The Forgetting Curve… And What This Means for Enablement

Overcoming The Forgetting CurveIs the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve impacting your teams?

Jeremy is a new Account Executive at Acme Corporation. He has just started his onboarding and is rolling through each module and course, amazed at all the new insights he’s learning!

He passes his knowledge checks with flying colors and has just been demo certified.

He’s ready to start making calls and is hungry to have great sales conversations!

Fast forward 180 days.

Jeremy has been on his team since coming out of training. He is well liked and works hard; he has the highest activity on the team! He uses his sales tech stack like an expert and has a copy of the Sales Playbook saved to his desktop. Everything a manager could ask for…

Except for one nagging issue.

But Jeremy came out of onboarding on fire, you say. His ramp time was among the fastest in the sales org and his time to his first deal was excellent, so what could possibly be the issue??

His revenue trajectory was no longer a straight line up but was looking like a horizontal alarm.

Sound familiar?

All too often in Sales Enablement, heavy emphasis is placed on the first 30-45 days of a new sales rep. Each module is tightly buttoned with little room for failure, the executive team is spreading the rainbows and skittles during the meet and greet sessions, and managers are engaged and high-fiving on the last day of boot camp.

It’s a utopia for the new hire!

Research shows that within one hour, learners will have forgotten an average of 50 percent of the information you presented. Within 24 hours, they have forgotten an average of 70 percent of new information, and within a week, 90 percent – gone, vanished, buh-bye.

The forgetting curve is real and impacting your teams whether you realize it or not.

For enablement practitioners, this should set off sirens like the coming of the Apocalypse. How could we miss such dire statistics? How did we not tie a sales reps 180 day mark to their onboarding experience?

More importantly, why didn’t we care about what happens on day 46 – day 179?

There is a strong reason why Jeremy’s situation resonates with each of us. That same reason is why Jeremy is a master of sales tools but not of asking the right discovery questions. I’ll spell it out: R-E-I-N-F-O-R-C-E-M-E-N-T. Constant reinforcement. Of course he is an expert when it comes to SFDC and Outreach – he uses them and flexes those muscles everyday!

When I had this reinforcement epiphany, the first question I asked myself is, I’m only one person, how can I possibly reinforce daily what was learned during onboarding?!

Well, yes, I’m glad you asked! Here are 3 areas I focused on immediately to help me scale and start giving Jeremy the real tools and knowledge to not only keep an upward trajectory beyond the first 60-90 days but to improve his skill set as an Enterprise AE.

If Jeremy should ever decide to leave ACME to pursue other opportunities, I wanted to feel good about being an integral part of his professional growth.

Focus Area #1: Coach the Coach

Sales Directors and Managers are your Generals. They carry out and execute on the strategy. As enablement practitioners, why wouldn’t we focus on creating a strategy for success beyond onboarding?

The sales managers will be the ones the baton gets passed to when onboarding is complete. If running a relay race, we are the head coach. We must equip our team with the necessary training to execute on the strategy and goals. This training should include content, workshops, and programs. It should be a scalable, repeatable process. Sure, there will be some ad-hoc content that needs to be iterated on based on the ever changing business needs, but the PROGRAMS you put in place should change very little.

For example, when creating a process for a demo certification, I like to think of it in terms of good, better, best or beginner, intermediate, advanced. Each level should require more skill from your sales rep and be spaced out perhaps every 30 days and once they reach advanced, have the manager incorporate a quarterly recertification.

This is a program that can be carried out by your General over and over. The contents will change based on updated software/platform, but the process remains.

In working with managers, enablement should align and assist with regular coaching cadences as well. An LMS or something similar is always a great asset to push and adopt reinforcement of foundational learnings.

Your managers play a vital role in combatting the Forgetting Curve.

Focus Area #2: Sales Rep trajectory, not just quota

In enablement, we function as an ecosystem. Why should our view of sales reps be any different?

A sales rep is more than just quota. They are a company asset with many different facets. We should strive to look at a sales rep holistically, evaluating not only hitting their metrics, but what is their most effective learning modality?

What motivates them?

Where are they trying to go within the company?

Beyond the company?

How about personality assessments to start identifying patterns and trends?

In my opinion, this should be built into the company culture and not just a view of sales enablement.

Imagine the value of collected data that started with the Sales Rep from Day 1?

Let’s say a personality assessment was given. We could then start to see trends of milestones and achievements and what resonated most with those personality types. We could even, dare I say it, have different onboarding paths for specific personalities based on this data. We could build specific coaching techniques into what worked for them, suggest career paths based on what we have seen with others that match their personality types, the list goes on. How exciting!

Focus Area #3: Create “Circles of Learning” to combat the Forgetting Curve

This can be done multiple ways but the key is consistency. There is nothing I enjoy more than peers learning from peers. Peer discussion, peer feedback, peer coaching, and peer encouragement. An example could be to create a peer coaching form and require each sales rep to give a coaching session to one of their peers per week. The way I’ve seen this done most effectively is to have a Senior AE provide coaching for the “newbies” but I think it’s also important to have Senior AE’s coach other Senior AE’s and new hires coach other new hires. It’s important to also be able to relate to someone who is in your similar stage of learning.

Another example could be to organize weekly role plays between new hires and more tenured AE’s. Each week a focus area would be discussed, i.e. discovery, demo, buyer persona quizzes, etc. Simply have them jump into a Zoom session and record their interaction. It’s now in your call recording tool ready to be analyzed.

These are just a few examples of how to reinforce what the sales rep has learned from onboarding. Keep the knowledge fresh and engaging! Worth mentioning, it’s also key to make sure you have a platform in place to track this priceless data and tie it back to the most important piece of the puzzle – business outcomes.

The Forgetting Curve requires proactive reinforcement.

What are some examples of how your organization reinforces learning?