The Coaching Effect Blog

The Coaching Effect Blog

    Build a learning culture, see increased sales performance.

    by Kristi Shoemaker / September 12, 2011

    Leverage Sales Success with Learning
    There are only two ways to grow any business in the world today:
    1. Grow yourself. 2. Grow your people. Can you say with certainty that you and your sales team are smarter and more skilled today than you were last month? H.R. Chally found that of the four primary reasons why a company chosoes a vendor, the top reason (at 39%) was the competency of the sales person. The following article was written by our friend Mark Sanborn, president of Sanborn & Associates. It highlights the key points in Mark's recent book titled Up, Down or Sideways: How to Succeed When Times are Good, Bad or In Between.  He explains how creating a learning culture can leverage and increase sales performance.

    Order the book:


    I find it curious that sales managers and sales professionals don’t schedule more time to learn. After all, the primary reason why someone chooses to do business with you is your expertise. If it isn’t growing, your business probably isn’t either.

    What I’ve learned over the years is that great thinkers and learners— those who thrive in any circumstance or economy—approach life with the following habits for thinking and learning. Make investigation and inquiry a way of life.

    The son of a friend has a T-shirt that reads, “I gotta know,” and it fits him perfectly. He is one of those kids whose favorite response to any answer is, “But why?” If you want to keep learning, keep asking the childlike questions, especially the why questions. Then dig out the details. Challenge yourself with the things you read, the places you go, the things you watch, and the people you get to know.

    Ask more questions. Ask better questions. Ask more people. Ask different people.

    Ask, read and listen. It seems so simple to sales success, yet so few consistently do it.

    Here are some specific ideas you can use to grow yourself, and some suggestions you can use to grow your team. 

    Think for yourself.

    A lifestyle of investigation and inquiry provides tons of information and plenty of opinions, but none of those opinions are more important than your own. Think critically, even when—no, especially when—it is inconvenient. Remember to look at the source, look at the support, and look at the relevance. Then listen to your intuition, and draw your own conclusions.

    Challenge your team members to think for themselves. Play devil’s advocate and question their conclusions. Stimulate their thinking by asking provocative questions or asking, “Have you considered this…”

    Learn in the future tense.

    The more you learn, the more you know what you need to learn to adapt to a changing world around you. You can only become an expert on so much, and the best learners figure out where to spend their learning energy.

    Watch the horizon: what technologies, topics, potential opportunities, or problems should you be exploring today to be prepared?

    Design an ongoing education program.

    As the old adage goes, plan your work and work your plan. You control your learning agenda—not only what you will study but the pace at which you’ll study and the style of learning that works best for you. Your plan might include e-learning courses on leading great teams or in-person guitar lessons from a master teacher or books on rebuilding car engines or seminars on customer service. Regardless, the first step is to create the plan.

    Develop a written plan for your team members for their own personalized learning. Determine what resources (books, seminars, online learning, etc.) they’ll utilize and assign a timeline for learning.

    Make time to learn and teach.

    Have you ever just “found” two hours to learn? Learning doesn’t happen by accident, yet too many of us give too little time to the type of thinking that produces insights, allows us to internalize the lessons we’ve learned, and adds value to our lives and the lives of others.

    Even in his mideighties, legendary speaker and author Zig Ziglar says, “I still read three hours a day because I’m always thinking!”

    We naturally tend to think reactively—we respond to questions, problems, and opportunities—but we don’t make time to think proactively. So schedule time to read. Schedule time for seminars and training.

    And most important, schedule time to think. Think about what you’ve accomplished, what you’ve learned from recent successes and setbacks, how you are feeling, the relationships that need your attention, and what your vision is for the future (both personal and professional). I find it helpful to include prayer in this time as well. Seek insights into your thinking, into your learning. Seek wisdom to appropriately apply what you’re learning.

    Reflection usually requires getting away, which can mean physically relocating to a peaceful spot or simply closing your office door and turning off all of your interrupters (phones, computers, etc.). I know one guy who takes a sack lunch to a cemetery once or twice a week. No one bothers him there, and it probably reminds him not to waste the life he’s living. Another leader puts a thirty-minute meeting with himself on his calendar every afternoon.

    Don’t stop at increasing your own knowledge and skills. Share what you’ve learned (and are learning) with your team. Incorporate “learning leverage” into every sales meeting, and share specific and relevant ideas with those on your team who need them.

    You will leverage your success, and the success of your team, with learning.

    If you would like to learn more about EcSELL Institute's professional development resources, which are specifically designed to improve the coaching and leadership skills of people in the sales management profession, please email


    Please consider attending EcSELL Institute's Sales Coaching Summit to learn advanced sales coaching and leadership skills. Learn more at:


    Mark Sanborn, CSP, CPAE is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio for leadership development. He is an award-winning speaker and the author of the bestselling books, The Fred Factor: How Passion In Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary Into the Extraordinary, You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader: How Anyone Anywhere Can Make a Positive Difference and The Encore Effect: How to Achieve Remarkable Performance in Anything You Do. His book Up, Down or Sideways: How to Succeed When Times are Good, Bad or In Between will be released by Tyndale October 2011. To obtain additional information for growing yourself, your people and your business (including free articles), visit



    Tags: Career Development Plans Culture Professional Development Ideas

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    Kristi Shoemaker

    Kristi Shoemaker

    Kristi is a marketing communications and public relations expert with over 30+ years of experience in a variety of industries. She was an integral part of EcSell's go-to-market strategy and execution from 2008 - 2012. Kristi enjoys taking a holistic approach by integrating all the key marketing disciplines to create synergies that generate maximum results. She is currently the president of KLS Consulting in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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