Think back to your favorite schoolteacher. I’m guessing the first person who comes to mind isn’t a dry lecturer who droned on endlessly as a pictureless slideshow played behind them. The teachers that make the most impact on their students are the ones who make learning come alive. Unfortunately, most kids associate the classroom with boredom. A teacher who finds a way for their students to have fun with what they are learning will always make a lasting impact.
This same principle is just as true for adults as it is for kids. Sales professionals don’t like to be bored any more than seventh graders do. This is one reason so many of them are deadest against going through sales training. Even if the principles and strategies taught are useful, most of us won’t remember them if we only read or hear them and don’t experience them in a way that energizes us.
At XINNIX, we have spent more than twenty years providing performance training solutions to thousands of salespeople and leaders in order to elevate their success. Recently, I was looking through some student surveys for one of our Performance Programs, and what I found didn’t surprise me. The aspects of the program the students were responding to most strongly were the breakout sessions, the action, and the energy our Performance Specialists were bringing into each class. It doesn’t matter how young or old the students are—people learn better when they’re having fun!
People Need a Win
Have you ever found something, maybe a sport or hobby, at which you just weren’t any good? No matter how hard you tried, you felt like you couldn’t progress. I bet it wasn’t too long before you found another way to spend your time. Banging your head against a wall is no one’s idea of a good time. This applies to sales training too. Progress gives us the motivation to keep going. That’s why incorporating games and breakout sessions is so important. They give students the opportunity to practice what they’re learning, potentially fail, but keep trying until they experience success.
Dan Giovacchini, Co-Founder of Tango and part of Forbes “30 Under 30” for 2022, believes gaming is one of the first places we should look for inspiration when developing training programs. He says, “Thoughtful and transparent sequencing of goals helps create achievable yet motivating learning journeys. Experiential learning should also feature difficulty progression based on learners’ job tasks and responsibilities. Great games pace learners, enabling them to grow their skills through the challenges they overcome.”
In a lot of ways, gaming shouldn’t just be one aspect of training; it should be the model. At XINNIX, we have created a system that challenges our students in the best way possible. They aren’t overwhelmed by the difficulty. Instead, they are consistently rewarded for their effort and growth. They aren’t drained by the effort—they are invigorated by their success!
People Need Connection
One of the most important but too often overlooked purposes of training is to be a safe space for students. This should be a place where they can try, fail, and master new strategies without the pressure of real-world consequences. Additionally, it should be a place where they can open up about their struggles and form a community with people who understand their experiences. In other words, the classroom should be a place to make friends.
Any activity is more fun when you’re doing it with friends. At XINNIX, we create an environment for students to get to know each other personally. This starts with our Performance Specialists. They serve a role so much greater than a lecturer or classroom moderator. They open up, sharing stories and experiences from their own lives, letting their students get to know them as instructors and people. We make time for our students to do the same in class discussions and breakout sessions. They laugh together, relate to each other’s struggles, and learn from their shared successes and failures. The classroom should be more than a place to receive information and take a few tests. The best training environments make students feel seen, understood and supported. After all, what’s more fun than a great hangout with your friends?
Experiential Learning Is More Than Learning by Doing
On some level, many training companies incorporate the principle of “learning by doing.” Most programs involve some element of putting principles into practice. But that alone isn’t what sets true experiential learning apart. Dan Giovacchini says, “Learning by doing is an intuitive concept widely accepted in learning theory—but too often, the reality is ‘learning by slowly struggling.’”
No one is going to be excited about sales training if every day feels like a slog through the mud. But imagine if someone told you that the best way to reach the next level of production in your business was to play games with your friends. That’s what a training program should feel like when you’re engaging in true experiential learning. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying training should be easy. But the best games aren’t easy. They present a challenge that rewards your hard work and ingenuity. That’s why the best training programs leave you feeling like a champion.