A friend of mine recently send me a link to an unbelievable YouTube video of a duet between world-renowned virtuoso cellist Tina Guo and blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa. It’s a performance of Bonamassa’s song “Woke Up Dreaming” and it will knock your socks off. When I watched it, I immediately thought of how that level of competence can be related to sales training.
Tina Guo has been playing music since the age of three, and began studying the cello when she was seven. Needless to say, the level of training she has received shows in her virtuosity–she works in just about every genre imaginable and plays with the world’s top symphony orchestras as well as with film composer Hans Zimmer (that’s her leading the extremely popular Wonder Woman theme) and rock acts such as the Foo Fighters and, of course, Joe Bonamassa.
Such virtuosity is not maintained without constant practice. Growing up, Tina practiced 7-8 hours per day. It has never stopped–even with her current totally hectic tour schedule, she puts in 2 – 3 hours per day. Every bit of that training and practice is evident when she steps out on stage to perform.
For a salesperson, “performance” is talking to the customer. The problem is that most salespeople are given product knowledge and some theory, then perhaps some coaching, but it often stops after the rep has had some sales success. They never get the chance to practice their craft and consistently improve their performance, as an artist does.
Train On Strengths
What skills should a salesperson practice? For that we should take a look at how salespeople are coached and trained to begin with. It often happens that sales trainers, as well as sales managers, attempt to train a salesperson on their weaknesses instead of their strengths. It would be like a music teacher coming along and attempting to train Tina Guo on playing the trumpet because she doesn’t know how–when obviously she should be trained further on the cello at which she is so obviously a master.
At Pipeliner, we have taken a lesson from world-renowned management expert Fredmund Malik:
“…the essential element is ‘utilizing strengths’ and not ‘eliminating weaknesses.’ This must be emphasized because most managers and particularly, it seems, personnel experts are primarily concerned with the opposite of what this principle demands: on the one hand, developing something new instead of utilizing what is already available, and, on the other hand, eliminating weaknesses instead of utilizing strengths.” –Fredmund Malik, from Managing Performing Living: Effective Management for a New Era.
Based on the above, companies are wasting millions addressing weaknesses of not only salespeople, but personnel in general.
Sorting out strengths can be easily done. If you analyze your sales process (especially with a tool such as Pipeliner CRM), you are able to see if a salesperson is more of a farmer (nurturing opportunities), a hunter (finding new opportunities) or a closer (bringing opportunities to a win). You should then focus on strengthening these skills.
In addition you’ll also discover (as one would with Tina Guo) that a person is generally great at something they love. Hence if you strengthen it, it will only get better.
A New Training Environment
So if a rep is having to “perform” consistently, and with constant improvement, how could they practice? It could take the form of a training environment, such as a permanent classroom, in which a salesperson spends some daily or weekly time practicing skills.
Another method that could be used (ideally in addition to the permanent classroom mentioned above) is to record sales conversations, and then coach and mentor based on these recordings.
In both these ways the salesperson would be constantly improving.
Additionally, companies should hire sales managers and trainers that really focus on training and improvement, not those that simply “boss people around.”
It Should Never Stop
In any case, however a company works it out, sales training should never end. Just as Tina Guo remains a virtuoso by constant practice, so a sales rep constantly improves and becomes great the same way.
Pipeliner CRM empowers sales management to coach and mentor by strength, and to precisely train salespeople. Download a free trial now.