Bueller... Bueller... Bueller...
I am sure you can easily name that movie.
Unfortunately, I am sure you can name a student in your last training session that fits this scenario as well.
Teaching is an onerous task that takes time to master. There are plenty of well-educated people with a wealth of information in their respective field. Being smart does not qualify one to teach. Teaching is the unique pairing of knowledge with the art of delivery. Having a successful delivery method is a struggle among trainers.
Often, there are a handful of students who make your job more difficult as you train your sales force. You do your best to lead a successful L&D team and have enough on your plate. Dealing with challenging students should not be one of the hazards of the job.
It is possible that the problem is not "bad" students, it is disengaged students. Keeping learners engaged during sales training can be demanding.
Sales training is easier if you know someone who understand adult education. Adults are not the same as children (hopefully) so the way they are taught should not be the same.
Applying Knowles' principles will help keep your learners engaged during sales training.
1. UNDERSTAND WHY THE TEACHING IS IMPORTANT
Sales reps should already understand why sales training is important. Perhaps it is because the training is required or they realize a new product or procedure is rolling out. Hopefully, your sales reps are looking forward to gaining and applying new information.
Understanding why the teaching is important has to do with how the learning benefits students directly.
For example, "we are using this software to track customer sales which will help improve sales performance" as opposed to "this is our new software you need to use". Having a clear understanding of why training has a positive impact will create buy-in from the sales force.
Basically, you are selling your training to selling professionals. Are you up for the challenge?
2. STUDENTS LEARN IN DIFFERENT WAYS
Learning styles are traditionally broken into three basic categories: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.
Visual - "show me how"
These learners tend to prefer charts, graphs, and pictures when learning. Visual learners will gravitate towards the front of the class so they can see the instructor from an unobstructed view. They are also the learners who appreciate using handouts during training. Watching videos is another way to keep visual learners engaged.
Auditory - "tell me how"
Auditory learners need to hear how something is done. These are the type of learners who enjoy listening to a lecture. They tend to ask more questions to aid in information processing. Using questioning during the training keeps this type of learner engaged. Quiet music in the background helps auditory learners concentrate. Podcasts are a great resource for auditory learners.
Kinesthetic - "let me do it"
For the kinesthetic learner, using a hands-on approach is good. They are the ones who need to touch the new product, not just hear about it and see it from a distance. These learners prefer to demonstrate how something is done. Many volunteers tend to come from the kinesthetic learners camp. Moving around, such as taking breaks and working in groups, is good for the kinesthetic learner.
Learners use all three styles to varying degrees but lean towards a preferred style. There are multiple ways to assess the learning styles of your students. The three learning styles are not without controversy in regards to their scientific validity. Regardless of the impact, there is no doubt that students prefer to learn in different ways.
3. STUDENTS NEED EXPERIENCE IN THEIR LEARNING
Purposeful activities keep learners engaged. Stationary learners quickly become sleepy learners. Use grouping, discussions, and experiments to hold the focus of your learners.
In addition to the adjective 'experience', incorporate the noun form of 'experience'. Sharing personal experiences in training allows learners to relate the teaching to their own life experiences.
Give your sales reps an opportunity to share their experiences and you are guaranteed to have their attention.
4. THE TIME IS RIGHT TO LEARN
If sales reps are not ready to learn, their minds will be anywhere except the training session.
In corporate training, the time to learn comes from the top down as opposed to the learner's desire to gain knowledge. This challenge can be alleviated by going back to principle 1 and emphasize the importance of the training.
Learners who are eager to learn what is being taught will not have a hard time staying focused during training.
5. MAKE TRAINING POSITIVE AND ENCOURAGING
Learning with positive reinforcement and encouragement is important for all learners, and paramount for those who attend training reluctantly. Affirmative words are far more effective than a condescending voice.
Add to that training that is gamified and social, learners will move towards sharing and discussing the knowledge they gained.
TAKE ATTENDANCE AGAIN
If you do not want any "Buellers" in your class, try modifying the way you conduct your training sessions. Who knows, maybe the learners will show up physically, emotionally, and intellectually.