How sales people learn


I recently got to spend some more time building onboarding training and thinking about scripts, what caught my attention was the process by which sales people internalize new material.  There’s a pattern, and understanding how this works could change how you think about training and support tools.

Day 1

It may be hard to think back that far, but think of the last time you had to sell something new.  Did you start off like the Wolf of Wall Street or did it take you some time to internalize all the information?


The reality is that as a new sales person, or when you’re selling a new product for the first time, its not that easy.  Whether it’s an inperson sale, or over the phone, the basics take up most of your attention span.  In the case below for an inside sales person, they’re often struggling just to handle the workflow of a call.  The headset is new, the product is new, the client is new, understanding how it all fits together doesn’t happen immediatly.  The 3 basic tasks basically take up all of your brain power.


Day 90

It’s not an exact science, but after a long period of selling, where you’ve had to repeat the process over and over again… you start to get better.  The three basic skills of workflow / concept and value no longer take up all of your brain capacity, you’ve committed them to memory.

Just like riding a bike, you know longer have to think as much about the balancing of the bike and you can start to take on more advanced skills.

The sales person no longer needs to proactively think to remember to do these things, and it makes room in their brains to start adding additional skills to the pitch.  When you’re longer concerned about explaining the product, then you can start focusing more on explaining how the product is valuable to the person you are selling to.

Day 365+



After days and months of repetition, more and more of the skills become part of the sales person’s “muscle memory”.  The process continues, and there comes a time where all of the skills not longer take any proactive effort.  It becomes easy.  You’re like Neo in the matrix, or Michale Jordan playing bascketball, or Federer playing tennis.  Time slows down, and you fee like you are in complete control of everything that happens.








What do you do with the extra brain capacity?

Well, it’s called selling.  Once you have the basics down, then you finally have time to listen to the person in front of you.  At this point you can devote your entire attention to their needs, and whether or not the product you have could be a good fit.

This is the time in a sales persons trajectory where they can really start applying new advanced skills.  They don’t have to think about the foundation, they’re confident, so they can try out what’s next.

All this to say, that your training program should take this process into account.  Layer on materials slowly, and only add more once you realize the previous ones have been mastered.