While attending a sales training discussion at a business coaching client of ours, I learned the concept of The Four Stages of Learning. The process was developed by a psychologist named Thomas Gordon and this method is still taught by the corporation he founded, Gordon Training International.
Here are the Four Stages of Learning:
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.
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.
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.
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.
I think 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. Even with a good sales system in place to learn, there always seems to be a tendency to wander from using the complete system at the stage of Conscious Competence. This cutting of corners is not good.
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!