Attending the BESMA awards run by the ISMM recently I was forcibly struck by a comment made by one of the successful senior salespeople attending.
He works for a multi-billion turnover multinational manufacturing organisation. He was singing the praises of his company, in particular about their sales training. He told me that in his long decades of selling he had not been trained since he started his profession until his current company who insist on good excellent technical and sales training.
“So what does your monthly programme look like?” I asked. “Monthly? Monthly? I don’t want to waste my time in sales training every month!” He said. He had only been on a day or so training in the last twelve months.
This got me thinking on two levels.
On the first level, how many companies had he worked for? For how many years had he not had any reinforcement, refresher, sharpening, challenging, developing investment?
From my own experience I know the answer. Big companies often hire good sales people and expect them to be and continue to be good salespeople.
Bearing in mind they are the engine for revenue, would that same set of companies take the same view over any other delicate, mission critical tools? No upgrades. No maintenance. No sharpening and allow the cutting edges to go blunt. Would they? It would simply not make sense. And yet sales people don’t get trained regularly.
I think I understand why. When you hire a legal person or an accounting person and once they are qualified they don’t need more professional training. You hire them and they do the job. If they don’t, you fire them.
So why should salespeople be any different? In fact salespeople are very good at claiming at interview stage (and beyond) that they are brilliant at what they do and need no supporting net as they weave their personal magic across the high wire.
However, accountancy is a process that does not engage on a personal level. The success of the process is not intimately linked with what is going on inside the head of the person doing it.
Unlike sales, bookkeeping does not rely on saying or asking the right things in the right way at the right time. Sales is a whole lot more to do with the quality of the person who is doing it than the product being delivered.
You cannot just hire a salesperson and expect them to perform. They will get into bad habits. Being accidentally “critical parent”, demonstrating way too early, being afraid to walk away from prospects that don’t qualify. The list goes on.
On the second level, salespeople don’t want to be trained properly. That might look ridiculous. But they have targets to hit so time spent in the “classroom” is time wasted, commission forfeited.
What’s more to admit that training might help suggests they are not being honest about that claim to be able to run along the high wire with no net. They are not even honest with themselves about that. They cannot be.
If they question what they are doing, try something different, admit to their weaknesses, basically look down for a moment….they might fall off the high wire… and remember, there is no net!