sales management

The Five Flavors of Sales Lessons

Building a career in sales requires hard work, and the journey from greenhorn to guru is a lifelong adventure. To achieve mastery over the profession, make a habit of finding lessons from all five of these learning opportunities.

Formal Training

Few universities offer degrees in sales, so most formal training that sales professionals receive takes place during their career. New-hire onboarding, on-the-job training and workshops at conferences are all great opportunities for even the most seasoned salespeople to deepen their knowledge and learn nuanced strategies for success. However, formal training is usually regimented and doesn’t allow much free-flowing exchange of information. This is why the next four are so important.

Peer Discussions

Some of the best lessons learned in a sales career come from the peers in your team. The simple anecdotes that get passed around a sales floor can hold countless clues to unlocking the potential within your market. Find the most effective sales person on your team and find out what makes them tick. The best sellers often don’t know exactly what they’re doing that pushes their own performance so much higher than that of their peers. So take them to lunch or grab a beer. Pick their brain. Comparing the behaviors and habits of your team members is one of the best ways to improve your own processes.

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Manager Meetings

There comes a time in every sales person’s career, no matter how good they are at their job, where they fall short of what’s asked of them. They meet with their manager and have a conversation about why they didn’t make quota or lost a key deal. These can be unpleasant experiences. No one wants to feel like they aren’t good enough, and taking criticism can be painful for most. But this is exactly when personal growth can be made. There’s always room for improvement, and if you spend your meetings with managers just trying to “get it over with”, you’re doing yourself a disservice and missing a great learning opportunity. Sales managers are typically under immense pressure to put out many fires at once. During the rare moments when their single-minded focus is on helping you improve, make the most of it!

Social Browsing

As much as we’d all like to be able to say we’re the most rigorous salesperson in all the land, everyone ends up absentmindedly browsing Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter during lulls in focus. Social media is so ingrained in our lives that these habits are simply unavoidable. And while many of the links we click are likely to be pithy listicles or clickbait articles, there are plenty of industry bloggers who put out great writing. Craig Rosenberg, Tomasz Tunguz. Find worthwhile writers who put out quality, thoughtful pieces and make sure to follow their social channels, subscribe to their email lists, maybe even send them an email and have a conversation. Social media may be a time-sink for the most part, but the knowledge diamonds in the rough can be hugely helpful to your learning journey.

Just Doing It

The four types of lessons above are fantastic sources of ideas, but the only way to know if they actually work for you is to develop a plan and put your lessons to use. No matter how natural a salesperson you are, it takes years to hone your sales skills to their sharpest. You can stand around in the sales floor with the most effective team on earth and spend hours picking their brains to get the most comprehensive conceptual idea of what makes an effective sales process. But until you test your ideas in the real world, it’s all just a bunch of ideas. To becoming the excellent salesperson you want to be, you need to get out there and do it!

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