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Training And The Forgetting Curve

by David Brock on February 1st, 2019

Not long ago, I wrote a post, Sales Training And The “Forgetting Curve.” It’s stimulated more questions and conversation than I anticipated.

I’d encourage you to read the article, but the basic idea is that 80% of skills we seek to develop through training are forgotten within about 90 days (Actually the forgetting curve shows a much more aggressive forgetting schedule.)

The thing that has surprised me about the conversation, is most of it has centered around, what we are investing in training and how to get the most of the investment out of training. It is a time/cost argument.

What hasn’t come up, but is, I think, the most critical aspect of the discussion is the opportunity cost! That is, we are training people and developing their skills for a reason.

We want them to use those skills for a purpose to create business results. Whether it’s selling a new product, whether it’s filling the pipeline with more qualified opportunities, whether it’s increasing share of account—we are training them to achieve some results.

So the real impact of the forgetting curve is not about the sunk investment in training, but the lost opportunity because people aren’t using these new skills to produce the expected results!

Sales leadership should not invest in any training or skills development unless there is a reinforcement plan that sales managers are committed and accountable for implementing.

Sales enablement and training vendors are doing their customers a disservice unless they insist a reinforcement program is in place and management has committed to their role in executing it. (Yes, there are all sorts of ways we can leverage distance learning for reinforcement, but managers must have an active role.)

The issue with training, skills development and the forgetting curve is not the investment we make in those programs. It’s the “why” behind putting these programs in place. We are doing it to drive business results. If we aren’t reinforcing and coaching, we are not producing the results we had committed to.


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