Ben Zoldan in Stories | December 29, 2015 | No Comments

Dear Sales Trainer

I don’t love the title of my book. But, it’s had an unexpected affect – it provokes good conversation; “What is it that the best salespeople do?”.

I now start every one of my workshops by asking the group to think of the best sales person they know and what makes them so good. I try to make it totally opened ended. I get the same answers every time.

I NEVER get: “I know this guy… he’s so smart, he’s an expert, he follows the process, he always knows what questions to ask, he masters the product certification, he is an expert at ‘xyz’ sales methodology, he knows all of the competitive positioning, he knows how to handle every objection, he builds great ROI models, he always has the right answers, he is so polished.”

No one ever says those things. It’s crazy though; that is all we teach and reinforce in salespeople.

And, people rarely mention a sales person, per se. They never talk about someone who has actually been through ‘sales training’. People say, ‘my grandma’, ‘my CEO’, ‘my coach’, ‘my dad’, etc. At a recent Storyleaders City Tour, someone said, ‘Jesus’.

Think about it: when a rep joins, we give them new hire training that is a series of “why we’re the best” and why our competitors suck. We teach them a methodology. We certify them on the corporate and product pitch. We give them tools to prove ROI. We get them to memorize the key qualifying questions. We arm them with the top 5 reasons people should buy what they’re selling. Then, we send them out hoping they can relate to other human beings; to get prospects to open up, to build trust, at least enough to take a leap of faith with us. After that, we review pipelines by asking process-oriented questions that give us a false sense of where opportunities really stand (often forcing reps to make stuff up), leaving us surprised when deals end up ‘Dead – No Decision’ or totally dark at the end of the quarter.

We’ve created a language around selling (as described in Barry’s blog post) that is violent and harsh. Could you imagine allowing one of your prospects to sit in on your sales meetings to listen to the language we use?

It hit home recently as I’m talking to a VP of Sales. He starts by asking me about my stuff. And because I think his CEO is pretty cool, I start to describe his CEO. And I use all the same words people give me at the beginning of my workshops when I ask them what makes the best so good. I say something like, “I just watched a clip of your CEO, the dude is so real, he speaks from the heart, not afraid to make waves, he seems comfortable in his own skin….” And I end with, “That’s what I’m trying to get at in my workshops; helping people work towards that.”

He says, “Yeah, there’s such a disconnect between what our leadership does, and how we train our salespeople.”

He asks me to talk with the person who heads up their global training. The conversation starts the same way, but she says, “I totally get it (referring back to how I described their CEO), but is that the training department’s responsibility?”

Then, I talk with another sales leader who says, “Yeah, that’s why we don’t lean on our training department.”

Somewhere along the line, we’ve settled on a training culture that appeals to the lowest common denominator. I’m not so sure that we, as an industry, are asking, “What is it that the best are really doing?” It’s ironic that a profession that is based on asking questions stopped asking questions about itself.

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