A recent blogger on My Fitness Pal wrote the following (excerpted):
When I was a young a Marine Corps Officer Candidate…the Master Sergeant would ask us one question about the rest of our day. “What are you going to do to make your life better today?” The Master Sergeant didn’t ask us what we did yesterday, or so far that day—that was the past and didn’t matter anymore. And he didn’t want us to make promises or predictions about distant days in the future, either. He cared about how we were going to use that day –today—to reach our goals.
I found the story to be a good reminder that we don’t change in huge leaps. We change in small steps, repeated daily or at least increasing in frequency until we overcome the inertia that binds us to our old patterns. Self-defeating thoughts keep us from our goals in many ways:
- They whisper in our ears that if we make one slip we might as well give up trying.
- They tell us it takes too long to do it the new way and we’re under so much pressure we’d better just do it the old way for now.
- They tell us we’re too old to change.
- They tell us we’ve tried before and failed so might as well not try.
Taking the approach of changing just for today is the antidote to self-defeatism. Programs like AA have demonstrated since the thirties that “one day at a time” works miracles. We can do anything for 24 hours unless we psyche ourselves out by moaning that we will have to do it every single day from now on and for the rest of our lives and thereby invite inertia to once again pin us to the mat.
So ask yourself:
- Just for today can you make three prospecting calls before noon?
- Just for today can you ask a customer for a referral?
- Just for today can you re-examine your diagnosis questions to see if you can make them more about the customer and not whether there is a big opportunity?
- Just for today can you refine your favorite statements about your products and services and see if you can turn them into questions that stress how they are used and paint a picture in the customer’s mind?
Change is hard, but rewarding, and it is the only thing that gets us to the satisfaction of achieving our goals. So as this wise blogger also said in his post, “Have the courage to aim low, but often.”
How is the virtual environment affecting sales people? Are they able to deliver compelling messages over teleconferences or the internet? Recent data from Corporate Visions indicates that today there is a “high prevalence of group audiences—64% include more than one person” (American Society of Training and Development, June 2012, p. 18). To prepare for this new reality, Tim Riesterer, chief strategy and marketing officer, explains that “Salespeople must practice delivering the content through role play, in a mock virtual environment.”
This virtual selling is not natural. Many of the best sales people read nonverbal cues as accurately as they hear what is being said and not said. Contextual listening is essential in selling, but how do we practice it over non-visual media? Many people rely on the messages and content they have used for years and try to deliver it as a script within an online meeting. This brings little success, The messages we deliver over virtual meetings must be more than the same content delivered over a new medium. They must take the form of planned and well-crafted key points. Our world these days thinks in sound bites: concise and well-honed messages. To develop these skills, sales training must include skills practices, role plays, and lab work to create and test messages, in addition to on-site instructor-led workshops. Seeing isn’t enough. Some 70% of adult learners are primarily visual but that option is severely limited in many virtual meetings. In its absence, becoming skillful at delivering concise messages to tap into the listening learner is essential, and telling stories that create a visual picture for the customer becomes the key differentiator. That’s why in our sales training process we craft usage scenarios, visual pictures of our customer’s people using our “stuff” to solve their problems. We develop sound bites for introductions, opening statements, and outreach. And, most importantly, we practice, practice, practice. It makes the difference.
As a sales trainer, there are few things that cause me greater frustration than having a training “event.” I define an event as being a one-time thing that has few if any lasting results. It’s the education equivalent of a revival meeting. I leave behind an enthusiastic class of sales people with new commitment to success only to see them fall back into their old ways. They return to a world of urgent messages, putting out fires, and jumping through hoops. They return to a sales manager asking them what they can “close” this month. They return to customers they have already trained to make unreasonable requests and who expect them to try to satisfy them anyway.
During training they express their frustration at having too little time to juggle all of their responsibilities. They complain about having too little control over their opportunities and too little influence with their suppliers. In training they learn:
- How to lead with business issues and goals instead of products;
- How to discuss their products and services as capabilities, and show how they are used rather than pitching features and benefits;
- How to call above the power line and talk with the decision makers;
- How to manage the selling process to keep the focus on value;
- And how to negotiate based on knowing the value they bring.
Their energy rises and their confidence is evident. Even 30-year sales veterans tell me they feel good about their jobs (sometimes for the first time) and that they are eager to practice what they’ve learned. Some say they wish someone had invested in them earlier in their careers so they wouldn’t have had to struggle along the way to figure out why some things worked and others didn’t.
So why doesn’t training stick? I blame the managers. Yes, I risk irritating some of my clients by saying that, but without management commitment, change doesn’t happen. The manager has to make it clear from the first training class that they expect to see this learning practiced and incorporated into the culture. At performance review time, they need to assess their team’s ability to understand and to use the tools they learned. They need to plan refreshers and reinforcement activities at regular intervals, whether they do them in house, bring back the trainer, or use a webinar. Most of all, they have to embrace the pain of a new learning curve themselves and be willing to invest the time and practice it takes to understand, practice, and master the process. When they do, the results exceed expectations and produce an energized, consciously competent, team of professionals performing at their best. And my work there is done.