Changing Behavior for Sales Performance

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Part I: Training Vs. Education

Have you ever invested in your sales people by sending them to expensive seminars where they are immersed in high-energy exercises and emotional atmospherics designed to convince them they can sell at a higher level -- only to find out after about three weeks that they‘ve retained almost nothing from the experience?  Or, have you concentrated on books and AV messages that fill the mind with facts and knowledge about selling with no commensurate increase in sales?  So why bother with sales training?  It’s no wonder that CEOs are reluctant to invest in sales training as their experience tells them that there is little measurable ROI.

“You Can’t Teach People To Sell By Teaching Them To Sell” says Ron Willingham, my mentor and the author of Integrity Solutions programs.  Sales success can only be achieved by behavior change, and behaviors change only by changing our beliefs.  So how we expand belief boundaries about our abilities and ourselves becomes the question.

If education is the acquisition of knowledge, then by definition it is primarily cerebral or intellectual.  Yet we believe selling is 15% logical and 85% emotional.  Knowledge is necessary and critical as far as it goes, but what about the other 85%?  Those emotion driven seminars we alluded to earlier surely don’t prepare us for the daily emotional grind of professional selling.

At this point, you may conclude that excellent sales people are born and not made.  While I cannot argue that natural talent and ability are prerequisites, we still have to mould the “clay”.  Despite our best efforts and even with a rigorous selection process to seek out sales talent, we fail as often as we succeed in this effort.  Even with experience, it’s still difficult to predict with accuracy and consistency those likely to succeed in selling for our organization. Occasionally we get lucky and hire that superstar, but those “finds” are often rare and not generally representative of our sales force whether it be five or five hundred in number.

Most frontline sales managers spend far too much time trying to save the bottom 25% of their sales people instead of spending time with the top group and those that make up the greatest percentage of the Bell Curve. This is where the greatest sales productivity can be realized. This is where real professional development can blossom.

Good sales managers are great coaches.  They coach to where people are at, challenge them and hold them accountable.  They have the tools to develop their people through solid principle-based selling skills.  Real training takes place when changing behaviors lead to greater sales productivity.  To get there you need an agreed upon and consistent sales process, commitment from senior management, self-discovery learning, repetition, reward and time-lapse.

In future installments to this series, we will examine these principles and forge them into a consistent methodology.  We will explore where our beliefs reside and how to change and expand them.  Also, we will look at the hidden determinants that effect sales behavior for good and for naught.  Stay tuned.

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