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Why "Osmosis" and "Shadowing" Fail in Sales Onboarding: A Brain Science Perspective

Effective onboarding is crucial for the success of new sellers in any organization. However, common approaches like "osmosis" and "shadowing" often fall short of fostering meaningful learning experiences. In this blog, we delve into the brain science behind why these methods fail and explore alternative strategies grounded in cognitive research.

First, let's take a look at The Myth of Osmosis and Shadowing. Osmosis relies on passive absorption of information, assuming that exposure alone leads to learning. Similarly, "shadowing" involves new sellers observing experienced colleagues without active engagement or participation. Both approaches neglect the brain's optimal learning mechanisms and fail to facilitate meaningful learning and skill acquisition.

The brain is wired to learn through active engagement, repetition, feedback, and meaningful cognitive connections. When new information is presented in a way that stimulates multiple senses and engages critical thinking, the brain is more likely to retain and apply that knowledge.

Effective learning, therefore, requires active engagement, repetition, practice, and opportunities to apply knowledge in realistic scenarios. Osmosis and shadowing fall short in providing these critical elements. To bolster your onboarding efforts and drive more, faster success in your new sellers, consider adopting the following strategies:

  1. Focus on Active Learning Techniques: Incorporate active learning strategies such as interactive simulations, role-playing exercises, and problem-solving scenarios. These techniques engage new sellers actively, encouraging them to apply knowledge and skills in practical situations.

  2. Establish Personalized Learning Paths: Develop personalized learning paths based on individual strengths, weaknesses, and career goals. Provide targeted training modules, resources, and opportunities for skill refinement to support their unique growth goals and developmental needs.

  3. Incorproate Continuous Feedback and Coaching: Establish a culture of continuous feedback and coaching, where new sellers receive constructive feedback in regular practice sessions. This ongoing support enhances their learning experience, bolsters motivation, and forms healthy, "sticky" habits.

  4. "Rev" Up The Brain:  Leverage the brain's neuroplasticity by offering spaced repetition, reinforcement of key concepts, and bite-sized learning efforts. This approach enhances retention, application, and transfer of learning to real-world sales scenarios.

Relying solely on osmosis or shadowing in onboarding new sellers is ineffective and limits their potential for success. By understanding the brain's optimal learning mechanisms and incorporating active, personalized, and feedback-rich learning opportunities, organizations can create onboarding programs that empower new sellers to succeed more, better, and sooner.


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