"Well, in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get to somewhere else—if you run very fast for a long time, as we've been doing."
"A slow sort of country!" said the Red Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!" —Lewis Carroll
For some time, B2B sales has been experiencing the Red Queen Effect, where running faster doesn't get you anywhere—in fact, you have to double your effort just to break even. Doing what doesn't work faster can’t improve your results, as many have experienced.
To get where you want to go, you must change what you are doing. Instead of doubling down on the status quo, you are better served by increasing your effectiveness. To improve your results focus on development, so you can improve your approach, your competencies, your character traits, and your skills. Here are eight principles to follow on that journey.
The Eight Principles
- What Works Now. The reason that sales organizations and salespeople struggle to produce the results they need is often because they’ve been doing the same thing in the same way for so long that it is no longer effective. When your client's worlds change they adapt to their environment, and they expect strategic partners like you to help them succeed. When you can’t or won’t provide what your clients and prospects need from you, they will look elsewhere. Make certain your development initiatives improve your ability to do what works now.
- Build on Value Creation. Our economy has unprecedented levels of competition, meaning your clients always have alternatives available. No buyer or decision-maker must settle for a salesperson who cannot help them make the best decision for their company and improve their results. One of the main problems with the legacy approach to sales is that it assumes that your "solution" provides the value. That’s exactly backwards. Your only vehicle for creating value for the client is the sales conversation, so it is critical that you are consultative, providing good counsel, advice, and recommendations. Your development needs to prepare you to create value outside of what you sell.
- Start with a Competency Model. It is a mistake to think of development as a piecemeal process. By starting with a competency model, you get a clearer view of the larger picture, letting you better prioritize your development (or your team's development). The lack of a structured plan results in "check-box training," the training that may prove you did something to improve, at least on paper, but doesn’t actually move the needle on effectiveness. Because development takes time, start with a competency model and prioritize what’s most important.
- Competency Transfer. Much training and development is built on "knowledge transfer," an experience you might remember from high school lectures. Development requires both knowledge transfer and competency transfer. You might read three books on swimming and watch seven YouTube videos of the best swimmers without being able to swim, let alone compete. Achieving competency transfer requires getting real-life experience to apply the knowledge you’ve gained.
- Acquire the Language. A large part of sales effectiveness is found in the language choices salespeople make: good and powerful language results in equally good outcomes, while poor and weak language detracts from the client's experience and causes them to disengage. Your personal or team development requires effective talk tracks. Nobody benefits if you can understand a concept, a strategy, or a tactic without having the words to express it.
- Plan Long Term. The desire for speedy results often causes failures with development. Those who believe that development happens in a day are the reason there is no real development. Once, a young person would have to do time as an apprentice, spending years learning what would become their trade. Whether you are an individual working on your own development or a sales leader developing your team, focus on steady progress over time, as there is no quick fix.
- Change Beliefs and Behaviors. There may be nothing more difficult than changing beliefs and behaviors—though locating a smart, humble, and honest politician comes close. Development requires replacing long-held beliefs with new and uncomfortable ideas and strategies. As if that weren’t challenging enough, development also requires you to change the way you do things. Without the accountability and support necessary to change, most salespeople go back to doing things the way they always done them.
- Triangulation. The word "andragogy" means "how adults learn." Adults need to know why they need to know or do something, how it will benefit them, and how it tracks with what they already know, allowing them to bring their experience to what they are learning. They also like to share their experience with others, learning what and how others see things, which helps them recognize and adopt new beliefs and behaviors. Coordinate your development with others to dial in your approach and increase your effectiveness.
One mark of a professional is that they never stop learning, developing, or improving themselves. They view development as a life-long endeavor, which explains why what they do looks like magic. When someone can do something difficult while making it look effortless, it is only because they exerted the effort to gain a level of effectiveness.
The greater your competency, the greater your effectiveness. The greater your effectiveness, the greater your results. The more you master your approach, the more you can communicate your value to others who need your help to improve their results.