ask me about it again, and see how I’m doing with it.
Now, do this one thing to make sure everyone remembers your one thing.
After you’ve introduced your “one thing”, use questions about it later to seal the memory. Those questions can be in the form of a quiz, a poll, a competition, … anything like that. Why? Because it’s one way to beat the “forgetting curve.” Professional trainers know that learning evaporates quickly – and you can plot this on a curve. On average, students will have forgotten 70% of what of what they “learned” 24 hours after it was taught. (I’ve seen different figures on this, but if you want the backstory, check out Hermann Ebbinghaus and his discovery of the “forgetting curve” in the late 1800s.)
So, if you introduce your “one thing” in a general session at the beginning of the first day, ask your audience a question about it at the end of the session. Ask another question about it again later that afternoon, and ask again on day two. By posing questions at regular intervals over those first few hours and days, you’re making your sales professionals stop and engage with the “one thing”. Studies show that they’re more likely to remember it this way than if you simply re-presented it to them a second or third time.
Once you’ve identified your “one things”, you know where to invest. This makes event planning a lot easier. Your “one things” tell you what topics should get the most time, the best speakers, the most audio visual support, and the coolest leave-behinds. By reinforcing your “one things” in every way possible, your sales professionals will go from “jack of all trades, master of none” to “jack of all trades, master of one.”
Oh, and one more thing … train your reps to do the same thing you’re doing. Teach your sales professionals to use this “one thing” principle when they’re preparing their own presentations and getting ready to call on prospects. Ask them, “What’s the one thing you want your prospect to remember after you’ve left?”