When salespeople ask to be put on advanced sales training, it’s worth enquiring about their desired outcome.
Do they want to advance what they’re already doing or are they trying to become better by changing something fundamental?
Other disciplines don’t seem to have the same issues differentiating between the two.
Take music for example. (Stay with me on this – it’s going somewhere)
I had a few piano lessons when I was a kid, enough to learn the basics – stuff like where the notes were and what they were called.
As I grew up, I wish I’d done more, become better – I really wanted to play those sexy, boogie-woogie blues – you know, the kind that people gather round and listen to when super-cool, talented guests just start playing spontaneously in hotel bars.
Later, I started earning enough money to buy a beautiful piano for my home. So I decided to make up for lost time and teach myself – building on what I’d already learnt in my childhood – and bought some music books.
However I’d never learnt to read music properly, I just knew the guitar chords above the notes.
So I had to improvise – had my own style going on – I still knew where everything was and what it should sound like.
Which was good – but not great.
You see, I sounded fantastic to a bunch of drunks in the local pub. I had the plonking sing-a-long rhythm of Hey Jude and Show Me the Way to Go Home to finish off any boozy night.
But there were still those people who had the ability to make a fifty year old, out of tune, upright piano just…bounce.
I longed to be that good.
I really wanted to play that ADVANCED stuff.
So, I took professional piano lessons.
I was told that the first thing I had to do, was break all the bad habits I’d built up over the years, start again and learn to do it properly.
Not the answer I wanted at all.
I wanted the piano teacher to say;
“Hey you’re great! Just a tweak here and there and we’ll have you banging out real tunes in no time!”
What she actually said was;
“We do this properly or not at all.”
You see, there isn’t a piano teacher on earth – advanced or otherwise – who could take a student who knows a couple of chords but can’t read music to playing Rachmaninov at the end of a couple of lessons.
And sometimes – putting a sales team on “advanced” sales training is like giving a pianist, who can’t read music, the manuscript for a complicated concerto.
In the hands of someone who is ready for it – it will be amazing.
Those who aren’t, will just do their best with what they know and when they find they can’t get a decent tune out of the advanced stuff, they’ll just revert to playing their comfortable old tunes, all over again.
As sales people we should continuously look at how we do the things we do and ask;
“Does this just need polishing to ADVANCE it to ANOTHER LEVEL or do I need to be doing something BETTER? Do I need to BECOME BETTER?”
It also helps if you know what and who you’re measuring yourself against.
“I’ve been doing it like this for years – I’ve always been the best in this sales team.”
Might sound reassuring – but it’s not necessarily a great place to be.
Externally – to those outside of the bubble – the self-delusion is obvious, and sometimes, quite sad.
Just another amateur, surrounded by people happy to spend their time with that level of talent.
But take my word for it – few people are ever impressed by a fifty-year-old playing chopsticks in the Marriott cocktail bar at midnight.
NB: Someone emailed me and asked to clarify exactly what I meant by Better and Advanced – and which one was the equivalent of breaking bad habits – apologies if I didn’t make myself clear – my reply to the question is detailed below
“Essentially, if you are on the right course – doing the right things and practicing good habits – you will want to advance that knowledge to a higher level.
This allows you to advance from correct form all the way to greatness, dependent on how far you want to take it.
However, sometimes advancement is not what is required – but doing things differently, better.
If you can be self-aware enough to know that there are better ways of doing things other than the options within your current tool kit (which also needs the bravery to step slightly out of your own comfort zone) – you’ll start to seek the best advice you can find.
You’ll recognise role models you wish to emulate – enabling you to realise that there wasn’t any trick to ensuring your fingers stretched across the keys, it was simply that you’ve never held your hand properly – and that can be a bitter pill to swallow.
In the article I just wanted to point out that – particularly – in sales training wanting “Advanced” means advancing, moving higher along the same path, whereas deciding there is a better path to be on requires courage and change.”
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