Most high performing salespeople doggedly spend their lives pursuing knowledge, firmly believing it is "the" pathway to professional development and personal growth. Their focus is learning ways to prospect for new business, build relationships, qualify opportunities, determine need, make presentations, etc.
There are a few, however, who are willing to question this belief and quickly recognize that knowledge alone in never enough to succeed; it must be translated into wisdom to consistently achieve their goals. I have worked with salespeople long enough to differentiate between individuals who will actually apply what they learn in the classroom from those who leave it behind.
When I met with the CEO of a company I am currently training, he alleged that his salespeople weren't learning enough in one of my sales programs. He stated, "They seem to know what to do, but they are not putting it into practice!" I followed-up by conducting coaching sessions with them to determine how he had drawn this conclusion. I quickly realized that most were waiting until they were 100 percent comfortable with the new selling strategies and tactics before executing them. In my subsequent meeting with the CEO, I reminded him that I am responsible for not only teaching them knowledge of the sales system I utilize in my own business, but, also, the wisdom to practically and successfully apply it in their professional lives. His responsibility is to hold them accountable, for the knowledge acquired as well as the wisdom demonstrated by their behavior. He cannot wait until they become totally comfortable with the material; they must be encouraged to "fail forward" as they cultivate wisdom.
When salespeople attend a training program, I deliver its content using the adult learning model. Adults learn by interacting with the trainer and their peers as they practically apply the knowledge they are garnering. They rarely learn by being lectured or read to from a manual; both techniques put them to sleep! As a veteran trainer, I utilize an energetic and motivational teaching style that stimulates their desire to learn as I impart knowledge and application methodology.
Rules entail his salespeople sharing best practices in some form, success stories and lessons learned from failure. By holding their "feet" to the fire, they acquire wisdom that will fuel their growth and, also, result in additional ideas to practically apply new and well-developed behaviors.
The following steps, faithfully applied, lead to wisdom which assures consistent high achievement:
1. Develop a keen sense of curiosity. Clay P. Bedford, former senior executive with Kaiser Industries, says, "You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives."
2. Challenge yourself to learn something new each day. Oliver Wendell Holmes, an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1902 to 1932, and as Acting Chief Justice of the United States January-February 1930, pronounced, "Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions."
3. Focus on gaining wisdom by transferring knowledge to behavior. As a professional development guru, I maintain, "The biggest fallacy you can accept is that knowledge is power. True power comes from the consistent application of knowledge."
4. Fail fast and fail forward: Denis Waitley, writer and productivity consultant, states, "Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker."
With heightened curiosity, the willingness to learn something new every day and the courage to embrace failure to move forward, your commitment will catapult you to a level of success you never thought were possible. Go conquer your worlds.
• Bill Bartlett owns Corporate Strategies, A Sandler Training Center. firstname.lastname@example.org. Text "SalesTip" to 71813 to receive Bill's bi-weekly newsletter.