College Professors and Sales Leaders Have it Backward

Posted by Chris Mott on Fri, May 03, 2013 @ 14:05 PM

Bored PeopleI 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?

Take a few minutes to take our Sales Force Grader.  It will help you better understand where your opportunities for improvement are.


To learn more about selling effectively, please consider 2 of Kurlan & Associates' upcoming events for C-Levels, VP's and Managers:    

  1. Annual Boston Area Executive Luncheon on May 21st.  Contact me and I'll work on getting you a discount code for free registration.
  2. Annual Sales Leadership Intensive also in Boston, MA on May 14-15.  Contact me if you have questions about getting registered.  

Topics: sales management best practices, sales training, sales force development, Sales Coaching, business development, booking appointments, sales lessons, alignment, better salespeople, cold calling

Building a Resilient Sales Culture

Posted by Chris Mott on Tue, Mar 01, 2011 @ 15:03 PM

How quickly do your salespeople bounce back? How vulnerable are they to a prospect's supportive, then suddenly non-supportive, words and actions? Can they separate "themselves" from day-to-day events?

Salespeople and sales managers must be resilient. Insuring they have and develop the tenacity, grit, motivation and capacity to recover from rejection is part of building a vibrant sales culture.

Real time coaching - mainly pre-call strategy and post-call debriefing - will help. By resetting a salesperson's call objectives and expectations, you prepare them for the prospects pushback and lessen the impact of being surprised. When you break down a call and show the salesperson what led them to the outcome they reached and how they could have achieved a better outcome you help them prepare for the next prospect interaction.

Be relentless with your encouragement and offer to help but allow them to make mistakes. Resilience comes from "living to fight another day" and recognizing through this that sales is full of ups and downs, left turns and right turns, happy and grumpy prospects and that they can avoid being sidelined by this emotional rollercoaster.

Creating a resilient sales culture requires that you acknowledge the frustration, discouragement and anxiety your people face each day and allow them to voice it. Too often we expect them to be tough and "just deal with it". While ultimately true, our marching orders are frequently conveyed in a way that sounds like this.

I'm not suggesting you conduct therapy, but helping a salesperson get past an unnecessary worry requires honesty. Resilience requires flexibility, in this case flexibility by you the CEO and your sales managers to invest the time your salespeople need from you.

Topics: discouragement, over achievement, closing percentage, booking appointments

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