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Taking a Proactive Approach to Your Learning


Many organizations invest a ton of resources in the development of their people. For the sales organization, an individual's development directly ties to their success. This learning includes sales skills and product knowledge, and everything from value propositions, customer personas, messaging, sales methodologies, effective prospecting, deal management, operational rigor, business acumen, and industry knowledge. Enablement is key to help sales reps sell effectively.

But the responsibility and success of training can’t just be in an organization’s court. And you may find yourself at a company that doesn’t have a formal sales enablement program. As a salesperson and driven individual, I’ve always believed in the importance of having a curious mind. It is with curiosity that we can learn and better ourselves and our skills on and off the job. Here are a few ways that you can take charge of your own development and deliver even more to your role (and numbers!).

Be a sponge.

Some of our most rapid learning happens when we experience change, especially when we first start a new role. In some cases, I’ve been driven right into the action, learning as I went. In other positions, I’ve had the luxury of a sales enablement team. These are people focusing specifically on getting employees to an effective level as quickly as possible. Regardless of the level of formal support, during these times I always try and be a sponge. Absorb as much knowledge as possible while ensuring I record all of my questions and ideas for future review.

Find new skills to master.

Every role has skills that you need to master. How you learn will vary from skill to skill and person to person. Looking back and ensuring you are mastering the ones on your job description can be a beneficial exercise. Think about the skills most important to you and if you’re learning them in ways that make the most sense.

I also enjoy analyzing trends on skills that are popular or in demand. For example, LinkedIn does a good job summarizing some of the popular skills in an annual report. It’s good to see where you may have a gap in your own skills- — and what might be helpful in your own role. And as you embark on building your new skills, it’s helpful to have a goal and perspective on what successful mastery will look like.

Keep asking yourself questions.

Ultimately, it’s on you to ensure you are actively using and developing the skills you learn. We must be proactive in order to sustain any level of learning. Here are some of the questions I ask myself to ensure I’m learning the right things.

  • What am I curious about?
    Each year, I like to put together a list of what I’m passionate about. Work, life, politics, history, or sales, anything goes! This helps me see what I not only need to learn, but want to learn about.

  • What does my day look like? How has this evolved?
    It’s amazing what happens when you do an audit of how you spend a typical day. How many hours are you on the phone, emailing, prospecting, managing pipeline (social media anyone)? I’ll then think about what kind of skills I need to perform these activities better.

  • Who do I surround myself with?
    Are they internal colleagues, customers, or prospects? Are you benefiting from the individuals you sit next to? Jim Rohn is a large proponent of the idea that you are the sum of the five individuals you spend the most time with. Bonus points if you proactively seek out someone who has done your job two-to-five years longer than you have.

  • Who can I teach this to?
    One of the best ways to affirm your knowledge of a particular area is to teach this skill to another.

  • Who else could I be interacting with?
    Who else is looking to develop in similar ways to me? What feedback can I get from individuals other than my manager? Are there teams aligned to mine that may have a different view on the world? What would taking a step back and working with them mean? Finding these other resources and contacts allows you to see your business from a different perspective.

Some of our most rapid learning happens when we experience change, especially when we first start a new role.”

Ian Hutchinson | Account Executive, Salesforce

Learn More

The 7 Sales Skills That CAN’T Be Taught By Dan Ross,
Sr AVP, Commercial Sales, Salesforce
Why It’s Now or Never for Social Selling with LinkedIn’s Mike Derezin Interviewed by Laura Fagan,
Product Marketer, Sales Cloud, Salesforce
Making the Tricky Transition from Sales Peer to Sales Manager By Keith Rosen,
Author of "Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions"



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