For all the sales enablement tools and technology that exist, there’s simply no replacement for having an excellent memory. As with many things, you have to exercise your memory to make it stronger.
As you probably already know, memory exists in two forms: short-term (STM) and long-term (LTM). Short-term memory lasts 15 to 30 seconds and can contain 5-9 items (with 7 the human average). LTM, in contrast, has infinite duration and capacity.
Memories are formed through four primary pathways: visual, acoustic, tactile, (appearance, sound, touch), and semantic (meaning). Retrieval of memories is either in order of formation (STM) or association (LTM).
Therefore, improving your memory hinges on two primary points: 1) transitioning short-term memories to long-term status and 2) strengthening the accuracy of your long-term memory recall.
Transitioning STM to LTM
- Focus on what you want to memorize.
The easiest thing to do is concentrate on what you need to memorize. In a sales scenario, that could be what the buyer is saying or the times you’ve scheduled calls, just to give a couple examples. Also under this umbrella – active listening, which is literally focusing your hearing and attention on a single object – the customer.
- Recite over and over.
Atkinson and Shiffrin have pointed out information encoded acoustically is chiefly stored in short-term memory and only shifted to long-term through persistent repetition. So if you want to deliver that presentation seamlessly, be sure to practice it over and over.
- Write it down by hand.
As we covered in our post on the neuroscience of notetaking, research consistently demonstrates that physically writing something down rather than typing more firmly secures it in long-term memory. Whether it’s a Post-it and pen or a notepad and pencil, always have paper and a writing instrument handy.
- Mnemonic devices.
Whether it’s acronyms, acrostics, rhymes, or some other method, mnemonics are excellent tools for both encoding and recall. As an example, as a first line of treating common muscle injuries, many people remember RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).
Particularly useful for facial and name memory (both very important when dealing with clients!) is association. For example, let’s say you’re meeting a group of C-level executives to discuss your proposal and have only communicated through email previously. Their names are Greta, Barry, and Calvin. Association could go something like this:
Greta is wearing a green blouse (Green = Greta)
Barry has blue eyes (Blue = Barry)
Calvin douses himself in cologne (Cologne = Calvin)
- Visualize the familiar and extend out to what needs to be recalled.
Also referred to as the method of loci (yes, this goes all the way back to ancient Greece), this involves imagining someplace familiar and using it to recall needed associated memories with that place. From a sales perspective that can involve you picturing sitting at your desk having a previous phone conversation with the client you’re about to have a follow-up call with. The familiar place (your desk and phone), radiate out into remembering the conversation you and the buyer had before.
While these might seem like simple memory tricks, they’re time-tested to strengthen your memory. And a sales professional with a sharp memory is often a productive one.