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“It’s Like Cheating On Your Homework, You Might Just Learn Something”

by David Brock on October 31st, 2019

A client/friend and I had just completed a number of reviews with his team. As with most pipelines I see, many of these people’s were anemic. They just didn’t have enough opportunities to enable them to achieve their goals. Even if they won 100% of the opportunities in their pipelines, they would fall far short.

We asked, “What are you going to do? How are you going to get your people to generate more opportunities?”

There was a lot of hand wringing, hemming and hawing. They knew they needed to prospect, but as many of us think, it’s just such a pain in the ass.

But there isn’t any other way to generate new opportunities, particularly when the phones aren’t ringing.

We suggested a number of prospecting programs, intensifying account planning, going back to old customers, conducting some campaigns. While the teams were saying the right things, you could sense their reluctance.

We finally helped them set some goals for target prospects, conducting some campaigns, agreeing on a certain number of high quality prospecting calls per week. The teams agreed on their plans, we have follow up calls to check on their progress and to continue coaching.

After the series of calls, my friend and I were talking about their reluctance and why they hadn’t been prospecting. He said, “It’s kind of like cheating on your homework, you just might learn something….” His statement is a slightly more colorful version of my blunt and impatient, “Just do it.”

I see these kinds of behaviors all the time, not just in prospecting. Whether it’s developing and executing strong deal strategies, executing a buyer aligned selling process, understanding/articulating differentiated value. Or with managers it may be coaching and developing their people, conducting high impact reviews, hiring/onboarding/developing/retaining the best talent.

Too often we know exactly what we should be doing. We even know how to do it. We just find all sorts of excuses not to do those things we know we should be doing.

Often, we aren’t as good at doing those things as we should be. We need to learn and improve. But we never give ourselves the opportunity until we just start doing it.

We may get our teeth kicked in a few times. We need to pick ourselves up, try something new, adjust our approach. And we need to keep doing it until we figure it out—even if it’s by accident.

Too many sales people and managers want to be spoon fed, they want the answers to eliminate the hard work and learning that experience gives us. They fool themselves through avoidance.

But if we just do it, even if we don’t do it quite right, perhaps “cheating” a little, we might just learn something and improve.

The alternative, doing nothing is untenable.

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  1. Another great post, Dave. I’m sure that on close analysis, an insightful person could find some of this avoidance behavior or knowing-doing gap behavior in all of us. I’ve spent some time lately trying to minimize or eliminate some of this behavior personally, and identify and minimize biases (I have more than I’d like). Not everyone is on the same journey, though, and as organization leaders, we need to find a way to create environments and systems to help average people thrive and perform at their best, in spite of themselves. Stay the course.

    • Thanks Mike, I’m getting tired of this mantra, but largely we know what we should be doing, we know how we should be doing it. But we consistently fail to do those things we need to be doing to drive success. Part of the issue is around habit formation, both individually and organizationally. Thanks for your great comment

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