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70:20:10. What it adds up to for sales reps, managers.

Although it may be rendered in various ways (70/20/10 or 70-20-10), the meaning behind the moniker remains pretty much the same. The 70:20:10 Model is a formula used by the training industry as a means of categorizing and describing the sources of learning.

Generally speaking, the model holds that 70 percent of an individual’s learning comes from job-related experiences and 20 percent from social learning or interactions with others. Only 10 percent of knowledge derives from formal education events.

The model, now a mainstay for talking about the optimal sources of learning by managers, was created at the Center for Creative Leadership in the 1980s. It was developed by Morgan McCall, Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger, who were interested in isolating key developmental factors in training successful managers.

Today, the model’s greatest value is seen as providing a general guideline for maximizing the effectiveness of an organization’s learning and development programs through the careful management of activities and inputs.

In 2002Charles Jennings created a 10-point approach to extending 70:20:10 to create a set of strategic tools for human resources and learning professionals. Jennings, a widely known innovator of learning solutions, also created 70:20:10 Framework Explained, a publication detailing the background, principles, benefits and practical applications of the model and the 10 points.

The 70:20:10 Model also refers to an approach to managing business resources to foster innovation. This adaptation was pioneered by Google’s Eric Schmidt.

A huge question in our Internet age and in the midst of a mobile-enabled learning revolution is the question of validity. Is the 70:20:10 model still relevant? Although there is a greater emphasis on informal learning today, the model’s ratios are probably still an accurate reflection of developmental experiences for many people.

So what does all this mean for sales reps and their managers? In short, what does 70:20:10 add up to for them? The Model is a dramatic way of restating training priorities. Said another way, an astounding . That means the vast majority of learning depends on meeting people where they are—not in expecting them to convene in a formal and often contrived place or event.

For sales reps, the message is likely a confirmation of what was known all along—that learning is a highly individual process and the need for certain kinds of information ebbs and flows. It changes with circumstances. This is precisely why job-related and social learning is so relevant to how a sales rep functions on a day-to-day basis.

Informal and self-directed learning is a perfect fit for the reality of changing needs and the growing necessity to educate prospects. The reps seem to be crying, “Don’t make me try to remember a mass of information when past experience proves that I won’t. Instead, make my training flexible. Give me the capability to access what I need when I need it.”

For the sales manager, simply work backwards. Listen to the rep and respond accordingly. For sales managers, the message would seem to be: Learning is far more than live training events and traditional course work. The model seems to be saying that those who manage and conduct training for sales reps should look for where sales reps need information, guidance and resources.

In doing so, managers will identify opportunities to be proactive by providing informal learning opportunities. Providing what reps need when they need it is the surest way to impact individual performance and increase overall success.

Seem simple? Yes, but only if it is filtered through a recognition that, in the future, training probably won’t look like training. At least the training of yesteryear. What lies ahead may well be more engaging and therefore more effective—not to mention more palatable for everyone: reps, managers and trainers. In the future, look for training to do the following.

Focus on content, not an event.

Sales training of the past focused on events such orientations, onboarding sessions and annual sales meetings. Unfortunately, the information reps took home from these sessions in binders or on USB drives languished on a shelf or drawer growing less relevant with each passing day. Although they soaked up as much information as possible at the event, they forgot much of it before they had a chance to apply it in practical ways that would reinforce retention. Referring back seldom convenient or easy.

In the future, training will swing the spotlight to content and away from events. Instead of overloading reps with live training, information will be delivered to them as it becomes available. Trainers will be able to manage content from their desktop and push it directly to apps on their reps’ smartphones, tablets and computers. This will ensure that resources are always current, relevant and easily accessible. Soon, content will drive continuous learning and increased sales force productivity.

Control customer interactions.

Research shows that (Bain & Company). This is why sales training will move toward a new focus on creating exceptional customer interactions.

Instead of training sales reps to know as much as possible about the products or services they’re selling, training will focus instead on how to repeatedly create customer interactions that are most likely to lead to closed sales and happy customers. First, training will establish the rationale and capacity for creating exceptional customer interactions. Then resources to help them do so will be supplied.

Success in the future will ask trainers and sales managers to accept that it’s more important for sales reps to manage positive interactions and continuously move customers through the buyer’s journey than it is to be a product expert. When they are asked more pointed questions by customers, they will be able to easily and effectively access the content they need to answer them—without trying to keep all that information stored in their brains.

Rely more on fun and games.

Research in the training world is beginning to show solid evidence of the positive impact games have on engagement and long-term learning. A quote from the Financial Post sums is up nicely.

“Incorporating game play produces a better educational experience by adding realism, fostering competition and delivering quicker progress feedback. The value for the organization and worker is compelling: improved problem solving and collaboration skills, higher learner engagement and greater knowledge retention. Organizations should consider how to leverage gamification methods into their most important training regimes.”

As long as it is working to equip sales reps to be as effective and productive as possible, it will be on the right track.

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