Are you a sales leader looking to establish a learning culture on your sales team? If so, you're in the right place. In this blog post we're going to discuss six characteristics of a learning culture. These characteristics will help you as you plan out your own learning culture.
Sales managers and salespeople who continually succeed are lifelong learners. Consider these characteristics of a learning culture and decide how they could be applied to help you on your learning journey.
Six Characteristics of a Learning Culture That Improve Performance
1. Practice effective communication
Strong communication skills are a must for everybody in a learning culture. Communicating well with each other and with your customers helps you be productive in a healthy way. Delivering a concise 30-Second Introduction or asking specific and clear problem-probing questions are examples of good communication skills in selling. Focus on improving communication in these areas:
- Building rapport and gaining trust with prospects and customers
- Assessing buyer’s needs during a sales meeting
- Making small talk and keeping things light and relaxed
- Using the phone effectively
- Using email effectively
- Resolving conflicts
2. Use a system for selling
Using a solid system or sales process for selling enables people to learn in an effective way. A system keeps you on track. A system is like a roadmap. It tells you where to go to stay on track or where you went off track.
For example, the primary reason meetings go off track is the lack of an agenda or the lack of an effective agenda. “Winging it” is rarely a strategy for a successful meeting. Feel free to review the best practices laid out in our Collavia Sales PlayBook for ideas about creating or enhancing your own sales process.
3. Be Supportive
A strong support structure is an essential characteristic of a learning culture. With that said, there are three areas for effective support for selling. Sales management, marketing, and operations.
Sales management provides the structure, accountability, and guidance salespeople need to succeed. Marketing supports the sales team by clarifying the business message, identifying targets, generating inbound leads, and developing collateral that salespeople can use when interacting with buyers. Operations provides a reality check.
Pricing, resources, timeframes, and implementation are examples of how Operations delivers on what was sold. Salespeople and Operations need to work together to minimize expectation setting that is unrealistic.
Networking is one of the best characteristics of a learning culture. Attend events, use social media, routinely speak to people in your network. These are good activities that help you learn about the latest and greatest in your market/industry. Ask people to tell you what changes they’re noticing, what innovations, and what they’re doing to learn and improve. Don’t just use your network for requesting introductions and referrals!
5. Enhance and share
Pull up old emails as templates instead of always writing new ones. Then, improve the message to be more current. After that, freshen up pitch decks and presentations. Get customer feedback to improve demos and proposals. Ultimately, continue to enhance the tools of your trade.
Most importantly, share what you have learned with others on the team. Our Director of Marketing shared a tool with our sales team for obtaining electronic signatures on contracts for new speaking engagements. We have adopted the same tool. We’ve found that this alone has cut down our sales cycle by about a week. Before that, we asked people to print, sign, scan, and return contracts. People procrastinated, found it a pain to deal with so many steps, and were grateful for a better way.
6. Publish goals & accomplishments
Find someone you can share your weekly and monthly goals with. They’ll see what you’re doing, learn for themselves and also give you feedback on what you can do to improve. My coach, for example, gave me a great idea yesterday. He suggested that I share my goals to close three deals this week with my Operations Officer. Because she’s responsible for delivery of our services, she can provide ideas and even communicate directly with the buyer. This can make a big difference in helping me achieve these goals. By discussing mine, my coach in turn thought about goals he wanted to focus on that would help him grow his own business.
If you build a learning culture with these characteristics, you will have happier, more productive sales people. In return, this makes your life a whole lot better! A learning culture is great for everyone involved.