Sales Question and Answer #23 – Which sales magazines and sales improvement seminars do you recommend?
This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.
Q. Dave, I’m interested in what you would recommend for a subscription to a monthly sales magazine and a sales improvement seminar.
A. You have touched one of my hot-buttons with this question. So, forgive me if you give a longer answer than you expect.
First, let me applaud you for asking the question. As amazing as it sounds, I have come to the conclusion that only about 5% of sales people ever invest in their own growth and improvement. My understanding of that number has evolved over the years. I used to think it was much higher, but the more experience I gain, the more I’m convinced that it’s a rare and unusual sales person who will actually spend $20.00 or so to improve himself/herself, much less to actually go to a seminar. So, just by asking the question, you have indicated that you are probably in that top percentile of sales people. And, the fact that you probably will invest in improving yourself means that, over time, you will distance yourself from the pack.
Before I tackle your question head on, let me sketch a little more background. Here’s a phrase to remember: Learning event. What’s a learning event? It’s an experience you have in which you encounter some new ideas, you gain insights in new ways of seeing existing ideas, or you are reminded of behaviors and practices of which you may have been aware, but from which you have drifted away.
So, reading a newsletter could be a learning event. So could a sales meeting or a conversation with one of your colleagues. So could five minutes spent after a sales call reflecting on what went well and what didn’t.
What’s important is this: As a result of a learning event, you focus on some better behavior which you are going to implement in the future. Learning, for adults, is all about behavior. In other words, you must find something that you can do differently, and decide to do that thing.
For example, you may have participated in one of my seminars. That’s a learning event. Following the seminar, you say to yourself, “I really should spend more time prioritizing my customers, so that I don’t waste my time with low potential accounts.” That thought is the “better behavior” which you decided to pursue as a result of the learning event.
Generating those kinds of commitments is what learning is all about. When you asked for a recommendation, my belief is that you ultimately want to generate those commitments to “better behavior” in yourself or in the sales people you manage.
I sometimes hear this kind of comment, “I knew that” from an experienced sales person following a seminar. My response is, “So what?” This is not about what you know, it’s about what you do. So the question should not be, “Is this something new that you didn’t know?” The question should be, “Is this something good that you are not doing, or that you could do better than you are now?”
The emphasis has to be on action (behavior), not just knowledge. Here’s a real life example. I had a conversation with a sales manager calling me with a problem. He had read my “How to Excel at Distributor Sales” book, and was impressed with, among other things, the chapters on getting organized. He said, “It is such basic information, but yet they don’t do it.” He went on to say that getting your file system organized was fundamental, but when he rode with his sales people, none of them had done it.
That’s the point. They probably all knew that they should be organized, but none of them were doing it. You see, it wasn’t about knowledge, it was about behavior.
If you want to continually improve, then you regularly answer the question: “What could I do better than I am doing now?” The question is not, “What do I not know that I should know?” It’s not just knowledge, it’s knowledge applied that is the issue.
The way you find answers to that question is to regularly engage in learning events.
In other words, rather than just one intense day-long seminar once a year, I’d prefer you to be involved in a learning event at least once a month, if not weekly. My recommendation is four hours once a month. The systematic and regular involvement in learning events puts you in the mindset of continuous improvement, constantly stimulates you with new “better behaviors” and allows you the time to focus on one or two areas of improvement every month.
One more little piece of background before I provide some specific resources for you.
We all understand that people have different ways they learn best. One thing that is rarely acknowledged is that different media generally have a slightly different impact on our learning. For example, when we take in something strictly by ear, we have a tendency to believe it more and remember it less. That’s why you can’t remember last Sunday’s sermon in church. It may have sounded good at the time, but you’ve lost the message in the few days since then. Taking something in by reading has the opposite impact. We are more critical of the information, but we retain it longer. It’s not as believable, but is more memorable.
The best learning experiences, then, require you to listen, to read, and to do. In that way, you are far more likely to gain helpful answers to the question, “What could I be doing better than I am doing now?” By the way, that explains why my telephone seminars, in-person programs and multimedia programs are configured and structured the way they are. They are all designed to maximize your learning by appealing to a multiple number of senses.
Sales Training Resources
That brings us to this conclusion: If you are going to do “continuous improvement” effectively, then you need to regularly expose yourself to a variety of learning events, focusing on the question, “What could I do better than I am doing now?” as a way of gaining value from every experience.
Here, then, are a variety of resources:
Start with my ezine by subscribing at http://www.davekahle.com/mailinglist.htm
Personal Selling Power has been a good quality publication, although I haven’t seen it around recently. I also subscribe to Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, which focuses both on management and sales. There are industry-specific publications for almost every trade group imaginable. Rather than attempt to list them here, let me just encourage you to get on their subscription lists. Contact the national association of companies who do what you do, and find out what publications are available for your industry.
I have to admit that I’m a terrible critic of others in my business. I think there is so much fluff passed off as information by people who have no idea how to help people learn, that it’s outrageous. So, I rarely find someone to recommend.
Beyond that, there are dozens of learning events in the form of seminars. Ask around, and get word-of-mouth recommendations from people whose opinion you respect. AMA does a good job with almost everything they produce, although they are a little pricey.
With about 50,000 books published in this country every year, you have an almost limitless variety from which to choose. I’m regularly asked to recommend a good book. My response is this: Read my books first. After you have read my books, then it really doesn’t matter much. If your attitude is right and you prepare your mind with the question, “What could I do better than I am doing now?” you’ll find something of value from almost any book.
Go to the library or the local book store, and pick up whatever appeals to you that day. Having said that, I have to admit that I am impressed with Neil Rackham’s books, and recommend them highly.
5. Other resources
Self-study multimedia programs are highly effective because they appeal to all the basic ways to learn. I specialized in them, and you’ll find a variety on my website. If you really want to get serious, check our Sales Resource Center® where we deliver 455 multimedia training programs 24/7 over the web – but remember, it’s only for the top 5-percenters of the world.
Whew! Now that’s a long answer to a short question. Hope this helps.
Article By Dave Kahle
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