By Wes Grantom
Take a moment and think back on everything you’ve ever learned. Which lessons stick out in your mind? Chances are the most memorable are the lessons that you connect to emotionally. Whether you’ve been in a classroom recently or haven’t cracked a book in years, the lessons that tend to stick with us are ones that create an emotional response or resonate on a visceral level. The emotion generated could be any number of a wide range of emotions – joy, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, pride, empathy – but the important thing is that while you learned that information you felt something.
Connecting lessons to emotions is a strategy that’s been employed by instructors and teachers since the beginning of humankind. Creating an emotional response, however, is no simple task. As human beings, we are hardwired to question and that questioning often makes us skeptical and protective of our emotions. So how does a teacher or instructor breakthrough to create emotional engagement and ensure learnings are retained? Any great instructor will tell you, the best way to access a person’s emotions is by accomplishing two main objectives: Breaking people out of their comfort zones and telling a compelling story. And if you can accomplish both simultaneously in one training experience, you’ll capture the hearts and minds of every representative in your sales force.
Breaking people out of their comfort zones requires physical engagement. This physical engagement could be a dramatic change in environment or finding some means of getting participants on their feet and into their bodies. The important thing is to physically activate the group, as opposed to allowing them to listen passively to the information being delivered. When people are engaged physically, they are more focused, more willing to go a journey, and more tapped into their emotions.
Creating a compelling story-driven experience helps stimulate interest in the moment. This allows attentive learners to capture more information and gain a better understanding of their role in the story. The emotional connection generated by the experience will better prepare participants for their role because they are personally invested in a visceral way.
So how is this achieved? Before exploring a few specific examples, it’s helpful to outline some tips to consider when approaching these types of experiences.
First and foremost, it’s essential to focus on the individual and not the numbers or statistics. When planning an experience put yourself in the shoes of the representative and allow yourself to take the journey from their perspective. Walking in their shoes will aid you in tapping into their interests, passions, fears and hobbies.
The next thing that’s helpful to consider is whether the experience you’re creating is truly active and physical. Make sure you're incorporating tangible tactics – tactics that engage the sense of touch – and not relying too much on video or graphics. These tactics should be as specific as possible to the information being delivered. For instance, if you’re attempting to train your sales force on a product that is used in a particular environment such a school or a hospital, you might consider recreating a portion of that environment to provide your representatives a deeper understanding of how the product works.
And last but certainly not least, let the mission shine through. Develop a solid foundation of objectives that incorporate the values of your organization to guide you throughout the process.
When these guidelines are put into practice your training program becomes significantly more memorable. As an example, a recent patient immersion experience at product launch followed this approach to create tremendous emotional impact and yielded great results. The product being launched was designed to treat a very serious illness in a targeted subset of patients. Because of the specialized nature of the product, it was it essential for the sales force to gain an in depth understanding of the patient experience and the experiences of their caregivers.
The patient experience was designed with a three-part structure – immersive patient gallery intricately re-creating their favorite room in their home; interactive manager-led debrief; and a live patient reveal and discussion. Going into the experience, the representatives had no idea that all of the patient information was drawn from the lives of actual patients who had benefitted from the product and that they would have the opportunity hear from these patients at the meeting. These immersive elements combined with the surprise factor at the end really engaged the sales force and helped them find a renewed understanding, passion and purpose in their work.
Another recent immersive experience was designed to train a pharmaceutical sales force on a cardiovascular product. In this experience, reps watched a short dramatic recreation of a patient’s heart attack and treatment. These extremely detailed and realistic recreations made the participants feel like they were watching an actual heart attack and the subsequent treatment. This program allowed the reps to digest more information than if they had simply been in a classroom setting, because they had engaged emotionally with the material. Heading back out into the field, reps were also better prepared to discuss the product with doctors because they had insight into what the patients were actually experiencing.
When approaching your next training event or learning program, think about how you can connect with your sales force on an emotional level. Engaging their emotions with well-considered, relevant tactics will not only ensure your sales force retains significantly more information; they will also care about the material being delivered.
Wes Grantom is a creative director at BlueprintNYC. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.