Correction & Praise – The Foundation for Learning A Sales Training Primer
By Neil Salerno
Wednesday, 31st May 2006
Many people - including some sales trainers - believe that learning takes place in the training classroom. Don't believe it. The important task that takes place in the classroom is the introduction of new ideas which create interest in and peak curiosity for improving sales performance. Real learning, however, only begins after they leave the classroom and put the new ideas into actual practice.

Because of this, most of those great sales ideas, introduced during training, never get put into practice; never become a daily work habit. The fact is that more than 90% of the material covered during a training class is forgotten and/or put aside within 48 hours after the class ends. The training classroom is the perfect medium to discuss new ideas, but learning takes place only after the class ends.

I believe that this simple principle is the single biggest misconception in sales training. Simply attending a training program does not, in itself, improve individual performance; we wish it did. The real learning process begins with the actual use of new material; yet this is the area where many training programs fall flat. Bridging the gap between the training classroom and forming new sales habits is the purpose of a good follow-up coaching program.

Most trainers, along with the people who hire them, suffer the frustration of watching people return to their same old habits after the excitement of the training class ends. Although many people will grab hold of an idea, during training, determined to put it into practice, only to cast it aside when they return to their daily job routine. Few people can remain self-motivated long enough to over-ride old habits to learn new material.

There are several excellent front desk and sales training programs out there; some may even have some form of follow-up involved. Before new training is scheduled, have a follow-up program in place. Make the training effective with a good learning program.

People learn through a process of trial and error or, in training terms, correction and praise. Coaching can provide the stimulus to get people to put new techniques into practice. Coaching provides a connection between the training classroom and daily practice of new material and ideas. It serves to correct, when one is going off-track, followed by praise, when one is on-the-right-track. This is the best possible way to learn.

If this principle sounds familiar, anyone who has raised a dog knows this process well. Some may be offended by the comparison, but the fact is that dogs and people learn in the very same way; correction followed by praise. Dogs and most people live and flourish by praise for their actions. There is no better learning reinforcement than praise when the "right" actions take place. How many of you have stood in the freezing cold or rain repeating "good boy" so your dog will finally understand where he is supposed to relieve himself.

Many hotel environments are chock full of formal correction procedures; oral and written warnings, etc; yet few are prepared or willing to reinforce correct action with praise; especially praise for performing specific sales actions. I can't count the many times I've heard sales people complain that they are often corrected but can't remember the last time they were praised for anything.

Unless reinforced by praise, correction simply causes confusion and discourages positive action for fear of getting more criticism; the normal reaction is to do less to avoid further negativity.

A coach provides both the needed stimulus to explore and practice new sales material and consistent correction and praise support until that material becomes a daily work habit. Once learned and put into practice, these habits will last a lifetime. 

Ok, so who actually assumes the critical role of training coach? Ideally, this is the same person who conducted the training program, but, if your trainer doesn't offer coaching, there are many marketing coaches that can be out-sourced to assume this role. If this is not an option, look internally to create a coaching environment.

A hotel manager or director of sales can become a training coach. But, most importantly, a coach must know the material and techniques covered during training. As a trainer, one of the major frustrations, we have all experienced, is to begin a training session and the general manager and/or sales director is no where to be found. I've heard every excuse from "I'm too busy" to "I didn't realize you wanted me there". Since follow-up is such an important aspect of learning, knowing the material is a critical part of being able to support the "right actions" when they happen.

Second, a coach must develop a high level of patience and compassion; coaching requires a personal commitment. Coaching after training is a one-on-one process of developing learning goals, timelines for practicing the new material, benchmarks for measuring progress, and scheduled meetings to discuss next steps.

The coach/mentor facilitates the learning process, creating an atmosphere and procedures which maximize the results from training. During the coaching process, people are stimulated and encouraged to learn and use the material covered during training.  

Any company or individual hotel that commits dollars for sales training deserves to be commended. For many years, we begged hoteliers to budget and schedule training as an integral part of their sales program. Discuss the follow-up coaching process when planning your next training class. Complete the training process with an effective learning program through coaching.


Neil Salerno, CHME, CHA, Hotel Marketing Coach, NeilS@hotelmarketingcoach.com


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