DEVELOPS : Sharpens the saw. Gets people to grow and live their potential

DEVELOPS : Sharpens the saw. Gets people to grow and live their potential

“Welcome to the Class of Sales Wizards” said the Professor “Are you ready to learn the white magic of growing sales without working on your own numbers?”

The young sales professionals gathered in the class were puzzled. Grow without working on your own numbers? What’s he even talking?

“I understand your confusion” smiled the Professor “But that’s the goal of this week long program in our Sales and Marketing School. You are all here because you are ready for the next level. Your companies feel you can now lead sales teams”

“But Sir, that doesn’t tell us how we can grow sales without working on our own numbers” objected a participant

“What I meant was this. When you lead sales teams, you must know the secret spell of growing through your teams. It’s no longer about your individual or own numbers. As sales managers you must nurture people. The deals will then take care of themselves. Of course you all know it. Such an obvious thing. But let’s do a quick warm up exercise to appreciate that insight. Here are the instructions:

(i) You will now be placed in 3 groups of 5 each (ii) You have all been in sales for 5 plus years. Now pool your experiences in your groups (iii) Then each group must present one valuable career lesson you learnt from the sales managers you’ve worked under. Pick the best lesson of the group. Your time starts now

There was the buzz of the class rearranging itself. 20 minutes of whispered conversations and vehement arguments followed. “All ready to present?” asked the Professor

The collective shout of “Yes” showed the class was all set for sharing its lessons

Group 1’s representative said: “Our group has one word lesson to share. “Extra”. The best managers we all worked under always pushed us to step beyond our comfort zones. They made us take that little risk of targeting an account that looked too big for us. Or try a sales approach we’ve never used before. For example we got a major power sector account when we tried a joint presentation taking our R&D colleagues with us. The managers from whom we learnt most, challenged us and made us feel just that little uncomfortable. We hated it when we went through it. But learnt enormously. In fact these are the ones who suggested this program to us”

Group 2 said – “Our best lessons were from the not so inspiring bosses we worked with. They were the ones who were so numbers obsessed that they never checked how we felt or what we learnt. It made us understand how not to treat salespeople. We realise that people who work for us shouldn’t be made to feel like number generating machines. We will be careful we don’t make that mistake” The class laughed and cheered.

Group 3 said – “We have an interesting description for what we picked up from our best managers – “In the Trenches”. The best lessons we learnt were after those joint visits for which they came with us. Their questions like – “Did you notice how the Customer reacted when you gently proved what they were losing by not buying from us? The purchase and finance guys exchanged quick glances. You did a great job. Do you think you’ve made progress on this call compared to the last one? There was one point when I intervened to take the talk away from price, did you observe? We weren’t ready yet. And what more do you think we should do to get this account?”

“Thank you friends” said the Professor “Those 3 lessons were valuable. They clearly demonstrate that for the sales manager, more than products or markets, it’s people that matter most for success”

Remarkable sales leaders, invest in developing their people to lay the foundation for lasting success. They employ a 4 Zones Development Framework to develop their sales teams:

Zone1 – Supported Self Learning: Inspirational sales leaders encourage their teams to constantly learn through active pursuit of self study and research. They instill pride in their teams in being seen by Customers as experts and advisers.

Zone 2 – Learning from Experience “In the Trenches Learning” : As happened in our story, people centric sales leaders use every opportunity to be out with their teams in the field. They offer field coaching after every joint visit or call where the distilled wisdom of what works on ground gets transferred to a new generation of sales professionals

Zone 3 – Action Learning: The sales managers who inspire have an intimate understanding of what makes every individual salesperson tick. They nudge their team members to learn by doing assignments that shore up their innate strengths while exposing them to areas that need development. For example, in dividing hunting and farming activity for their teams to work on, they are mindful of the preferred sales orientation of the individuals. They second hunters to do value harvesting from existing accounts and make the less aggressive ones to try accompany hunters on prospecting missions

Zone 4 – Formal Learning – Outstanding sales leaders are also great believers in the need for formal trainings to sharpen the saw. They plan regular, need based training initiatives that keep the skills of their teams sharp and fresh

In a constantly changing and disruptive world, sales leaders who leave a mark realise that it is people who give them the only lasting competitive edge

Pause to reflect:  “Remarkable sales leaders, invest in developing their people to lay the foundation for lasting success”

Action Question: What is your preferred people development strategy? How can you get better at it?

Related Readings: Mercuri Mail Sept 2012 Must Read feature on Developing Employees

Takeaway Quote: “The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership." - Harvey S. Firestone

About the series:  This is the 68th 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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