By Dave Kahle

Personal Development: Question and Answer

This is a Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.

Q. I’m one of those salespeople who hasn’t spent $20.00 this year on a book or seminar to improve myself.  I just don’t want to go to the trouble.  I believe that I can learn sufficiently on the job, and I’m tired of going to school.  Should I feel bad?

A.  Now that’s an honest question.  Should you feel bad?  My knee jerk reaction is to say, “of course.”

But, on further reflection, it depends on your approach to your job, and on your aspirations for yourself. First, a definition —  “mastery.”  You achieve “mastery” of any profession when you are in the top 5% of performers in that profession.  Pursuit of mastery is the continuous striving to achieve and then to remain in the top 5% of your profession.

Aim High

I believe that every serious professional salesperson ought to strive for mastery.  If that applies to you, then you want to become as good as you can become. If you want the greater sense of fulfillment, the greater degree of respect, and the increase in economic status that mastery brings, then, yes, you should feel bad because you are not acting consistently with your aspiration.

I am highly suspect of the idea that you can learn all you need to know “on the job,” particularly in the profession of sales.  The world is full of experienced salespeople who don’t sell well, but think they do.  Somehow, they have not learned “on the job.”

There are a number of reasons for this.  Here is just one: Sales is an isolated job, with no clear standards of performance readily available to the sales person.  Let’s take one of my pet issues:  asking better questions.  Left to your own, how do you know that you did well in asking questions?  You could go merrily on your way, thinking you did an adequate job, when in fact you totally blew it.  How do you know?

That’s the issue.  Unless you get out into the greater community of sales people, and expose yourself to the best practices of your profession, you’ll never know.  Having no idea of what “best” looks like, you have no standard to which to compare yourself.  So, you naturally default to the behavior that is comfortable.

I hate to sound so harsh, but total reliance on “on the job” is most often an excuse that allows mediocrity and lack of accountability.

As a side note, this is why we have created behavioral assessments in The Sale Resource Center, so B2B and distributor sales people can compare themselves to the “best practices,” and create a development plan. We’re not talking about going to school here.  We’re talking about delivering sales development instruction over the internet.

So, from one perspective, I have to say, yes, you should feel bad. You have some wrong ideas.

But it is not an ideal world.  And, realistically, only about 20% of salespeople have such aspirations.  Most are content with the status quo.  Most just want to do their job, go home at the end of the day, and be done with it.  If that’s you, then I guess you are living a life consistent with your values, and that’s OK.

The difference is what you want for yourself and your family.  If you are perfectly content with your situation and your results, if you do not want anything that can be achieved by higher performance, if you don’t want to become something better than you are, then you are perfectly content, and contentment is the enemy of growth.  If you want to be or achieve something that you are not now, that discontentment should lead you to the realization that you must change if you are going to achieve something more. And that realization should stimulate you to invest more heavily in your own development.

I guess, if you are satisfied and content, and want nothing more, that’s OK.  I just don’t want you selling for me.

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales educators. He’s written nine books, presented in 47 states and seven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations.  Sign up for his free weekly Ezine and visit his blog.  For a limited time, receive $547 of free bonuses with the purchase of his latest book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime.

Image Credit: By Youth Hostel (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons