Many sales leaders look to outside trainers to give their salespeople a jump start, an energy boost, a shot of motivation and sometimes, some new skills and tools to help them succeed. As one of those trainers myself, I can tell you that training is not always the answer.
Before looking outside for training, why not make use of the wisdom already at work in your firm? It is waiting to be discovered among your positive deviants. Every firm has them. They are the people who make their numbers no matter what, even in tough times. They are the people the sales team goes to when they need a new idea, when they need that special PowerPoint deck that no one else has, or when they are stuck on strategy and want to talk about it with someone they trust.
These people already have the answer to many issues you are trying to solve. The key is tapping into this rich resource of insight and know-how. Here is how:
- Choose an important problem or objective. What result is worth working on right now? It may be as simple as making your numbers, increasing customer share or creating referrals. The key is to focus on something that matters and is urgent to your firm.
- Identify the high performers. Who are the people whose performance is exceptional, who perform well beyond what is expected in this important area? The prevailing water cooler talk may be that times are tough. Yet as you look around, you notice that there are some who simply defy the odds and succeed anyway. Who are they?
- Discover their wisdom. My colleagues and I have found that in three days, we can tap the knowledge, perspective and processes of high performers and make it available to the rest of the organization in a way that they can use immediately. One of the keys here is to capture the essence in everyday language - not in "corporate speak." The vocabulary of many training programs is an obstacle because the learner has to learn the meaning intended by the trainer - and then relate it to their own experience.
- Put the wisdom into action. You want the non-expert motivated enough to absorb, adopt and take action on what was learned from the high performers. Structure the information in a way that captures the essence of the experts' insight and know-how, while shaping it for adoption by the non-expert. Credibility comes from the energy, passion and realism of the content.
- Reinforce follow-through. Most training is wasted because it never makes it into the learner's day-to=day actions. Create a way to positively incorporate the expert's approach into the non-expert's behavior, personalized for the learner's understanding and paced for the learner's schedule.
You will find that the non-experts begin putting the ideas to work immediately. Part of the reason is that the ideas were created by the people they go to anyway when they need an expert - the high performers themselves. Even the high performers benefit. One of the surprises is that many high performers never take the time to understand why they are so exceptional. When they learn exactly what makes them great, they have a platform to get even better - and they do!
In many organizations, the person your sales and marketing people seek for guidance is not you, the sales or marketing leader or the trainer. You are no longer the decider or "chief discoverer." Get comfortable with your new role as facilitator and change agent.
Greg Krauska is President and Founder of The Change Agent Group.
This post also appeared at Sales and Marketing Management's SoundOff weblog.