Perfecting Your Sales Message: Understanding the Basic Principles of Adult Learning

Posted - September 11, 2017

It’s tricky.

How do you make your sales message stick? Why would people believe your pitch? After all, you’re just trying to sell them something, right?

Let’s be honest. It’s easy for people to hesitate, doubt you, and go somewhere else. I call this the cycle of stagnation, and the best way to stop any cycle is to simply get off the merry-go-round. It’s time for something new. Instead of trying to get potential clients to understand you and your business, what if we first tried to understand them? With a basic understanding of neuroscience, you can adapt your sales message. Just like a recipe, different formulas yield different results. Science has shown that the recipe for success lies in understanding how people think and process information through the principles of adult learning.

The Principles Of Adult Learning

Breaking Them Down

So what are the basic principles of learning for adults? The five principles are relevance and experience, self-direction, action, practice, and sensory inclusion.

5 principles of adult learning - perspectivity

1. Relevance and Experience

The content of your message must be meaningful and relevant to your audience’s lives and their businesses. They need to know you understand their struggles and business pain points. This creates a positive emotional connection between you and your audience as they sense your understanding and compassion. It’s also important to remember that adults draw upon their past experiences to aid in the learning process. As such, it’s imperative to frame your message in a language and context that’s familiar to your audience.

2. Self-Direction

Adults are autonomous and self-directing since they mostly live under a large degree of self-governance. In turn, adults have a greater response to learning tactics that employ self-directed methods. Ralph Brockett’s and Roger Hiemstra’s Self-Direction in Adult Learning summarizes it best:

“…self-direction in learning refers to two distinct but related dimensions. The first of these dimensions is a process in which a learner assumes primary responsibility for planning, implementing, and evaluating the learning process. An education agent or resource often plays a facilitating role in this process. This is the notion of self-directed learning as it has generally been used and identified in professional literature. The second dimension, which we refer to as learner self-direction, centers on a learner’s desire or preference for assuming responsibility for learning.”

3. Action

Adults learn by doing and through direct experience. To reach your audience, you must include active and practical participation that offers implementable techniques.

4. Practice

Practicing skills in a controlled environment allows for self-efficacy in new tasks. The more one can practice new skills, the more transformational the learning process will be.

5. Sensory Inclusive

Ensure that you have appropriately proportioned delivery techniques that meet the needs of audio, visual, reading/writing, kinaesthetic, dependent, and independent learning styles.

The Problem

If you don’t use the Adult Learning Principles in the design of your sales message or presentation, you may fail to engage the mind of your audience and not make an emotional connection; consequently, you will lose the attention of your audience. The largest problem with the majority of sales messages is that the audience is most often overlooked. It’s almost as if they are an afterthought. Typically, presenters may share everything they know about a product or service but fail miserably when it comes to intentionally addressing the issues or objectives of the audience.

The Solution

Commit to designing and delivering messaging that follows the adult learning principles. Everyone focuses on the presentation, but the main goal is communication. Stop presenting and begin effectively communicating your ideas to your audience.

Why It Works

Over the past few decades neuroscience has reached new levels of understanding about the brain and how humans best process information. And while you may think that sharing an abundance of facts will appropriately inform the audience, it is actually the antithesis. Unknowingly, you’re overwhelming them with too much information. Our short-term memories are designed to handle about seven small chunks of information at a time before getting overwhelmed – that’s why most phone numbers are only seven digits long. Simply put, our brains don’t like working too hard to remember large amounts of information all at once, so it’s very important that you understand how to use adult learning principles when designing your sales messages and presentations. These principles will allow you to successfully design messaging that appeals to the human brain and how it processes information.

The Cone of Learning

Edgar Dale’s Cone of Learning illustrates the importance of incorporating the learning styles into your sales message.

Dale’s cone shows the different styles of learning and how much our brains tend to remember with each method. As you can see, the human brain prefers certain methods of learning to others. While you may spend most of your time lecturing, that is considered
passive engagement and it is where the human brain processes the least amount of information. Instead, for maximum impact, you should try to spend most of your time engaging all of the senses and employ active learning in your audience.

Abandon and Adapt:

Putting it all together

It’s time we abandon our old methods and adapt a new type of messaging designed to take advantage of the brain’s peak processing power. By creating sales messages and presentations that allow your audience to be active participants (rather than just reading or listening passively), you will be amazed at how often they believe, buy, and bite. So reel ‘em in. And make the catch.

Are You Ready for a New Perspective?

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