Ben Zoldan in Stories | May 3, 2016 | No Comments

I Hate Sales Training

I talked with an old mentor yesterday. We were catching up, and I asked him, “Who is the best Salesperson you know, and what makes that person so rare and different?”

He says, “That’s easy” and he starts talking about this guy, Kevin.
He says, “Ben, you know how you always talk about being ALL-IN? Kevin is that guy. He’s always ALL-IN, with everything; his work life, his personal relationships, he just lives that way.”

And he goes on and on about this guy, Kevin, “He’s always putting himself out there, he’s fearless”. He said something new to me; he talked about Kevin being “contagious” which I thought was an interesting way of describing someone. He ended by saying, “There is never any pretense with him and everyone just LOVES him. People want to be around him.” And to me, as I was listening to this, I was imagining someone who must live this beautiful, fulfilling, benevolent, connected, loving, wholehearted life.

But here’s the thing, he made it very clear to me, without any question, that Kevin was also the guy who sold more than anyone he ever knew.
And I’m thinking a lot about that today. And I’m thinking about Corporate Sales Training. And this notion that those things are soft. I think about the disconnect between what we value and teach in Corporate America, and what some people – the rare – know intuitively.

I’m imagining Kevin: someone who clearly lives a very wholehearted, passionate, purpose led life. But Corporate Sales Training isn’t focused on those things.

Here is some evidence. For me, I have to look no further than the very first sales book I read: Solution Selling, and its opening page. In the introduction to the book, Mike Bosworth writes, “Superior sellers (I call them Eagles) have intuitive relationship building skills; they emphatically listen, they establish sincerity early in the sales call, and they establish a high level of confidence with their buyer.”

These skills — relationship building, empathetic listening, and so forth — were not addressed any further in the book. The rest of the book, ironically, goes into everything but those qualities. And yet for the last 25 years, our industry has been dominated by these other things: process, structure, playbooks, pitches, etc.

And there’s more evidence of this:

I remember sitting in a sales conference a few years ago. It was before I co-founded Storyleaders, and the keynote speaker was Greg Alexander, founder of Sales Benchmark Index. He starts his keynote talk, and put up a .ppt slide with two numbers on it: 87 and 13. He told us that the 80/20 rule was no longer the case. After indexing 1,100 B2B sales organizations, he found that 80/20 hadn’t improved. In fact the gap widened; the top 13 percent of salespeople were now responsible for 87 percent of the revenue.

The net effect of decades of everything we’ve been doing all these years had not helped the vast majority. It was as if the best got better, but everyone else still struggled. And yet, our own way of thinking about sales enablement – our own questions haven’t changed. Despite our best intentions, we as an industry hadn’t accomplished what we all set out to do—help salespeople connect with other, and as a result, paying their mortgages, sending their kids to colleges, taking vacations, providing for their families, have been a struggle. And its wrong.

And if that’s not enough evidence, take an inventory of the methods you’ve been given. Try using those tactics from sales training on those in your life who you love the most; your husband, your wife, your children. If your single, go out tonight and try ‘em out on another single person, “Thanks for your time.

What I’d like to do today to maximize our time together is ask you some questions, find out about your goals, and then we’ll mutually agree on next steps…” And after that, launch into why you’re different than your competition.
I just finished a workshop yesterday, and I woke up this morning to an email from one of the participants.

It illustrates something pretty profound to me:

this idea that we can peel back layers with people and get close with them.

Thanks again for providing such an amazing experience. I’ve already applied what I’ve learned and had the most amazing conversation with my girlfriend last night. We’ve been together 1 year and have been long distance as of last month. Last night we ended up spending 6 hours on the phone learning all sorts of things about each other. It was just awesome. She opened up and peeled back layers I didn’t even know were there. We spoke again this morning and we’re closer than ever.
I can’t thank you enough for opening my eyes, ears and heart.
I would absolutely love to return as a coach. Please let me know how this works, etc.
All the best,

What if we opened up our eyes, minds and hearts to a deeper way of thinking?

Maybe when we become better people, we become better salespeople. When we figure this out, we figure sales out.


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