The Sales function has always been different. Those who have grown up in sales organizations and are now responsible for Sales Enablement know this. Think about it – only in the sales function have we stood up an entire training and development team focused on making that specific function better. We don’t have finance enablement, legal enablement, or marketing enablement. That would be downright ridiculous!
So what makes sales different?
It is the environment.
At the ATD International Conference and Exposition held this past week here in Denver, Simon Sinek, most well known for his Top 5 most viewed TED Talk on leadership, taught us that we are social animals and ultimately products of our environment. Take the average person and move them from one environment to another, and their behavior will change. Good environments foster trust and cooperation. Bad environments foster cynicism and paranoia.
When it comes to the sales environment versus other business functions, some of the basic structural tenants that make sales unique have not changed for some time.
Sales is the only function that:
- ...is truly market facing. Because sales is continually coming in contact with the market and the market is dynamic, the pace of change is much faster than anywhere else. Learning must also be more dynamic to be relevant.
- …is built primarily on a variable compensation model. As a result, sales people are often called “coin-operated,” meaning they are wired to focus their time on selling activity. A higher burden of impact on learning activity exists than elsewhere.
- …is organized as a classic hierarchy. Hierarchies create walls between managers and reps, blocking free-flow of information, as each part of the hierarchy considers its own self-interest first and foremost. Barriers are more significant, which can block trust and cooperation.
If you live and breathe sales, none of this is news to you, but these fundamental differences that actually create a very different environment may not be as clear to others. With the revolution going on in enterprise learning technology, many would like to think that the same innovative approaches being implemented across the business involving micro-learning and knowledge on-demand will work for sales as they work for other business functions. Right?
Wrong! While the concepts are sound, a deep understanding of how to apply them to the sales environment is critical if they are to work.
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And as Sinek shared, the key to leadership that has the power to create the environment is consistency, not intensity.
You don’t wake up one day, go to the gym for 10 hours, then proclaim yourself in shape. It happens over time. Yet, most of our change efforts for sales today are still based on intensity – The Sales Kickoff the clearest example. Real change takes more than a week and less than a year. In other words, it takes commitment and inherent belief that what you are doing the right thing.
If you are, despite the inevitable bumps in the road, results will follow.