No one likes to wash clothes, take a bath (don’t laugh some people don’t), or pay bills, but we would all agree it’s a necessity in life. Although we may not enjoy the act, we enjoy the benefits it has to offer. We love the smell of putting on a fresh t-shirt in the morning; we feel reenergized after washing off the funk of a hard-fought day and enjoy the ability to walk in and buy goods just using our good name, but when it comes to investing (a.k.a. training) in our people, we are guilty of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Each and every day we bathe in the murky waters of rejection and pay the high price of missed recitals, games, plays, and dinners with our families all in an effort to put a day, month, and year together. While turnover is a necessity of business, we don’t have to throw the inundations of the day’s business out with our most valuable assets—our people. Often we are so blinded with putting together a day, that our people are overlooked; orphaned on the blacktop, they are left to fend for themselves, trying to provide for their families all the while braving the shark invested waters of rejection. Mentally beaten, battered, and depleted of any self-confidence, they walk away from a profession that lured them in with promises of Up to’s and As much as. Imagine the amount of untapped talent that has forever walked away from our profession.
Experts agree that the first three years of a child’s life are the most critical. Similarly, in the sales profession, the first 90 days are critical to the survival of your sales babies. Interestingly enough, it’s never too late for the prodigal son or daughter to come back home; as you begin to climb the Everest mountain of training those new to sales, veterans of past training classes will look on with curiosity and come back home—reengaged in a profession they once loved.
Some sales managers are good at desking deals, some have the ability to motivate, others are proficient at policies and procedures, while the rest are good at teaching techniques and strategies, but it takes a village to raise a child and every manager should play his or her part in investing in the future of your people
- Connect the dots: Babies are born with 100 billion cells, but not all of them are connected. In the first three years, these cells begin to form connections. Your people come in with a network of unconnected cells. Use their traits of lofty ambitions, outgoing personalities, and mental toughness to begin to connect the sales cells together. The best thing about new salespeople is their stupidity—they have no preconceived notions or formed opinions of how to sell. Like a baby, they are walking in with a clean canvas in which you as a leader have the responsibility to create your future masterpieces. Connect their sales (cells) together by using techniques such as how to properly set each month’s goals. Show them how to determine the number of Ups that are needed to reach their desired outcome, (i.e. 8 sales/20% closing ratio = 40 ups/23 working days = 1.7 per day) (Note: what new salespeople lack in skills must be made up in numbers), manage and track each day’s progress (i.e. tweak the minor adjustments of the day’s efforts to prevent the major shortfalls of having a bad month), how to actively prospect (vs. waiting for the Up Bus), ask for referrals, as well as how to develop themselves per-fessionally (Continuous personal and professional development). Great salespeople aren’t born—they’re developed.
- Brainpower: Initially, a child’s brain is twice as active as an adult’s. Between the ages of nine and 10, their brains begin to slow down. As their career begins to mature, don’t let your people’s brains slow down. Unfortunately, there are many brain dead salespeople occupying showroom floors today because they are no longer challenged. Professional athletes don’t sharpen their skills by scrimmaging against the local Pop Warner league—instead they push themselves to new levels because they compete against two worthy opponents: themselves and the next man “up.” It is your job as a leader to provoke, push, and prod your sales athletes to not only surpass last month’s goals, but also create an air of positive paranoia. Apple and Microsoft don’t succeed on yesterday’s inventions; instead, they are constantly aware that if they are not continuously pushing to levels of new innovation, they will quickly become yesterday’s headlines. In a similar fashion, you as a leader have to foster an environment of creativity. No longer is it permissible to just pass the OEM’s standardized tests (didn’t work too well in the education system either) and label your team as certified; instead you must foretell the future and become adaptive to the rapidly changing landscape that is readily confronting your sales staff.
- Use it or lose it: By the age of three, a child has 1000 trillion cells; because it is more than the child will ever need, the brain begins to prune the cells that are not being used or stimulated. Early experiences determine the health, education, and economic participation for the rest of a child’s life. As a leader, you must set the expectations, then prune the results. If you were to put a patch over a child’s eye, by the age of six he will forever lose his vision in that eye due to a lack of stimulation—however if an adult’s eye is patched, the lost vision is only temporary. Whether direct (one-on-one coaching) or indirect (sales meetings), stimulate the vision of your new recruits so when they encounter the temporary blindness of negative thoughts, actions, and setbacks, in a later season, their vision will soon become restored.
- See Skip Go: Early on, an eight-month-old can see and be directed toward specific objects; by the age of three he has a vocabulary of 900 words. Due to a lack of knowledge, your sales babies will do exactly as they are directed, but as they “mature” in the growing weeks, they will begin to use negative enforced words. When they first hit the blacktop, the world was their looking glass. With no preformed prejudices or cynicism, they set out to sell the world, but as the rejections and negativity mounted, the glass soon became a mirror. They begin to mirror negative behaviors and reinforce those beliefs with a limited vocabulary of doubt and skepticism. Don’t let the speech of your people fall by the wayside; the Bible says that life and death come from the power of the tongue. What you allow your people to speak can bring life or death to their sales career. Too often as managers we profess to our salespeople to stay positive, yet when they bring a deal to the desk we vaporize their hopes by making fun of their customer’s expected payments, credit situation or equity status. It is your duty and obligation as a leader to stay positive and give your sales consultant’s customers options. If your people fought for over an hour in the sweltering sun to land and influence a customer to buy today, the least you can do as a leader is give them their options.
Statistics reveal that over one million children die each year from injuries that could have been prevented. The most common deaths are from accidental drownings and traffic injuries. While death is one of life’s certainties, it doesn’t have to be now, in your back yard, with your people. As the strains of life try to pull them under and as life and circumstances collide with one another, the greatest commission in life you could ever earn is by saving the lives of those who follow you. Put all of your resources in your most valuable assets—your future is in the gardens of your people. Throw out the water, but keep the baby. I’ll see you next time on the blacktop.