Here?s a dialogue I had this week with two sellers I?m coaching:
Me: How do you feel about telling your clients you?re in training?
Seller #1 (With 3 years of sales experience): What would the purpose be? After all, I?ve been in this business for a few years already.
Seller #2: (New Seller): Telling my clients I?m in training might make them doubt my abilities. They may think I don?t know what I?m doing.
I have the honor of writing for Radio Ink every week. I also have the privilege of working with sellers and sales managers each week to help them become even more successful. I want to live out my passion of making big things happen for others by being the best marketer, writer, and coach I can be. I read, research, and study constantly. I try to read a new book every week, read dozens of articles, and watch Ted talks. In other words, I?m always in training. Does my telling you that I?m in training make you think more or less of me?
I?ve spent the last 28 years on the streets selling and managing. If I?m honest with myself, the reason I was hesitant to do seminars, teaching, and training full time was because of a false belief I had regarding teaching. You?ve no doubt heard the cliche: Those who can, do; those who can?t, teach. I didn?t want to be ?that guy.? So I kept doing; in fact I?m still selling today.
You?ve probably been to a seminar or worked with a manager and said to yourself: ?This person hasn?t sold anything in the real world for 20 years.? Again, I never want to be that guy. So each week I?m committed to training, becoming better, learning more, developing my skills, and putting that new knowledge to work in my selling and teaching/coaching career.
Telling your clients you just attended a seminar, read a book, or got some coaching and have new information to share with them is a great way to set yourself apart. It tells them that you are interested in being the very best ?partner? you can be for them. I believe it?s foolish to assume you know everything, and even more foolish to assume your clients will ever think you know everything. I don?t believe anybody expects us to know everything. The goal is to do better and be better this year than you were last year. That is possible only through continuous training.
Look at any profession and you will find not only a desire, but a requirement for ongoing training. Doctors and lawyers have mandatory annual continuing education to maintain their licenses. Professional football players go to training camp every year and practice every week for their one game. Professionals are always in training. I?ve often wondered how the profession of sales would change if we worked like professional athletes; practice four days a week and play/work one day a week. Imagine if you relentlessly practiced Monday through Thursday and presented or met with clients only on Friday? Settle down managers, I?m not suggesting a one-day work week. However, think about how much better you would be on Friday if you practiced four days straight before getting in front of your clients.
Legendary management expert Peter Drucker coined the phrase ?knowledge worker.? This is a person who earns a living largely with his/her mind rather than with his/her hands. In 1996, Drucker said that knowledge workers were able to retain in their mind 75 percent of the information they needed to do their jobs. By 2006, with the explosion of technology, the massive availability of new information, and the rapid pace of change in business, knowledge workers were able to retain in their mind only 8-10 percent of the information necessary to do their jobs.
Consider this conversation that would have been common just 12 years ago:
Client: I?ve been hearing a lot about this World Wide Web and websites; what do you think of that?
Seller not in training: I have no idea. I?m guessing it?s just a fad; I really haven?t looked into it. How do you like the copy for this week?s ad?
Seller in training: I was just reading about that in the Wall Street Journal and I attended a class at the local university to learn more. I think?
The 1991-2001 decade is considered the era of the ?dot-com boom and bust.? Companies started using websites in 2002. Just 12 years ago. LinkedIn started in 2003, Facebook started in 2004, Twitter started in 2006, and SnapChat started in 2011. If you?re not well trained on these relatively new resources for clients, you can?t help them. But somebody else will.
?To know and not to do, is not to know.? -- Chris Lytle
Doing. That?s the second, and frankly the most important, part of a commitment to training. Learning new information, new concepts, and new technology is an exercise in futility unless you do something with that new knowledge. Chris Lytle is my partner, mentor, and trainer in my career of public speaking and sales training. At the conclusion of his seminars he says: ?Education without action is entertainment. I hope you had fun today, but training that doesn?t change your behavior is as useless as a parachute that opens on the first bounce.?
What are the implications for your career? As I told those two sellers I was coaching this week, if you?re not on a quest to constantly learn new things and improve your skills, you?re in trouble. If you are on that quest, you will never have to worry about becoming obsolete.
And be proud to share with your clients that you are constantly ?in training.?
Jeff Schmidt is EVP and partner at Sparque, Inc. You can reach him at Jeff.Schmidt@Sparque.biz
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