The Difference Between Skills Training & Knowledge Transfer

There’s a huge difference between the knowledge of something and the skills needed to actually DO that something. At a concert, you as an audience member may know all about opera (or rock and roll) but would be helpless on stage. At a sporting event, you might know all the stats, but against an actual 99 MPH pitcher, you would strike out every time.

That’s the real challenge of training. Knowledge is universally obtainable. Skill only comes with relentless practice, fitness, and dedication.

To explore the difference between skills training and knowledge transfer, let’s dive into what they really are. Knowledge is defined as the fact or condition of being aware of something. By implication, one can go to a trusted resource, make a query, and gain new knowledge. Once memorized, you’ll be able to access that knowledge at any time, without the original source.

In sports, knowledge is contained in the team’s playbook. In music, it’s the sheet music. The playbook and sheet music are knowledge resources, letting you know what notes to play in a song, or what gap to hit in a running play. But these resources alone—no matter how well presented and memorized—won’t allow you to play one chord of music or give you the ability to catch a football when it’s thrown to you.

On the other hand, skills training has specific goals for improving one’s capability, capacity, productivity, and performance. The verb “to train” is defined as, to make prepared (as by exercise) for a test of skill. It’s the second—and arguably most important part of the process. With knowledge, we can know how to accomplish a goal. With training, we can accomplish that goal.

Both knowledge and training are needed to advance our careers, especially in sales. Without knowledge of the sales process, different personality types, or our product, all the training in the world will not matter. Training without knowledge is meaningless because you are memorizing what to do and are unable to adapt because you haven’t fully internalized that knowledge to make it work for you. In order to become the best sales person or client facing person you want to be, you will need to gain knowledge, but the training on how to apply that knowledge in the right situation will allow you to become a more valuable resource to your clients and prospects.

Remember, your sales prospects also have access to the internet, so they can gain the same knowledge as you. (In fact, it’s safe to assume they have some knowledge you don’t.) Your value comes when you can quickly apply that knowledge to the client’s or prospect’s situation to their benefit. This is sales coaching. The best sales coaches understand that skills can only be perfected with great, realistic examples of what to do and practice.

With our smartphones and other devices, we have access to all the knowledge in the world. But that access doesn’t convey any skill—except perhaps the ability to walk into traffic. Access to knowledge, even when religiously pursued, does not improve capabilities, capacities, productivity or performance.

Having the knowledge is only half the equation. The other half if training. Training allows you to internalize and use knowledge to your (or your company’s) advantage. Training implies practice. Practice implies doing something over and over again to the point where you can adapt and apply your knowledge in any situation.

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