LEARNS: Fosters continuous learning in self and team for sustained and enduring growth

LEARNS: Fosters continuous learning in self and team for sustained and enduring growth

Nisha stole a quick glance at the clock in the bottom of her laptop screen. 8 more minutes for the webinar end.

The guest speaker from the global consulting firm was wrapping up his talk on “Learning Strategies for a Post Pandemic World”.

Earlier when participants briefly switched on their videos to say hello, Nisha spotted Garima among the attendees.

It was almost a year since Garima had moved to a L&D role in a multinational IT services company. Garima had been more than a senior for Nisha at the management school famous for its HR MBA course. She was Nisha's role model. Nisha now had an urgent question to ask her.

Quickly exiting the call when the when the webinar ended, Nisha called Garima.

“Hey Nisha, what a surprise!” said Garima “Great to see you on the screen even if it was brief. Tell me, what’s up with you?”

“Great to spot you in the webinar Garima. It’s a working day. So I will keep this short. I have a professional question troubling me. Why is it so difficult to implement learning plans for the sales teams? Is it because I’m in the manufacturing sector?”

“No Nisha. It’s about how you can influence your sales leaders to commit to continuous learning. In my experience across 3 major companies in totally different areas of business, I’ve seen that sales leaders who are committed to advancing both their own and their team’s learning, create sustained and long term business growth"

“I will share my experience with a phenomenally successful sales leader I worked with that will tell you what it takes to establish a learning sales organisation. A few snippets, personal and professional, about the man will give you the picture”

“Mid forties. Fitness freak and learning junkie. Stunningly well read. Buys more online courses than he has time to complete. Has a calendar littered with webinar registrations. Pushes his people to learn continuously”

“When guys call him after a sales call, he doesn’t start with the stereotypical 'was the deal closed' question. “So, how did the call go? What did you learn new about the Customer today? Did we make progress? What can we do better to get closer to closure?” are his favourite questions. His folks soon imbibe his learning mindset”

“He checks for this learning receptivity in new hires too. He himself adopts what he calls the wide-eyed attitude of an amateur, new to selling"

"He points out how this translates into better sales skills. With an amateur’s eagerness to learn, you listen intently and want to learn all you can about your Customer and his needs. You read up and share insights that add huge value to Customers. Your Customers see you as a specialist sales professional who can be trusted for advice and ideas”

“Over time the wealth of actionable learning you accumulate becomes your competitive advantage. HR is also happy as attrition is very low in learning focused sales teams”

"He knocked me out in very the first learning council meet “So, you have been here for a month as my L&D partner" he said "Before the newness in your eyes wears off, tell me, what do you think I should do to be of greater value to my people? How do you think can I learn to be that way? Like, for example, what do you think I can I learn from this new batch of interns who have come in last week? And for my tenured guys, what barriers to learning can I sweep aside?”. I was stunned"

"That was a penny drop moment for me. It explained a fairy tale to me - of how a humanities grad with zero B school training, armed with just a passion for learning, starting as a travelling salesperson refilling stocks and managing in-store displays, grew to head Sales for a 500 Cr enterprise”

“I will leave you with what he calls the Toddler learning model. Stand up-step up-trip-try-toddle. That’s the way to sales proficiency too. Try, make mistakes, learn always what you can do better and push ahead. Toddlers don’t block time for learning. They do it all the time”

“Thank you so much Garima" said Nisha "As always I’m bursting with ideas after talking to you. I’m on fire now. Can’t wait to influence our sales leaders here to create a learning sales organisation”

Learning promotes superior performance

“The important thing to know about how one performs is to know how one learns” wrote the legendary Peter Drucker. Learning promotes superior performance. Learning focused sales teams are more resilient and perform way better even under extraordinary challenges or pressure.

Learning helps them deliver memorable purchase experiences, adds expertise value to Customers, creates an always-excited sales team and gives them competitive advantage that’s just unassailable.

So, outstanding sales leaders invest in training and learning through good times and tough times. They build a reservoir of competence they can draw from when their people are expected to deliver results

How you can practice learning focused sales leadership

Drucker’s insights into learning, offers a simple starting point. Begin by understanding the learning preferences of team members.

How does your team member prefer to learn – Is it by (i) Writing? (ii) Note taking? (iii) Doing? (iv) Hearing themselves speak? (v) Being a decision maker or adviser?

The second and more critical step is to encourage an action plan to support these learning preferences.

A 5 Point Learning Leader's Charter

Learning focused sales leaders, therefore, operate with a 5 Point Learning Leader’s Charter for their teams:

For this day / week / month : (1) What is your one new learning? (2) What is the one barrier around you or within you to practicing your learning? (3) What have you done to overcome these barriers? (4) What can I do to remove these barriers, or help you overcome them? (5) What do you think I should learn, to help us learn more and faster?

Secret formula for sustainable success

Learning builds competence which in turn promotes excellence. Sales leaders par excellence know how to leverage this secret formula for sustainable success!

Pause to reflect: “Outstanding sales leaders invest in training and learning through good times and tough times. They build a reservoir of competence they can draw from when their people are expected to deliver results ”

Action Question: What are your top 3 learning goals for this business year? What holds you back from achieving them? How will you overcome those barriers? (List 3 ways you can do it)

Related Readings: Mercuri Mail March 2011 Vintage feature on “How do I learn” from Peter Drucker

Takeaway Quote: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn” - Alvin Toffler

About the series:   This is the 64th in a series of 100 Posts that seek to build your #Sales Resilience.. as an individual salesperson, as a sales team, and as a sales organization. Because a Resilient India needs Resilient Sales.


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