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Getting Your People To Use The Skills And Knowledge They Already Have

by David Brock on November 27th, 2012

I’m very fortunate to work with very talented sales executives and people.  Most have very deep experience in selling.  They’ve been through some of the best training programs around. However, despite having the skills and knowledge, they aren’t producing the results or achieving the goals they’ve established for themselves.

It’s an odd thing.  Based on the backgrounds they should have the ability to perform.  They have the skills and knowledge, but they don’t seem to be applying it.  They’re somehow stuck.

As sales people get stuck, they try to figure out what’s going wrong, they analyze what’s happening all in the effort of getting unstuck.  There’s an odd phenomenon that happens in this process.  We can’t remember what we know. 

As I look at many people and organizations that are failing to meet their goals, it’s puzzling.  They have the knowledge and skills to solve the problems they are encountering, but they aren’t applying these skills or knowledge.  Afterall, if they were, they wouldn’t be stuck.

When you start drilling down into this, what we discover is the reason we got stuck is we forgot to apply our knowledge and skills in the first place.  We know the right way to achieve a goal—for example, how to structure a high impact sales call, how to handle an objection, how to develop and execute a deal strategy.  We’ve been trained in how to do these things.

The problem is we forget to apply them and we get stuck.  But since we forgot them in the first place, we never remember them and get unstuck.  The harder we try to analyze the problem, the more difficult it is to remember what we should have done in the first place.

As managers, coaching our people, too often we focus on the wrong thing in coaching them—we help the get unstuck, we may tell them what to do, we may go through a conversation analyzing ths situation, why we are stuck and how to get unstuck. 

Sometimes, we just have to do this, but it’s a band-aid fix.  It doesn’t address the underlying issue—why did we forget to do the right thing in the first place?  Until we address this issue with our people, we won’t get sustained performance improvement.

Doing the right thing in the first place, means applying the knowledge and skills you and your sales people have already developed.  We know our sales process—but we forget to apply it, so the deal starts going sideways.  We know how to conduct a sales call, but we don’t apply it, so we don’t accomplish what we should have.  We know what a healthy pipeline looks like, we know what we have to do to have a healthy pipeline, but we forget to apply it.

Managers must spend time focused on the fundamentals, always coaching them so they become “muscle memory.” we don’t forget them but we apply them consistently as we execute our sales strategies, manage our pipelines and territories.  For example the deal strategy always begins with the sales/buying process.  Conversations about deals always have to start there.  The sales process informs us where we are, what we need to do next.  It provides the starting point for drilling down into what’s happening. 

When your people are stuck, back track a little.  Help them discover what they forgot.  They should have the knowledge and skills, they just can’t access them.   

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  1. Great article, Dave. I think every hitting coach in baseball could benefit from what you’ve penned here, too–there would be a lot less batting slumps. It’s always helped me to sit back and recall the times when everything was working like a well-oiled machine: What SPECIFIC things was I doing? How was I doing them? Then I’d ask myself why did I stop doing them? All of a sudden, for example, I’d remember a dynamite rebuttal that I’d forgotten, hadn’t used in years; crazy! It’s almost like a meditation process–quietly thinking about those good times, analyzing, remembering, then making furious notes. The fun really begins when you start reapplying what you’ve recalled and the slump disappears.

    • Bob, thanks for the great comment. Sometimes we need a little distance from the situation to remember what we have forgotten.

  2. Jenny permalink

    Dave–I couldn’t agree with this post more. In our work, we always find that struggling sales team place too much emphasis on knowledge and skills, to the detriment of discipline. Salespeople often know how to do their job well, but it takes discipline to stick to a process and to make a certain number of sales calls each day. Great post!

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