Are you a sales leader looking to establish a continuous learning culture?
Don't know where to start? That's ok! Creating a learning culture – especially one that lasts for years – doesn't happen overnight.
Start by asking yourself these 8 questions to establish a continuous learning culture.
The 8 Questions You Must Ask to Create a Continuous Learning Culture
1. What is a learning culture?
To promote a continuous learning culture, people must be encouraged to ask questions and share ideas. It’s important that these people aren’t judged or shut down, so they can feel comfortable as they go through their individual styles for learning.
People in a healthy continuous learning culture also need positive verbal reinforcement. This can counter misunderstandings that people might have based on non-verbal cues they are picking up. For example, people folding their arms or not making eye contact.
Examples of positive verbal reinforcement include, “thank you for sharing that insight,” or “I really like what you said,” or “wow, I didn’t think of that!” You can also give positive feedback when not agreeing. For example, “I don’t see how that could work, but I really appreciate you making that suggestion. Let’s talk about it some more.”
In order to establish a continuous learning culture, learning needs to be fun.
Fun is safe. When people are having fun, they aren’t scared of saying something that might be unpopular. Having fun with your fellow employees, whether they are in a senior position to you or not, makes it easier for your views and the views of others to be accepted, even if not agree with.
Ultimately, a learning culture is committed to ongoing improvement of individuals and the entire group.
2. Why is having a learning culture a benefit to a sales organizations?
Selling is a profession that continues to evolve. There’s a lot of mystique associated with what it takes to succeed as a sales person and as a sales team.
Therefore, it’s important to support learning, so people can continue to hone their sales skills and continue to thrive in an environment that is always challenging them to do better.
3. Is a learning continuous culture a substitute for other incentives?
I think of a learning culture as complimentary to other incentives. You can, for instance, tie compensation to learning. We have seen clients who’ve adopted our Sales Growth Programs incorporate learning into people’s quarterly or annual bonuses. Using a scorecard to measure successful execution of training is a good way to tie compensation to learning.
Some people are motivated to teach or mentor others because it makes them feel good. My experience has been that most people are motivated by a desire to contribute; to make a difference. It’s also common to hear that people believe in a reciprocal, “what goes around, comes around” approach.
4. How is a learning culture beneficial to specific roles?
For senior management, a learning culture is a good recruiting tool. If you’re competing for talent, which is very common, you must provide employment benefits beyond salary and healthcare. Time and time again, candidates will choose to work for an employer that, when all other things are equal, such as compensation, they can learn from the most.
Therefore, as a hiring manager, you should build into your interviews a discussion about your continuous learning culture. Both to gauge how much the new employee would contribute to, as well as be motivated by learning.
Salespeople benefit from a continuous learning culture as well.
They will be constantly discovering more value for themselves both as people and as professionals. You’ll find that salespeople are natural mentors. They “mentor” their customers and clients by providing value in the form of solutions. It’s important to be a good learner if you’re going to be a good mentor.
The best CEOs are often the best learners.
If they’re smart, they’ve hired people they can learn from, which in turn makes them better leaders. I’ve found that employees realize how valuable they are when they’re teaching their bosses things they didn’t know.
5. What role does each person play in a learning culture?
It’s hard to divide up the amount of the success of a team that someone’s responsible for. In other words, if your employee 700, does that mean that you’re 1/700th responsible for the success of the team?
Regardless of size, everyone should act as though they’re 100% responsible for the achievements of the team. In our own business, we ask people to continuously act as a business owner. Their role is to hold themselves accountable to the success of our organization.
6. How can a company pivot and create a continuous learning culture?
Feedback, feedback, and feedback – that’s how companies learn and pivot from their learning.
People must be encouraged to provide honest and timely feedback in an appropriate way. They shouldn’t shy away from providing constructive criticism either. This is not a concept that’s introduced once only. It must be refreshed constantly.
People at all levels in the organization must be willing to give and get feedback; positive or negative. We also recommend peer 360 reviews, so others can give feedback in a constructive way. This can be done openly or anonymously. We’ve often seen feedback given to individuals, as well as to groups. For example, Operations is encouraged to formally or informally review Sales and vice versa.
7. What are the pitfalls of a continuous learning culture?
Some people may interpret constructive feedback as criticism. They may not be comfortable asking “dumb” questions for fear that others will judge them harshly. Creating a “safe space” for learning is a prime responsibility of good leadership. Also, setting expectations for a healthy learning culture to thrive is very important.
8. How does sales training create a learning culture?
The best sales training is based on a “discovery” approach. Rather than telling people how to act and how to be in order to succeed, it’s important for people to discover this.
Sales training that encourages learning must include a good amount of philosophy, which is the “why” of something. A lot of sales training is mechanics or checklist-based. I call this “lazy training,” because it’s easier to give people a list and tell them to “just do it,” rather than take the time and be patient to allow people to work with new concepts in a manner that allows them to discover the value of training for themselves.
So, what do you think? Does your company already comply with any of these questions? Have you ever wondered these yourself?
I hope this helps you on your journey to establishing a continuous learning culture!