I was listening to a public radio program recently on how online learning will continue to alter radically the traditional notion of college learning. They were talking about the Khan Academy which is a pioneer in the “almost free” space. Ironically, a quick search of their website yields nothing under “sales”.
One of the guests asked a fabulous question about college. Why do we listen to lectures in class and do homework at home? Shouldn’t we do homework in class and listen to lectures at home? Putting aside the student for a moment, the most important person in the room is the teacher or professor. They are the subject matter expert and skilled at explaining the content, but more importantly, making it come alive and helping people who struggle to learn the material.
I suspect that like sales head trash, “you can’t ask a direct question without offending a prospect”. College head trash such as “I’m not smart enough to understand these concepts” is a significant obstacle to successful learning. The teacher or professor should be, and likely is many times, the best-equipped person to help someone through these challenges. We can argue over how well-prepared the average professor is and what changes are needed to make this work, but the idea of leverging a professor's core skills is valid.
In a typical sales meeting (weekly, monthly or annual), much time is spent on delivering information. This includes product knowledge and application, marketing efforts and strategy, and positioning. How much time is spent on “homework”? I define homework here as practice, role-play, live demo’s and presentations, objection management, mock cold-calling, etc. Most of us would probable agree that the answer is not enough. Companies do bring in motivational speakers to talk about limiting beliefs, commitment, tenacity, being open-minded and singularly purposed. These are all good, but when the master (teacher, sales leader or trainer) is in the house, we should take advantage of this opportunity to leverage their expertise. Adults learn by watching others. In sales, without a live demonstration of how to make cold calls, handle a thorny objection or find the issue behind the symptom, it’s academic. The more that we role-play, the greater the value to our team.
What percentage of your sales meetings is spent on practice and role-play? How much telling versus asking do you do? How effective are your sales managers at debriefing a sales call? Is it safe in your organization for someone to screw up and learn from their mistakes?
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