No Training, No Complaining

By the title of this column, you might assume that my message is directed at sales professionals, but it isn’t. What I want to do is drive home that message to those of you in decision making roles, those of you in control of the information that flows to the employees on the front lines of your organization.

Steve Jobs, Apple’s iconic founder, has an interesting quote that I often repeat when working with decision makers. He said: “You cannot mandate productivity; it is an organizations responsibility to equip its people with the tools they need to be successful.” Unfortunately, with many companies, this often is not the case.

It seems like many leaders spend a ton of time on the “what” and not nearly enough time on the “how.” These individuals use every meeting to hammer home the message that the business needs to sell more, conduct more customer follow-ups, and mine the customer database. Typically, the meetings end with them shouting, “Everyone needs more prospects in the pipeline.” Unfortunately, that’s not going to get it done.

I speak to sales professionals daily and  all of them seem to be telling the same old stories. So, I’d like to announce a new rule for you decision makers out there: If you don’t train, then you can’t complain about how slow business is, how you can’t find and keep good salespeople, how everybody seems to be giving profits away. 

Training isn’t just about drills or word-tracks; it’s about process, procedure, creating a great culture, improving teamwork and leading the way. If your company isn’t producing at its potential, ask yourself: What new skills have you, as a decision maker, given to your team to help them be more successful?

I’m not talking about daily training sessions that recycle techniques from 30 years ago, nor am I talking about buying some new technology product or service to improve business. I want you to encourage you to be progressive and understand the human factor. Let me explain:

• Expand or Become Expendable: It is my opinion that tough decisions will need to be made in the coming years, as the competition and flow of information increases and the attack on gross profit continues. I mean, how can we possibly do the same things today that we did 30 years ago?

Not long ago, I was told by a CEO that I was the first person in 11 years to conduct training at his company. Amazing, right? I mean, think about this: How much of that information you’ve learned about today’s customer or that new software solution actually trickles down to the sales team? An even better question is: How hard do you push to inject new ideas into the mix or encourage your people to take a fresh look at the way your business actually conducts its business?

• Say Hello to Gen Y: My guess is most of the people making up your sales team are in the dark about those customers who were born between 1981 and 1994. It’s unfortunate if that’s the case, because that market is 75 million customers strong. This is a generation that is four times more likely to respond to text messages than voicemails, and in the just a few short years will influence 40% of major purchases like automobiles.

It’s time to move forward, folks. It’s no longer about whether your team is good or bad; it’s about how we can get better. See, as the challenges become more sophisticated, so do the strategies needed to ensure continued success. The good news is, most problems can be attributed to a deficiency of knowledge, which can be corrected fairly quickly. And with the right long-term plan of action, it can be cured forever.

As a decision maker you control what information gets disseminated to the sales pros on the front lines. So, I would ask that you make an effort to seek out a fresh perspective and treat your mind like an umbrella, which, as you know, works best when it’s open.