- You can’t sustain a competitive advantage by product alone. Because of advanced manufacturing technologies and global competition, even if you have a great product, the competition is likely to come out with one that is just about as good (or sometimes better), in half the time compared to yesteryear – worse yet, it’s likely to be cheaper.
- Customer expectations have changed – they expect salespeople to know more and know it at a higher level of proficiency than ever before. Customers expect salespeople to bring fresh insights to redefining their problems and imagination for creating alternative solutions.
So the bottom line is a superior sales team is more important than ever and it is more difficult to achieve. Yet, how does a company effectively, efficiently, and affordably develop and sustain a high performance sales team? Over the years we have written a lot about two obvious initiatives that a companies must get right as starters – sales training and front-line sales management coaching.
But even if a company gets sales training and sales coaching right, and most companies struggle to achieve that goal, it is unlikely those two efforts, by themselves, will be enough. We suggest the remaining challenge is: companies need to establish a culture where learning is viewed as an ongoing process for which the individual salesperson assumes personal responsibility.
If a company does not invest in the sales training and sales coaching, then each salesperson needs to develop that professional development mindset and do what it takes, to learn what they need to be a top performer.
Sales is a profession like any other profession in business, sports or the performing arts. And like in those professions top performers do not rely on the training and coaching from their respective institutions, they take personal responsibility. Sport examples are legendary. During their best years the San Francisco 49ers had great training and great coaching, yet players like Jerry Rice developed and maintained an off season conditioning and training schedule that enable him to be the very best for a very long time when competing against other world-class athletes.
Now – the good news. There are great resources available for sales reps to improve their performance on their own. The really good news is these resources are easy to tap into and affordable. For those that would like to get started immediately, here are some ideas.
- Blogs. There are 100s of blog sites about sales – clearly some are better then others. But you can find recommendations throughout the web to help sort that out. So, pick 5 blogs that relate to your learning needs and read them on an ongoing basis.
- White Papers. There are both training companies and consulting firms that produce great whitepapers on sales best practices. For starters go to websites like those published by McKinsey, BCG, Bain & Co., Accenture, and Booz Allen.
- Online training. Online training has improved significantly over the last 5 years. There are a number of online universities offering courses in sales. Again to get started go to Udemy.com – they have a number of sales programs and most are $100 or less.
- Apps. There are a number of apps that can help. For example, SweetSpot is an app that will help you learn about the latest developments and trends in a wide variety of industries and companies.
As a best friend once advised – you can’t write if you don’t read. And so it goes in sales. All the old stereotypes no longer apply – sales is a profession and like all professions the very best work really hard at being the very best.
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