Heather had just finished four days of sales training with her salespeople. Driving home that afternoon, instead of feeling good about the past four days, she had a nagging feeling that something was missing. Everyone who attended was really “getting-into-it,” but she still had an unspoken frustration.
Nothing I can do about it at the moment, she thought to herself.
About five miles further down the road, she remembered that her husband had wanted her to stop and buy a couple of bags of grass seed at the local nursery. As she pulled in, she thought for a moment of pulling out and heading up to the discount place.
“Michael,” she remembered saying the previous night to her husband, “that place always costs more than the discount place up the street. Why spend more money than you need to? It’s nuts.” As the words came out of her mouth, she knew it was a lost battle. Michael would buy from this place no matter what the price was. She couldn’t understand his not seeing the obvious.
“Hello,” said Laurie coming out from behind a huge stand of palms in the middle of the greenhouse, “just doing a bit of trimming. What do you think?” she asked, pointing to the fountain just in front of the palms.
“It’s beautiful. Looks like it takes a lot of work.”
Laurie looked at the palms and replied, “Actually, it wasn’t that much work. It was disciplining myself to keep at it over the years that was harder. My goal four years ago was to have these palms to just about where they are now. Of course, the fountain idea came a little later . . . it’s working out. Two years from now it will be more interesting.”
“It’s beautiful now. Why change it?”
Laurie smiled and waited a moment or two before responding. “Most gardeners want instant success. The only trouble with instant success is that’s how long it lasts, an instant. This,” she said, pointing towards the palms and fountain, “is long-term success.”
Heather stared at the display and realized what had been bothering her about the training. It had all been things to do today for success today. No wonder, she thought, that no one can remember the training a month later. We didn’t get training for the future, just today.
Insight comes in the strangest of places, sometimes while surrounded with success.
Sales training does have a place. But consider how most salespeople respond to it. They go, they learn, they get fired up, they come back to the office ready to try out the new stuff, and a month or two later little has changed.
What went wrong? Untold thousands of dollars are spent yearly on all sorts of training. Assuming that the training was well done, as most is, why isn’t there a significant change in the salespeople’s results?
Consider the average salesperson’s primary focus—making enough sales this month. A secondary focus is making enough sales for the quarter. Finally, perhaps, is making enough sales for the year.
When a salesperson attends training, her mind usually is tuned to “what can I get out of it to make that sale tomorrow or next week?” Abetting this mind-set is the sales trainer asking, “If you knew this technique last month, would you have made the sale?”
What’s missing from the salesperson’s mind? Everything is yesterday, today, and this month. What’s missing is what is going to happen two, three years from now.
Sales managers also allow themselves to fall into the short view for the seemingly best of reasons.
Most sales training does mention, somewhere, usually once, the need for long-term goals. It is the point in the training program where the salespeople jot down some inanity and quickly refocus on what’s important in their minds—that nifty close.
Would it not make more sense for a sales manager to ask a salesperson where do you want to be in three years? Use this as a starting point from which the salesperson works backwards to today. Instead of asking did you meet your sales goals this month, ask what did you do this month to reach your three-year goal? By taking this approach, you are bringing the future into focus relative to her actions today.
The difficulty in this approach to planning is that salespeople are not conditioned to thinking this way. Nor are sales managers. However, if you ask the top salesperson, the one who always is way out there in performance, what her three-year goals are, she’ll always be able to tell you them without much hesitation.
If you don’t know where you want to be, then you don’t care where you are headed.
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