Consider a sales managers all-too-common nightmare…
“I wake up in the middle of the night in a pool of sweat worried about my sales teams’ ability to “think on their feet” and to “read” the ever-changing sales landscape. They know the product in and out. I know I quiz them frequently. During role play they also perform well. However, to a person, when faced with an objection, time pressure, or a resistant client, they choke. It is as if they have forgotten everything that they know. I am at a loss for what to do.”
This is a problem in “situational awareness” and it is common in sales, and many other domains (e.g., healthcare). A sales professional with strong situational awareness has an almost intuitive feel for the current situation and has a very good idea of what is coming next. This individual always remains calm and can retrieve critical product information whether in a routine or non-routine situation (e.g., under time pressure). This individual knows how to act in any situation. They always put their best foot forward, and maximize the chances of a sale, regardless of the situation.
Situational awareness is one of the hardest things to train because it involves training both hard and people (aka soft) skills across a broad range of scenarios. Even so, learning science—the marriage of psychology and brain science—provides the roadmap for successful situational awareness training, and Qstream, a sales enablement and sales training platform, understands and implements this roadmap.
Psychological and Brain Science of Situational Awareness Training
In a recently published Vendor SmartListTM , I used best practices derived from learning science, and determined that three skills are critical for sales professionals. These include:
- Hard skills of sales enablement, such as the ongoing process of updating product knowledge. Hard skill learning is mediated by the cognitive skills learning system in the brain that recruits the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus and relies on working memory and attention. Technologies that embrace microlearning, and are available 24/7 on any device are ideal for hard skills learning.
- People (aka soft) skills of sales, such as the verbal and nonverbal behaviors associated with an effective pitch. People skill learning is mediated by the behavioral skills learning system in the brain that recruits the basal ganglia and relies on dopamine-mediated, interactive, reward and punishment feedback. Technologies that are interactive and provide real-time reward and punishment feedback are ideal for people skills learning.
- Situational awareness of sales, such as being able to “read” any situation effectively and being able to retrieve the appropriate hard and people skills for the situation (e.g., handle objections or time pressure). Situational awareness is mediated by the emotional learning system in the brain that recruits the amygdala and other limbic structures and affects processing in both the cognitive and behavioral skills systems. Technologies that use scenario-based training, challenge the learner with routine and non-routine scenarios, and put learners under stress or pressure are ideal for situational awareness learning.
Qstream’s Approach to Training Situational Awareness in the Sales Brain
Qstream is grounded in science with research support from over 20 clinical trials. Since its founding in 2008, the company’s offering has been updated and improved while validating its effectiveness scientifically. Qstream was included in the Vendor SmartListTM because it is an effective tool for training the hard skills, the people skills and especially situational awareness needed in sales. This follows for several reasons.
First and foremost, Qstream takes as one of its foundational principles that the best way to be prepared for any situation (situational awareness) is to utilize context-rich, storytelling embedded in scenario-based training and testing. Critically, this includes routine and non-routine contexts and scenarios as well as situations in which stress and pressure are high. Scenario-based training and testing, combined with a broad range of contexts engages the emotional learning system in ways that enhance both hard and people skills learning.
Scenario-based learning “draws the learner in” so that they see themselves in the situation. The effectively engages visual representation areas of the brain, while simultaneously training the hard and people skills needed to be prepared in any situation.
Second, the platform was built with the cognitive skills learning system in mind. Scenario-based training is provided to the learner in brief engaging bursts, spaced over time, available 24/7 on any device. Rigorous scenario-based testing is also included. It is well known from the brain science that testing offers one of the best methods for training. This is the ideal approach for battling against the forgetting curve and the brain’s natural tendency to forget.
Finally, Qstream includes a number of tools to engage the behavioral skills learning system and to prime behavior change. Sales professionals can videotape themselves responding to a challenging scenario and can receive coaching, as well as quantitative and qualitative behavioral insights. This allows trainees and coaches to identify areas of weakness that can be targeted with additional scenario-based training and testing.
It is also worth mentioning that Qstream takes a similar approach in its healthcare offering. Much like in sales, healthcare professionals must master the hard skills, people skills and situational awareness that goes along with healthcare settings.
I look forward to continuing to follow Qstream as it moves forward in both the sales enablement and healthcare sectors.