Training Tips: Four Stages of Learning

Stages of Learning

Steps to the Dôme de la Basilique du Sacré Coeur

Let’s face it; every organization needs sales to generate revenue. Leslie McClintock from Small Business by Demand Media stated it perfectly: “No matter how good your manufacturing operation is, how cutting-edge your technology is, how tight your financial goals are or how progressive and forward-thinking your management techniques are, you must still have a sales mechanism in place, or everything else is useless.”

Sales is about educating your market and learning new ways to educate your market. An important part of this process, is developing your sales team and conducting training. Luckily for WMT blog readers, Paul Foster, The Business Therapist from the Couch Trip blog, recently shared “The Four Stages of Learning a New Skill” to help organizations develop a balanced sales system and team.The Four Stages of Learning (process developed by a psychologist named, Thomas Gordon):

  • 1st Stage: Unconscious Incompetence (You don’t know what you don’t know) – In this first stage you don’t typically recognize the skills deficit and may not know the new skill exists or why it may be beneficial to learn it. Awareness of the lack of skill and the desire to fill the knowledge gap is necessary to move to the second stage of learning.
  • 2nd Stage: Conscious Incompetence – In this stage the skills gap is known and the effort to learn the skill is beneficial.  Experiencing failure is a big part of this learning stage. In the sales training discussion I attended, the use of ‘role-playing’ allowed trainees to practice the sales system in as close to real life situation as possible, therefore developing their skills and building competence.
  • 3rd Stage: Conscious Competence – At this stage the sales person can use the sales system but they need to concentrate and make sure they follow it.  At this stage a salesperson can make a living with the sales skills they have learned.
  • 4th Stage: Unconscious Competence – After enough experience and practice, the ability to follow the sales system becomes so easy you don’t have to think about it. The comfort and confidence of the salesperson is at a new, higher level.
Lastly, The Business Therapist shares: “It is important to recognize the time, practice and experience needed to obtain the fourth stage of a sales system or any new skill.  With respect to sales, the existence of a good sales system is critical.  If the salesperson can stick to the sales system as they enter and go through the Conscious Competence stage of development, they will enter stage four with the complete system running without thinking about it. It is these salespeople who are always the top performers. It takes the highest focus to get there, but when you get there, it becomes easy… and therefore worth the effort!”

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