Even the few organizations that have implemented ongoing training, coaching, and learning tend to be much less disciplined about maintaining sales development as an active practice.
Oftentimes, it seems easier to put these “non-essential” elements off to the side while they focus on higher priority tasks like closing new business. Unfortunately, while it might make sense in the short term, not being disciplined in sales development will have a dramatic effect on your ability to succeed in the long term.
The fact is, if you want to get better at something you love, you need to practice.
I, for example, happen to be an avid skier. I have been skiing for more than 30 years, but I still practice, take lessons from superior skiers, and read up on the latest techniques and equipment. I do this because I love to ski and I enjoy the sport more as my skill level improves.
Even the best athletes in the world have coaches and practice relentlessly, but why is it that so many in the business world view simply showing up and doing your job as practice enough?
With the sales field continuously changing, along with each industry’s customers and prospects, you have to strive to improve and have a plan in place that combines practice, coaching, and learning.
If you want to be the best that you can be and beat your competition, you have to build it into your weekly routine.
The following are a few suggestions based on what has worked for me, but remember, the key is to be disciplined. A written plan is great, but if it is not followed with focus and commitment it’s not worth the paper on which it is written.
1. Practice as a Team
Have a meeting once a week where every team member can present your product or service or role-plays a critical skill or objection.
Provide feedback on their performances and discuss areas for improvement.
By completing this activity as a group, you’re able to identify not only areas where one person might be struggling, but also where your training as a whole may be lacking.
Once everyone has gone, discuss as a group and agree to work on a particular skill for the following week, and report back on results.
As a sales leader, a critical part of your job is that of a coach. Spend time each week one-on-one with your direct reports to work on specific skills and areas identified as opportunities for improvement.
You will enjoy it, your team members will appreciate it, and your numbers will improve as a result, but be sure to tailor your one-on-one meetings depending on your reps learning style.
This is the area that might be neglected the most.
Many of us, particularly in sales, do not make the time to learn. I understand that in the past when we had to rely solely on books and experience to absorb knowledge, it may have been more challenging. However now, with the availability of eBooks, audiobooks, TedTalks, webinars, online classes, blogs, and more, there really is no excuse.
Here’s a great quote from sales expert & former Yahoo Chief Solutions Officer, Tim Sanders:
“Business people who are the busiest, the happiest, and the most prosperous are the ones who are the most generous with their knowledge and their expertise.
People who love what they’re doing, who love to learn new things, to meet new people, and to share what and whom they know with others: these are the people who wind up creating the new economic value and, as a result, moving their companies forward.”
Whether you’re new to sales or a seasoned expert, learning isn’t something that stops or simply happens. It’s something that you trigger.
At QuotaFactory, my team is required to read at least one book per quarter. Personally, I read everyday for at least a half-hour and encourage my team to do the same. It’s funny; the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know.
For your organization, make reading a team activity for everyone to discuss the main points and elements featured in the books they’ve read -- or even better, read together.This year at QuotaFactory we all read The Challenger Sale and SPIN Selling as a team.
Sales development isn’t something that simply happens.
Learning doesn’t have to be going back to school or taking classes, but working with colleagues to improve areas of weakness, reading the latest sales articles, and even role playing different scenarios to improve your overall sales strategy.
How much emphasis have you placed on training and learning within your current position?
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