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Would You Spend 45 Minutes A Day Training Your People?

by David Brock on November 18th, 2015

I had a fascinating conversation with my friend Tory Hornsby.  We got to talking about the performance of his sales team–they’ve produced great results over the past couple of years.  I asked him what his secrets were—we’ll be discussing those in an upcoming podcast, but one struck me as remarkable–and completely counter to what most executives would do.

Tory said, “Every day, we devote the first 45 minutes a day to sales training.”

I had to stop him there, “Did you say every day?  Did you say 45 minutes a day?”

In my head, I was doing the math—assume a 9 hour day, assume 90 minutes lost in lunch, breaks and so forth.  That leaves 7.5 “productive hours” in the day (we know those aren’t all productive), or 450 minutes–so he is investing 10% of everyone’s time in sales training—every day!

Tory knew what I was thinking, he said, “Yes, it’s a huge impact on time—but it’s the biggest multiplier in sales effectiveness that I’ve found.  I literally could not afford to stop doing this.  The adverse impact in sales would be unacceptable!”

He had the data to support this, in the past year, his team has grown sales 138% over the prior year.  While there are a lot more things Tory has done to drive sales performance, according to him, this is the single biggest impact.  Constant training, constant reinforcement, constant learning enable his team to continue to grow and improve their performance.

They have a regular cadence of how they conduct each meeting.  Each day is the same, but different.

They’d spent some time figuring out the optimum amount of time.  They started with 60 minutes a day, reduced it to 30, finally have settled in on 45 minutes—every day.  For everyone, all the sales people, sales managers, and even others participate (though not every day).

The meeting starts with the team celebrating their accomplishments of the previous day–maybe landing some big orders, though those don’t happen every day.  They are things like great sales calls/meetings, reaching their goals for the day, something they have learned.  It’s followed in scrum-like fashion by each sales person taking about one minute outlining their goals for the day.  The sales people set these goals for themselves and measure their attainment of the goals.  This takes the first 10-15 minutes.

The remaining 30 minutes is spent training.  They rotate the responsibility, Tory may lead the training, one of the sales managers, or any of the sales people.  Tory described one of the sales people using the game “Jeopardy,” as a way of training the team on a new product they were launching.  Every day, they attack something different.  It may be a new sales or marketing program, learning about a new product, building sales skills—yes they do lots of role plays.

An important part of the training is constant reinforcement.  Tory says, “We have to reinforce every new thing for 4 weeks until people have internalized what we are trying to get them to learn.”  The way it works is they may introduce something new on Monday, on Tuesday, they spend a little more time talking about it.  Later in the week, they may spend a few  more minutes.  The following week they cover it several more times—each time they change things up a little, it may be a presentation, a discussion, role plays.  They continue this for 4 weeks.  By this time the new skills and capabilities are ingrained in each of the sales people.

They also provide tools to support the sales people.  I laughed as Tory described his sales enablement platform–each person has a three ring binder.  They keep the latest sales programs, some “cheat sheets,” and notes they take from the daily meetings.  They use those constantly through the day.

For training to work, it can’t be just one class or workshop.  It has to be constantly reinforced, exercised, developed, and coached until people have internalized whatever it is you are training them on.

I was still astounded by the commitment Tory and his team make to daily training.  Tory had all the math done and all the data.  He knew how many person hours it took–both in the daily training meetings and in the time people spent preparing.  He knew that at a minimum the daily 45 minute meetings “robbed” them of at least 10% of their selling time.  As he reviewed the data about time, investment—then results, he concluded, “I can’t afford not to do this!  The adverse impact on sales productivity and sales results would be huge!”

Can you afford not to invest in training, reinforcing, and developing the capabilities of your people?

  1. Martin Schmalenbach permalink

    Another great example of leading & managing.

    Dave knows of my ex aviation background so won’t be surprised at my response.

    Would you fly with an airline whose pilots and crew didn’t value training, or reinforce best practice & share learning regularly & frequently?

    Customers don’t want to be sold to, they want to be helped in dealing with complexity. Do they really want to get this from salespeople who are like those in Dave’s blog and pilots, or from the more traditional “training is for losers and people who can’t sell” school of thought?

    • Martin: The level of commitment pilots/aviators, the military, law enforcement, etc makes to training is amazing. It’s also interesting to note these are where the consequences of bad performance are the most severe. They know ongoing training is critical to success.

      It’s also very interesting to note in these organizations, that managers/leaders are deeply involved and engaged in the process. It’s an important part of how they spend their time and how they have confidence the mission can be achieved.

      One wonders why we in business don’t get it and continue wasting so much time and resource by focusing on the wrong things.

      • Martin Schmalenbach permalink

        I’ve just come back from 2 weeks in Europe where I was delivering account management training with 3 large account teams and then discussions with some of my team and the Field on next developments in our client engagement process and how to train it & support the Field.

        The night before I flew back I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the annual dinner & reunion of my fellow Air Force training colleagues. I’ve not been for over 15 years, and it was an emotional occasion, as I’ll explain – it’s pertinent to the post and your reply to my response(!)

        About 4 years ago the air force decided to disband the formal and separate trade or branch of training, feeling that specialized and trained people in the art & science of training was overkill (no pun intended) and that subject matter experts alone would be enough. Yes, it would save money in these times of austerity and increasingly expensive weapons systems (the British Air Force is buying a number of the hugely expensive F-35 jets from the US, which means cuts elsewhere)

        Well, the experiences of the past 4 years have shown the folly of such a decision. The current head of the UK’s Royal Air Force is an officer I know well, as we served together some 2 decades back when he and I were at the same base but on different helicopter squadrons – me as a young instructor, he as a squadron boss. He is extremely supportive of professional training, and was very supportive of efforts to re-establish a professional and formal training branch in the Air Force.

        At the reunion annual dinner we celebrated the recent announcement that the training branch was to be re-established, and would formally ‘stand up’ at the beginning of Feb 2016.

        In the military context it is obvious to many that training serves a vital, even life & death role. Whilst in the commercial world things may not be so dramatic, what IS at stake though is the life or death of the organization as a viable, independent entity that is gainfully employing people – anybody who has experienced first hand being ‘downsized’ will know how devastating the loss of a job can be…

        Training and developing people matters. It needs to be done by professionals who are motivated, capable, committed, and who really understand how people learn, and how best to enable others to learn what needs to be learned. Throwing some powerpoint up on a screen is not the way to do this. As sophisticated and professional as the air force’s non trained trainers are in their respective fields, they aren’t and can’t be expert also in how to create the right kind of learning experience and environment.

        It turn

  2. Great environment and commitment from Tory and his team. To get a team fully behind something like this is a big accomplishment.

    A practice like this is worth driving down the “selling time” KPI.

  3. Thanks for the kind words, Dave. I’m looking forward to the upcoming podcast.

    I’d welcome any questions via replies, emails or phone calls.


    • Tory, thanks for the great story. Looking forward to publishing the interview. There were so many more valuable lessons in our discussion! Thanks for the inspiration. Regards, Dave

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