Why rural sales training programmes work and why pilots don’t

 In Rural Sales Training

Learning is like fitness. Survival of the fittest you might say if want to get all Darwinism.

Like your own fitness level, learning decays and deteriorates quickly without regular recall and reinforcement.

Those cookie-cutter 2 days sales training programmes you attend are not programmes.

They are pilots that only scratch the surface.

This is why so many rural sales team soon revert to type a matter of days or weeks after such expensive sales training.

The training wouldn’t have been “expensive” had it actually worked.

And the only way sales training works is through what I call the 4Rs: reinforcement, repetition, retrieval and recall:

1. Reinforcement

  • how regularly are you applying the sales skills you have been taught?
  • how do you measure and track success? (eg. call recordings, sales observation days)
  • focus on one sales skill at a time and skill and drill for it using a real life sales scenario (use your sales conference or meetings in a more meaningful way)

2. Repetition

US Sales Guru Zig Ziglar said: “Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.”

Aristotle said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

What people forget to include when referring to this quote is the full feature-length version, with his first emphasis on training:

What we repeat creates our reality.

Maybe we have bad habits like call reluctance or not being upfront and early with our pricing. Or we maybe have good habits like planning and preparing for our sales call (in person or by phone). The more we do something the more it sticks – good or bad.

When we repeat something it becomes second nature like a muscle memory. Once we have repeated the key sales skills, our brains are free’d up to kick into higher-functioning thinking that allows us to if by magic think on our feet. Fancy that!

3. Retrieval

Research shows we lose up up to 70% of what we learn in less than 6 days. The only way to beat this Forgetting Curve is to use spaced retrieval to retain more of the sales training and learnings. Retrieval, like weights and muscles, strengthens the memory and interrupts forgetting.

Like well-worn paths in the park, neural pathways are formed by constant retrieval in the mind.

Have some fun and create quizzes with prizes for your team at Friday drinks or to motivate them and beat the monotony at your next Monday morning sales meeting. That way keeps it fresh.

4. Recall

We often use recall in our sales training. At the end of each module we ask “what bit made the most sense?” “What was most valuable in this session?”.

By asking them to recall what resonated with them most we are imprinting longer memory structure. We are working our their brains so it sticks. Like velcro we ask questions that lead and hook to the answer so our students have to reach and take a firm grip for the solution.

You can apply this same tool too in your own training by chunking it using recall to test for learning.


All these methods strengthen memory.

Do yourself a favour and apply these 4Rs.

Even better, use a 5th R which we’ll call “Reflection”. Reflect on what you’ve just read. Print it out and post on your wall. Or share this with a colleague.

And please, please, please invest in sales training programmes instead of pilots so you get biggest bang for your buck.

If you don’t, you might as well light fire to your money because it will have been a massive waste.

PS. My calendar is open for you to talk to me for FREE for 45 minutes about any rural sales struggles you may have. More often than not, I can pick up patterns and share fast solutions. Don’t suffer in silence, book me here.

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