For too long the sales profession has viewed learning as an event. We conduct sales training workshops to help people handle objections more effectively. Additionally, we deliver a training class on the latest product release. We serve up lunch. Moreover, we update our team on our competitors. All the while, we ignore fundamental principles concerning learning and the impact continuous improvement has on sales and sales strategy as a whole.
The Learning Sales Organization
So you want a real, sustainable competitive advantage for your sales team. Then don’t teach them a new skill. or about the features of a new product. Instead, create an organization that is continuously learning and always improving.
In their 1977 book, The Learning Company: A strategy for sustainable development, Pedler, Burgogyne, and Boydell define the learning organization as a company that facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself.
This concept was later popularized in Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline. In which, he proposed the following five disciplines of a learning organization.
- Systems Thinking
- Personal Mastery
- Mental Models
- Shared Vision
- Team Learning
Let’s take a quick look at a few practical ways in which we apply these sales concepts.
Improving Sales Strategy Through Systems Thinking, Mental Models and Shared Vision
The goal is to create a learning sales organization. To do this, we begin by abandoning the idea that selling is an innate talent. Furthermore, customer engagement is not an art form in which any approach is valid. Systems thinking recognizes the complexity and interdependence between the sales interaction. Additionally, it addresses the ability of the organization to deliver customer satisfaction. For this reason, customer interaction cannot be left to the whims of individual salespeople. Rather, clear mental models must define how the organization will engage with customers. Doing so delivers exceptional customer service and optimizes sales performance. Moreover, these models must be part of a shared vision that everyone on the team owns. If individuals or teams don’t buy into the model, it won’t be adopted.
Sales Strategy Hacks: Personal Mastery and Team Learning
Learning sales organizations must encourage personal mastery. Additionally, they must recognize the necessity of team learning. This is the only way to achieve learning goals. Imagine a team of dedicated football players. Each is committed to mastering his position. Now consider the expectation that athletes achieve excellence WITHOUT practicing with teammates. The concept is absurd. Pointedly, it’s not even possible. Yet, many sales teams take this very approach.
In actuality, selling is interpersonal interaction. Organizations must leverage team learning and practice to facilitate continuous improvement and personal mastery. Without this interaction and feedback, no person can achieve optimum effectiveness. Furthermore, team performance will suffer. However, team learning accelerates proficiency and provides a genuine competitive advantage.
Sales Strategy Steps
To get started building a learning sales organization, it is essential the team takes these steps.
1. Select your selling and coaching models.
Establish criteria for each. Identify or develop models that meet your criteria. In fact, these will be the foundation for your ongoing learning.
2. Integrate tools.
Don’t implement CRM solutions or other sales effectiveness tools unless you have a model for ideal selling behavior. When you do, integrate tools and models. Ensure that they support the adoption of key behaviors and bring value to your sellers, coaches, and customers.
3. Build a learning library.
Training events may still be necessary. Recognize the incremental nature of personal development. Additionally, provide a library of reinforcement and refresh learning/practices that can be easily referenced as learning opportunities are identified.
So you want to know more about building a learning organization. Start here for additional insights and suggested reading on Learning Organizations.
Want help building a learning sales organization? Click here to get connected with an AXIOM consultant. We are helping some of the most respected sales teams in the world gain a sustainable competitive advantage. Contact us today. AXIOM has over 30 years of high-level sales management experience. We are here to help your organization thrive.