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I don’t know…

We’re in the midst of revising and retooling our sales training program; a periodic ritual all companies go through, you know?  The process we’re following might sound familiar.  Leadership has announced the strategic changes.  Now followership is being asked if the new direction will “fit” our sales constituents.

Naturally, we need to make the new direction “fit”, even if it doesn’t actually “fit”; the change has already been announced.  Though our change management process might sound backward, I’m optimistic the outcome will be favorable.

“Fit” is an often-debated concept in the sales (and sales training) profession.  Ask for input and there seems no end to opinions.  But “fit” is important:

Not a good fit’ is a great conclusion, if arrived at early.  It is a horrible miscalculation if arrived at late. 

Mahan Khalsa

We are late in our process, but it should be OK.  After all, our constituents won’t know the difference.  They only go through our sales training activities once, so they won’t be making comparisons.  Even if we suck going forward no one will know; keeping in mind we may not suck – we may have something better.  I am comfortable saying I don’t know.

He who knows most, knows how little he knows.

Thomas Jefferson

Although I’m change-adverse (like many in my profession), I’m keeping an open mind on the new program.  Philosophically, I’m in alignment with the strategic intent of consistency across all sales channels.  Others smarter and more successful than I have led their companies to greatness based on the principle of consistency:

I wanted to get the ‘creativity’ out of the sales process.  If you want to be creative, go write a novel. 

Larry Ellison

But to be fair, I believe there is a big difference between pronouncing a strategic change vs. developing and delivering the multitude of tactical details that go into the execution of such strategy.  I don’t know… but I’m think the key word here is execution.

We followers are supposed to be domain experts; we’re expected to execute on the plan.  What’s the military saying about battle plans – “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.”  (Here’s background on that quote.)

Helmuth von Moltke the Elder knew last century that the complexity of war prevented any one leader from grasping the entirety of details necessary to win battles.  The writer (Sean Newman Maroni) offers cross-over connections to the business world.  His cross-over has agreement from at least one famous business leader I know:

‘What do we need a sales guy for?’  I smugly replied, ‘To sell more of our software, perhaps.’  That’s an inside glimpse of our top management team at work discussing the expansion of our distribution capacity.  I knew we needed to build a sales organization, although I certainly had no idea how one worked. 

Larry Ellison

Even though Larry Ellison said he didn’t know (as published in the book Softwar: An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle©), that didn’t prevent Oracle from achieving tremendous business (and sales) success.

When we launch our revised sales training program I’ll be a bit nervous about “surviving first contact”.  But I “know” we will improvise if necessary in the short term and adapt in the long term to insure success.

However, if in reality I don’t know, I’m comforted by titans of military history and the technology industry – if they don’t know; then it’s probably OK that I don’t know.  On the other hand, if you know – please let me know, OK?

GAP

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