You’ll Never Graduate From This School


It’s graduation season, and odds are you know someone who is involved with a graduating student.

I was in Omaha over the weekend and drove by my alma mater, Creighton University, on the way to the airport. It seems like yesterday that I was still there attending classes. Reading hundreds of pages weekly, doing papers, projects, speeches, investing many hours in the library doing research…pulling the occasional all-nighter to cram for an exam when I got a bit behind in the work, because I also had a couple of jobs. Oh rest assured I did more than my share of the college party thing, but often had to set aside other activities, saying, "Nahh, I have an exam. Need to study."

I wasn’t a straight-A student, but did pretty well because I cared. And most anyone who halfway gave a hoot about being in school for the learning can relate to what I’m talking about.

The fact is, is if you wanted a good result, you needed to push yourself to do the work and learn the material. The same, of course is true for today’s students.

But, what happens when we leave the formal institutions we call "school"? When we get out into the school of hard knocks, the real world. The one we’re in the remainder of our lives. The one that determines how much we earn.

Hmmm, have you pulled an all-nighter lately studying up on sales skills?

How many pages of sales skills material have you read in the past week? Heck, the past year?

How many hours have you invested on researching the psychology of sales, your sales process, questioning techniques? How much have you practiced?

How often do you review the way you sound on the phone?

How much did your college tuition cost?

How about your books for a semester?

Compare that to how much you invested in your own self-development, as it relates to sales, in the past year. How does that compare to what you spent on coffee, or at bars, restaurants, or pay-per-view movies?

Note to Sales Pros: please do not rely on your company to provide you with everything you need. Some equip their reps with lots of opportunities for growth, others fail miserably in this area, yet expect great results (I’ll get to them in a minute). As Zig Ziglar said, "What you do off the job determines how well you do on the job." If you want to grow, it is your personal responsibility. Whatever is provided to you is a bonus.

And by the way, here is something I’ve never heard from the leading salespeople, but hear quite often from the strugglers: "I’ve had sales training before." That’s like saying, "I had math in the second grade. I don’t need it again." Or, "I’ve had chicken pox."

Most people don’t know what they don’t know. IF they’re doing something wrong, how would they know, and get better?

Lots of people get really good at being bad, by continually repeating the same mistakes.

One more thing: be humble about learning. I truly believe in and live the adage, "The more I learn, the more I realize how little I really know." Yet, after a training session I’ll oftenhave someone come up to me and say, "Thanks, I knew most of this already, but it reminded me of a lot of things."

Yeah, I know I’m not supposed to raise my body when I strike the golf ball, causing it to go wildly right into the woods. or desert. The fact is, I haven’t practiced enough lately to USE the information when I NEED it, and make it a part of my habits and skills. Never be ashamed about learning.

Note to Managers and Owners: What do you invest in to really, truly develop your people? And I’m not just talking about buying a book and putting it in the library in case someone wants to use it. I’m talking about working with your people, listening to calls, evaluating, coaching. Regularly.

Are your sales meetings sessions where you go over administrative details, or do you get into the nitty gritty of how to actually open up a call, get to a decision maker, ask questions, deal with resistance, move opportunities forward and close business?

You might not believe some of the nonsense I hear when it comes to companies and their sales training. It is absurd, really, when you think that a firm will pay thousands of dollars per year in salary and benefits to hire and employ salespeople, allow them to talk to hundreds of prospects and customers per week, yet many don’t provide more direction or training than, "Go over there and listen to Pat make calls, then get on the phone next week." And Pat, by the way, was probably trained the same way, and the same wrong, resistance-inducing techniques are passed down.

If you coached or owned a professional sports team, would you allow your team to just play games and not practice? Lots of businesses do just that every day. The champions practice.

I actually heard this from a company recently: "We’re thinking about doing some training with our salespeople in the fourth quarter (they’ve had none so far), but we don’t want to spend too much, and can’t take more than a day." Good thing they’re going to wait, because I bet the salespeople working for them right now won’t be around. They probably won’t sell up to the company’s expectations and get fired.

I am amazed at how companies will throw huge money at technology, but virtually nothing on their most important asset, their people, and what they are actually saying on the phone.

Note to the Skeptics Out Who Think I’ve Written This Just to Sell Stuff: That will probably be a result, and that’s good because I’m in the business of helping salespeople sell more. In fact, I do hope we sell tons of resources as a result of this ppost, since that means my message resonated. (For complete info on my most comprehensive learning resource for sales pros right now go to )
However, if I can get just one or two people to email me"”and they will–saying how they are just starting in sales and were inspired to invest more time in taking advantage of all of the great free sales material on the Internet, I will feel gratified.

Am I trying to shame and scold people?

No, I don’t need to. I’m throwing out ideas for people to react to. Of course many of the people reading this"”hopefully you"”are already sales-info junkies, devouring all of the good stuff they can lay their eyes on. And I have worked with many, fine, SALES organizations (you know who you are). But there are others who look at sales more as a job or a manufacturing position than what it really is: an art, a science, and a skill. It is, indeed, all of those. The master sales pro researches, studies, and practices. And, by the way, cashes nice checks.

I’m not going to sit here and claim that I’m perfect. I did a self-inventory and realized that as my business has grown, and I’m pulled in many different directions, I know I can push myself even more. It’s just like taking care of one’s self physically; it’s a matter of determining what you value, and what you’re willing to do to get it done. I know I can, and will continue to, carve out more time to further my own knowledge.

How about you?

Action Step
As we observe students graduating, it’s a great time to make a commitment to our own self-development. What will you do? Don’t just think it or say it. WRITE it down, And then DO it. Every day.

You will never graduate from the school of sales. You either get better, or you decline. And you pick up momentum when you’re headed in either direction.

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