Helping People Learn

By Lain Ehmann

Whether you’re dealing with a new rep or a recalcitrant prospect, knowing how people learn can make you a more effective manager and salesperson, says Marcia Conner, author of Learn More Now (John Wiley & Sons, 2004).

According to Conner, people fit into one of three learning styles. By identifying what style your audience falls into, you can adapt your teaching and selling style accordingly. The three styles are described below.

Auditory. From 30% to 40% of people absorb information more effectively when they hear it. Contrary to popular belief, people who like to garner information from reading are actually auditory rather than visual learners because reading is another way of hearing words, says Conner. You might be able to identify auditory learners because they ask for lengthier explanations, Conner says. “They might even close their eyes as they listen to what’s being said,” she adds.

Visual. Another 30% to 40% of the population are visual learners, says Conner. They respond best to visual pictures and symbols. These learners might ask you to draw them a picture or might seem not to understand your explanations, no matter how detailed you get.

Kinesthetic/Tactile. The 20% to 30% of the population who are kinesthetic/tactile learners are the movers and shakers – those who learn best through touching, feeling and using their senses. They’re easy to identify by their constant movement and their propensity to play with things on the desk and pace around.

While you might not have the advantage of being able to tailor your presentation to a group because of unknown learning styles, Conner says you can make an effort to address each group in turn. Auditory types love Power Point presentations and handouts. Visual learners need symbols, charts, diagrams and meaningful pictures to make sense of what you’re saying. Conner stresses that entertaining clip art isn’t enough to appeal to these learners; the pictures must have meaning. Finally, to reach the kinesthetic/tactile types, use demonstrations, interactive computer programs and samples they can hold and touch.

Conner adds that the more approaches you take, the more effective you’ll be in reaching every audience member. “We all take in information through all the senses we have available to us,” she says.

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