Sales Training is About Change Management

Updated: October 11, 2010

Maybe that's why it provokes such varied reactions in people, regardless of whether they embrace it or resist it, because it is a constant presence, like time, churning away relentlessly. Those of us in the sales transformation business (and let's face it, transformation is really just a more elegant and aspirational synonym for our 6-letter friend) are of course in the change business. If you don't effect a change in behavior, you don't change the top or bottom line in any meaningful, lasting, or competitively advantageous way. If you were to ask me to boil down the global $10bn sales training industry into one word that it's about, I would say ‘change'.

Some of us purport to embrace change, while not really carrying through with it. Others resist it actively, perhaps because it doesn't allow them to control or at least manage a defined set of circumstances. "That's why we seize the moment try to freeze it and own it, squeeze it and hold it/Cause we consider these minutes golden.." to quote one Marshall Mathers ( http://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/the-eminem-show/id15477248 warning - this song has the usually explicit Eminem lyrics). The natural human impulse is to resist change, and presumably gives rise to the phrase "better the devil you know". Every time you commission or deliver sales training, you're coming up against this impulse. It makes sense to us all, but then we just go ahead and order those workshops anyway. We just ignore the mountain of research that tells us that change doesn't happen this way.

Consider this as you go about your daily lives. You're a two-finger or four-finger typist, you have been for years, and you have to learn to touch type, with all ten of your digits, while still getting through your workload. You're a right-handed golfer, not a great golfer, but you've played a lot of sports and you're very right-sided, with a classic out-to-in strong-right-handed swing. A friend tells you that you would be a better golfer if you relearned to play left handed, and used your right-handed strength to work in your favor. It's really hard, isn't it? Both examples involve starting from the very beginning, and take an awful long time, generally 10,000 hours to become really good ( http://www.amazon.com/Outliers-Story-Success-Malcolm-Gladwell/dp/0316017922/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284395361&sr=8-1).

It's the same idea with sales training. You spend your working days, weeks, lives selling in a certain way, using a collection of sales behaviors. You then spend a few hours learning a completely new way of doing your job, and then you're expected to take to it like a duck to water, with instant behavior change, as though your experience can be subjected to a reset button. Not going to happen is it? It's too darn hard! This is why change is the dirty 6-letter word that dare not speak its name. Maybe I should write %&*%$! instead.

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