Throughout history, the importance of an education has always been stressed.
The general agreement is the better one’s education, the better one’s prospects.
In the last couple of decades this adage seems to have lost some of its weight. The percentage of college graduates not gaining employment in their chosen fields has never been higher, while others who did not attain that sheepskin seem to succeed beyond anyone’s wildest expectations.
There are probably as many arguments in support of or against the standard college education as there are fields to which it could be applied. But one profession that should be of particular educational interest is that of the sales force—and, like salespeople themselves, this does not take a conventional approach.
Perhaps more than any other vocation, salespeople and sales force generally get their educations on-the-job.
There is no university degree such as “Bachelor of Sales”—and even if there were, the hard-core tried-and-proven salespeople in the real world would probably laugh it out of existence. Any veteran sales rep will tell you that the only real way to learn how to sell is to get out there and do it; fall on your butt and get back up and keep at it until you succeed.
It isn’t all trial-and-error, though. While a salesperson is making his or her way through that sometimes painful learning curve, there is oftentimes mentoring involved. Such mentoring can come from an experienced sales rep within the same organization, or from attending seminars or training given by proven sales leaders and experts. It can even come from books or videos of sales techniques. In all cases, intelligent sales reps will take what they can apply from such instruction and run with it, leaving behind anything they feel they could never make work.
What happens, though, when a sales rep has proven himself or herself and is steadily in a career?
In almost all cases, what usually occurs is that education—at least in sales technique itself—ceases entirely. The person “already knows it.” It’s usually not just the salesperson himself or herself taking such a viewpoint, either; it’s their sales manager and their co-workers, too. The people around a salesperson expect the rep to know all there is to know about sales technique.
The Hidden Truth
But any salesperson still has a certain percentage of failed closes.
The better the rep, the lower that percentage—but that percentage is still there. There is always a “reason” for a failed close: the prospect didn’t actually have the approved budged when they said they did; a competitor snuck in with a drastic underbid behind the sales rep’s back; somebody was sabotaging the sale for personal or some other reasons. These explanations can certainly be true, or they can simply be excuses for sales skill flaws, or (probably most often) fall somewhere in between.
The actual truth is that while there certainly are valid reasons for a close not occurring, there are also times when a sales rep’s skill can fall short. And because no one is seeing to fixing that problem, such errors are repeated throughout the salesperson’s career, and no one is the wiser. These are not only losses for the sales rep, but for the company, too.
Education to the Rescue
There are a scattered few companies out there that actually take the time to take any failed close up with a sales rep, and examine the reasons it didn’t close.
This isn’t done as a punishment or any kind of “corrective action”—it is actually an educational point. If there was something that the rep could have done differently that might have resulted in a win instead of a loss, it can be isolated in these sessions so it doesn’t happen again.
Many companies cannot afford such measures. So what can they do? It’s simple: provide an ongoing general learning for the sales rep. This probably wouldn’t be classes, but would take the form of an ongoing series of tips and tricks from the experts provided daily or weekly. Or a weekly video from a sales expert that the whole sales force views. Or even a seminar attended by the sales force in off hours. With such methods, sales reps could spot reasons for failed closes on their own without the potential embarrassment of having a spotlight shown on the times they have not succeeded.
In any field, there are always advances and new discoveries for improving methodologies. This is true for sales as well. A continuing education is the key to an ever-improving sales force—and an ever-expanding company.
See our other articles on sales force education.