In Your Sales Career, Be a Learn it All

learn-it-allLately a phrase has been making the rounds which is the perfect mantra for all of us in professional selling and leading sales: Don’t be a Know-it-All, be a Learn-it-All. Attending conferences and events last week in the Bay area, I heard this phrase more than a dozen times.

This idea seems to have originated in the research of Stanford University Psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck, author of the bestseller Mindset and made popular lately in an interview by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

There is no doubt Microsoft is back as a relevant technology giant. What I saw demoed at the Outreach conference, Unleash 17, was integration of Linkedin into Microsoft’s CRM system with examples of how artificial intelligence will assist sellers in new ways we have not yet seen.

Satya Nadella has brought this “learning” mindset back to Microsoft, and it reminded me of how the most successful folks I’ve been around in my sales and sales leadership career were all individuals who were open to learning more- regardless of what they have already learned.

We are in a career of rapid change and in a time when sales development, leadership and business success varies and shifts. Dweck, in her book, points out that people either have a fixed mindset, or a growth mindset.

In a fixed mindset, people think intelligence and talent is set. They don’t work to improve or grow.

In a growth mindset, you start with talent and brains – then apply effort, learning, and observation to grow. It is a fail-fast mindset, a world of A-B testing, and in professional selling, it is one of try-do-adjust-refine-learn-grow.

Today I heard that McDonald’s is hiring teens for summer jobs via Snapchat. Those with a fixed mindset about recruiting younger workers will scoff. Those with a growth mindset will wonder how this could work in a broader sense. We will continue to find ways to get to our buyers (or our audience) and connect with them where they are, even if we are not there.

So what does this all mean?

"Be open-minded"

"If you’re young, know that you don’t have all the answers, and it is OK to fail, as long as you learn from it and rebound wiser"

"Open your eyes and observe more"

"Listen better"

"Ask better and more questions"

If you’re older and have been in sales for a while, recognize that you don’t know it all. Stop acting so smug. Be in “learning mode” and see how that keeps you sharper.

Talk with Lori

The profession of selling is in change mode.

There will be less professional sellers as artificial intelligence is perfected to do the non-selling portion of our jobs. To remain valuable, learn the areas of selling that cannot be done by AI or machine learning. Get better every day.

Get to a sales conference. Select a podcast to listen to which you would not normally hear. Grow and share. Write down what you’ve learned in the last 24 hours. Teach what you know. Let’s keep moving our industry forward.

Lori Richardson  helps mid-sized companies grow revenues by solving key issues in their sales department - like recruiting, retention, diversity hiring, process, pipeline and leadership. She speaks at CEO groups on topics of sales growth. Clients include companies in the technology, telecom, manufacturing, distribution, and professional services industries. Subscribe to the award-winning blog, follow her on Twitter
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