Every day, I expect to learn or re-learn something that will have application in the future. If it doesn’t happen, then shame on me.
The thrust of my post today is that the best sales people and sales leaders are driven not only by a desire to succeed, but they are driven by a need to learn. They know they need to learn about some or all of the following as a regular part of their interactions with customers, with peers, and with their organizations:
- What is my customer trying to accomplish? What business issues are they experiencing? What opportunities are they trying to capture?
- What problems does my company solve? What opportunities can we help customers to capture?
- Who has experienced a situation like the one I find myself in right now? Can I learn from their success or their failure?
- (If I’m a sales manager)… how do I make sure that I am helping my team to understand what really matters to our customers? Are there key questions I can ask or messages I can deliver to them? Who can help me to sharpen my abilities in this area?
- How can I do what I do better tomorrow than I did it today?
- How have things changed since the last time I …(fill in the blank)?
And on and on…. You and I could probably list a hundred things that salespeople need to learn every day. These are just a few examples. The question to you, good reader, is this, “Do your sales leaders and salespeople understand the correlation between learning and success in sales?”
If they do understand the link between learning and success in sales, do they demonstrate an appetite for learning each and every day? Are they self-aware enough to acknowledge what they don’t know? Are they humble enough? Do they encourage others around them or below them (organizationally speaking) to be active learners, or do they de-emphasize learning by their own lack of attention to detail or their own arrogance?
If you’re not sure about whether your sales leaders or sales people are driven by this need to learn that I have defined, then consider the following:
- If they’re not actively learning, what assumptions are guiding their decisions and activities?
- Are those assumptions necessarily correct?
- What opportunities might we be missing if our sales leaders and sales people are not validating what they believe by learning, by questioning what they know?
If you are concerned at all about whether a “we know it already” culture has developed within your sales team, then get in touch with someone who can help. There are great training firms like Huthwaite that can teach your existing team how to challenge their own assumptions, ask great questions, and help customers gain new insights. And then, there are professional sales agencies like United Sales Resources that can immediately infuse a dose of brain power and sales talent into your organization. Regardless of which path you choose, you must ensure that the people who are charged with selling your company’s capabilities are true learners who are able not only to apply the lessons they’ve learned in the past but who are also able to challenge, test, and adapt those lessons to the opportunities of the future.