Why Understanding The Forgetting Curve Is Important In Sales

What is the Forgetting Curve and how understanding can help your prospects retain more information

The Forgetting Curve Theory

Do you ever let your customers try to do your job for you?

How long have you been doing your job? You have probably have been there for at least 6 months. Getting product training, learning how to write a contract, learning all about your company, right?

Some of you may even have years of experience with the same company… You could probably even teach the company training program.

Yet, when you meet with a prospect, and they are not the actual decision-maker, you go on to share with that person all of the benefits of your products and services, and how it can help their company.

You may even spend 30 to 40 minutes with that person. Only to send them on their way to share what you just shared with them, with the decision maker.

And yes, they are doing your job.

Selling your company to their company – and, it’s not their job.

You are expecting, or hoping, that someone can take all of the information you just gave them and effectively present it.


You are the one with the sales skills and the experience.

You are the one that can answer objections, and maybe even address them before your prospect raises them.

You have the experience, the training and the knowledge.

But you are asking your prospect to take the information that you give them, in just 45 minutes, and do your job. Asking them to explain all of the value and benefits, and do the job of selling for you.

That would be like your company asking you on the first day of your new job, to meet with a prospect and make a sale.

That sounds crazy, right? But we do it all the time.

Whether the decision maker is someone else in the company, or a spouse or child, if all the decision-makers are not in the room, your chances of making the sale through this third-party are significantly reduced compared to if you were making the presentation.

And today I’m going to share with you the reason why this is a true…

The Forgetting Curve.

It’s a real thing! And it was discovered by the same person that discovered the learning curve, Herman Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist around 1885.

The Forgetting Curve is the steady decline in the retention rate when you are not being continually exposed to the information.

Ebbinghaus says that in the forgetting curve – while you are learning something, you have 100% retention. 20 minutes later, you only remember 58% of what you just learned 20 minutes ago.

After 1 hour it’s down to 44%. After nine hours, it’s down to 36%. After 24 hours it’s down to 34%. After 6 days it’s down to 25%. And after a month, it’s only 21%!

From a salesperson’s perspective this affects us in two ways.

The Forgetting Curve in the steady decline in your retention rate when you are not being continually exposed to the information.

1- Our own training and learning.

According to the chart, 60% of the information we learn is lost within one day after we are trained. And 80% within 30 days. How do we ever even remember anything?

The best way to reinforce our learning is by doing and putting it into action.

Because the more you do something, the more likely you will be to remember it in the future.

Another way to improve attention is to

Break down the learning into even smaller parts.

and work on each smaller activity during the week until it’s completed.

Take into consideration how we learn –

The more senses that we can engage why we are learning, the more likely we are to retain the information.

So if you are listening to a class and writing notes, two senses are involved. Throw in a visual slide presentation – that’s three senses. And video is known to improve retention, too.

On top of taking notes, I need to go through later on and highlight the important things. I am then much more likely to remember those things. So don’t just take notes, go back and review them within 24 hours and you will retain more of it.

And when you’re learning under a stressful circumstance, forget it! Because stress will lower retention even more.

So, the first way this forgetting curve affects you as a salesperson is your own personal learning. Can you guess what the second one is? Let’s think for a minute …

2- Your prospects and customers are not immune.

You can see that when you are asking a prospect to do your job for you, to present your product or service to the decision maker, even just one day after your meeting, they have lost about 70% of what you shared with them the day before.

In a perfect world, we would be allowed or invited to directly share our expertise with the decision maker. Try to always ask if this is possible.

But we all know that we do not live in a perfect sales world. As sales people, we have to learn to adapt. You can help your prospects retain the information we need for them to retain so that they can present our information effectively.

Help your customers remember more of your conversation

Here are some ways that you can help them:

1 – Write it down for them. Even better, give them a worksheet where is she can take their own notes on. Maybe you can create an outline where they can add in their own notes. 

2 – Send reminder emails one time a day to review and bring yourself, and your information back to the forefront of their mind.

3 – Mix in a reminder phone call. “I’m calling because you told me how important this is to your company.”

 One more thing before I go, the more you revisit what you’ve learned, the more it you will remember it. So if you learn something on Tuesday, and look your notes over two times in the next week, you remember about 80% of what you learned instead of 20%.

If you go over your notes three times, you’ll remember 90% of what you’ve learned … even a month after you learned it.

This next part is for your kids, or you, if you’re taking classes. The more you review your notes, the less you will have to study before a test. You will retain more for longer, compared to cramming and trying to learn or relearn material right before a test.

So make you life easier. Teach your prospects, and your kids, good retention skills early on. 

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