When I first started out in my sales career, my mentor and first sales manager, would come up to me at the end of every day and ask, “what did you learn today”? Initially, I thought it was just his way of checking up on me to make sure I was doing the necessary activities to sell something. It wasn’t until several months later that I understood what the true meaning was behind his question.
At the end a particularly challenging day, I’m walking past his office and he calls me in and tells me to take as seat. I’m thinking, here we go, the dreaded “what did you learn today” question. Based on the day I had just been through and after several weeks of being asked the same question at the end of each and every day, believe me, I was not in the mood to hear it.
Instead of asking, “what did you learn today” he just sat there smiling at me for what seemed like an eternity. Somehow I think he knew that I had a pretty rough day and that I had learned plenty that day from the school of hard knocks. When he finally spoke, he asked me if I knew why he asked me the same question at the end of every day. Not knowing where the conversation was going I responded by saying something to the effect of no, not really.
He told me that if you truly want to succeed in your selling career, dedicate yourself to being a student for your entire life. He went on to say that your goal for the end of each and every day should be to be able to say, “I learned something new today.”
I did learn something very valuable that day. I learned to never stop learning.
It’s a sad reality that far too many salespeople think they know it all. They adopt the old “been there done that attitude” and believe that what has worked in the past will work for them in the future. But the sign of a true sale “professional” is that they work on perfecting the sales craft and they take every opportunity to learn.
Learn from every selling experience, good or bad, success or failure.
Each day learn something new about selling. The sales game is changing constantly. New approaches, new techniques, new methodologies, and let’s not forget new technologies. Read articles, blogs, and books about selling, Listen to the occasional podcast. Attend a sales conference and sign up for an on-line training session.
Learn about the markets you serve. What are the key trends, business issue, and drivers? Jump on a webinar, download a white paper, read a case study. There is no shortage of information. The information is out there, act on it.
Learn something new about your prospects, their business, their challenges. Learn about the different stakeholders (aka the people) that you interact with. What are the key issues and problems that these stakeholders are faced with on a daily basis? Read the company’s 10K, the annual report, sign up for Google alerts or follow them on Twitter. Learn what’s important to them.
In sales and in life, if you are going to be successful, you have to focus on continuous improvement and that comes through continuously learning. But it’s not just learning that’s important. It’s learning what to do with what you learn and learning why you learn things, that’s really matters. The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.
“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” ― Abigail Adams
“What did you learn today”?