Today’s article is a bit of a rant, I have to admit. I wrote the text below after one of those phone calls I receive, and as you may tell, I was a bit upset afterwards. Bear with me though, I’m sure you’ll see the point I’m trying to make.
Have you ever considered how much it costs and how much effort it takes to become and remain a highly skilled professional these days? Think about a competent marketing manager, a skilled engineer or IT specialist, a capable accountant, bookkeeper, publicist or journalist, a reliable chef, event manager or hairdresser? We’re looking at hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in foundation and ongoing education, making sure you can successfully compete and continue to grow your expertise.
So why would people assume that becoming and remaining a competent sales professional or leading a professional sales team is any different?
Yet day after day we get phone calls and email requests from businesses looking to train their salespeople for, let’s say, $300 a person. And ideally they should emerge from the training as highly competent and skilful sales professionals.
Would you trust your tax affairs to an accountant with $300 worth of education and “a good sense for money”? Would you send your children to a school where the teachers had two days of qualified training, but “heaps of experience with kids in general”? What impact do you think $300 will make on your salespeople when it comes to changing a sales culture and competing in today’s markets?
Let’s face the facts: very few people take the development of sales teams and cultures seriously. The vast majority still look for a ‘quick fix’ that will never deliver results. But at least “they’ve done something about it”.
As I have said on many occasions before, developing and leading a fully functioning sales operation is an ongoing endeavour. If you want highly effective people who enjoy selling to and engaging with clients, you need to invest in them and you need to invest in yourself as a sales leader. And as in technology, science, sports, etc; if you want to remain successful you have to keep on training.
One example of a culture of ongoing training and education is Denmark. One contributing factor in making Denmark’s employees some of the happiest in the developed world is the learning culture organisations established already in the mid-1800s. Attending paid training and picking up new skills is not something special there, it is part of the overall work culture. It lets Danish workers constantly grow and develop, they stay relevant (not to mention stay employed) even in a changing work environment.
I wrote in the past about the importance of creating a perpetual learning environment (PLE) to get the desired behaviour change and better sales outcomes. This means that sales leaders and sales teams need to create a conscious learning environment where the development and refinement of their sales skills, knowledge and mindset is a daily practice. With a clear sales strategy, the right leadership intent and action, proper sales processes and ongoing sales development – in the form of classroom, infield and online – the performance of your sales team and sales results will improve in a sustainable way.
So the brutal facts are: You have to decide whether you want to run and lead a highly successful sales team or not. If the answer is yes, the next step is to make sure they’re as skilled and capable as any other professional in their respective field. It’s that simple. And it will probably cost more than $300 and take longer than one afternoon.
And let’s get it straight: For as long as I have been in business (and that will be 20 years in January 2015) at Barrett we do not sell sales training. What we really do is partner with companies to improve their sales operations; it’s about sales capability and sales culture transformation.
Remember, everybody lives by selling something.