Change the Conversation: How Experiential Learning Elevates Sales Performance

Everybody is looking for a shortcut to increase their sales performance. You’ll find a million articles with titles like, “5 Easy Steps to Increase Your Production” or “This One Trick Will Revolutionize Your Sales Numbers.” For over 30 years now, I have been working as a salesperson or with salespeople, so I can make this following statement definitively—there is no shortcut to becoming a top producer. If someone really wants to see their sales numbers increase in a major way, they shouldn’t trust anyone that says the process will be easy. Instead, they should find someone who will train, coach and hold them accountable to become the best that they can be.

Some people hear the word “training” and groan. They’ve been through sales training in the past – probably against their will – and nothing about it was actually impactful to their business. Maybe they read through a slideshow that told them to make more calls or schedule more meetings, information that they already knew. Unfortunately, they couldn’t actually make those calls because they were stuck in said training course which took them away from their business.

After an experience like that, people have every right to be skeptical of training. That’s why I believe that we need to change the conversation on what training can do for sales performance. What if we had someone in our corner who, instead of telling us that we weren’t doing enough, worked alongside us to help us accomplish our goals? How would that transform our business?

If we’re going to change the conversation around training, we’re going to have to change a few conversations within training as well. But when we do, we will see how much power effective sales training has to elevate salespeople to become the very best producers in their industries.

Go for Quality, Not Just Quantity

At XINNIX, we’ve been training sales professionals to reach their greatest potential for over twenty years. We do this through the principles of experiential learning. Far too often, educational programs consist of giving people a list of tasks they need to complete. Basically, the message that students hear is, “If you would just put in more effort, you would be successful.” This model can easily leave them feeling lesser.

Don’t get me wrong. We absolutely require our students to put in significant effort. No sales professional coming out of a XINNIX Performance Program would tell you that it was easy. What they would tell you, however, is that we do a lot more than teach them to make more sales calls. We work with them to make sure each one of their calls counts. Instead of telling them, “You need to do more,” we change the conversation to, “We can help you succeed more often.”

And when our students start to succeed more often, they are motivated to make more calls, set up more meetings and put more time and effort into furthering their business. By changing the conversation, we change the motivation.

By an Ally, Not an Adversary

Through training programs, interactions with leaders and even broader implications within a company’s culture, salespeople can often feel as though they’re being held to a standard that they can’t meet. Everyone wants to know why their sales numbers aren’t up, why there aren’t more deals in the pipeline, why they aren’t performing as well as they once did. Instead of leading to increased sales performances, pressure like this causes most people to withdraw, shut down, and eventually look for another job.

At XINNIX, we strive to ask sales professionals the right kinds of questions, and we encourage their leaders to do the same. Questions like “Why aren’t you doing a better job?” are rarely beneficial. However, asking “What would help you be more successful?” or “What would make you feel like you’re operating from a place of strength?” opens up an entirely different form of dialogue. Conversations like these don’t put salespeople on the defensive. They let people know that they are working with an ally, someone who is invested in their success.

Writing for Forbes, Simi Rayat puts it this way: “The art of framing questions involves ensuring the right question is asked in the right way, using the right language and tone. This has important implications for not only shifting our assumptions but also creating new possibilities, insight, innovation and action. In other words, questions have the power to open the door to exploration and dialogue.”

Asking the right questions is a vital aspect of experiential learning. When leaders and coaches ask people to think deeply, be vulnerable, and reply honestly, they will be surprised and encouraged by the answers they receive. Then, they can partner together to help sales professionals implement the strategies and practices they need to elevate their performance and reach their goals.

Whether you’re a sales professional looking to take your business to the next level or a leader who wants to invest in your team’s success, it’s time to change the conversation. Stop listening to the voice that says you’re not enough. Stop asking questions that set you apart instead of bringing you together. Focusing on failure isn’t productive. Let’s instead become partners for success.

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