Future of Work

Why “Small Group” trainings are the most impactful

Scott Leese

Consistent and ongoing training is a foundational piece of any sales organization, but what type of training works best for your team, and how do you ensure success? While variety is the spice of life, and hits different learning styles for trainees, one style has been proven to yield the greatest returns consistent with short and long term success.

Sales trainings are typically held in three different ways.

Different trainings to consider would include:

  • Individualized – 1:1 focused on pipeline reviews, individual metrics and KPIs, strengths and weaknesses, and tailored individual improvement plans and goals.
  • Small group training – groups under 20 [SurfandSales.com magic number], focused on tailored topics, trainee driven through engagement and needs.
  • Large group training – full team training, conventions, kick-offs, focused on prioritizing consistent broad messaging, leadership driven, controlled and limited trainee engagement.

Factors influencing success:

  • Performance – how the training impacts the organization’s goals, and metrics for success.
  • Engagement – interaction of participants amongst their peers, and participation between trainer and trainees.
  • Content / Learning Focused
  • Time to mastery

Ok, now that we know what the different types of training look like, and the factors to take into consideration, which style has the most benefit, and why?

Small group training benefits teams more than the others, and the reasons may surprise you. You may look at your organization, and see that the majority of your trainings focus heavily on individual and floorwide. If so, I recommend a change right away.


The Benefit


Trainings can be created around core goals and metrics necessary to the organization, and expand into tailored, and specific topics. When it comes to the need for teaching and learning details, smaller training classes outperform larger classes, and surprisingly it outperforms individual training as well.


A reason for higher performance coming from smaller training groups is tied directly to engagement. Engagement amongst peers, as well as the opportunity for trainees to engage with the trainer. If groups are small enough, you gain the benefit of providing an intimate individual experience within the group, thus introducing a pseudo-style of teaching that combines traditional approaches of content explanation, role playing, and collaboration.

Engagement is imperative for building confidence and mastery of skills, and having a smaller group helps trainees avoid being lost in the crowd. There is a sweet spot that allows even the most timid of learners to ask questions, without worrying that with so many people time will be limited or the assumption that the question will be asked by someone else.

Content / Learning Focused

By breaking groups down to smaller participant sizes, the trainer can explain content faster, and spend more time focused on learning. When time is money, seconds count. Getting in repetitions and practice in a more intimate setting means more feedback to individuals that may be relevant to the whole. Call it distributed learning, instead of diluted learning.


Although conventional wisdom might suggest providing messaging to the masses would be the fastest route, this breaks down as quality and mastery of content skills and details is diluted. By front loading training, and spending slightly more time training in smaller groups, it actually increases the speed to mastery.

Am I insinuating to do away with the 1:1’s, and floorwide trainings? Absolutely not. I am suggesting being thoughtful, and calculated in your training development approach. Identify what needs your organization has, and what priorities are most important.

A few questions to help you determine this:

Is this a broad topic, with an importance on consistent messaging? – Large group

Are there a few individuals falling behind,  or surging ahead? – Individual

Are the topics specific, detailed, and benefitting of engaging a majority of the participants? – Small group

A famous Benjamin Franklin quote speaks to this, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Spend less time telling. More time teaching. And all of the time involving folks in your trainings.

Scott Leese