I read a lot. In my view, all business people must read a lot. I seek out the opinions of others a lot. In my view, all business people must seek out the opinions of others a lot. New facts and perspectives, combined with all the facts and perspectives already in our heads are the raw materials for creativity and innovation. Creativity and innovation are the drivers of progress and productivity improvements and therefore sales growth.
Because I believe in the above so strongly, I constantly entreat the sales teams I encounter to do the same. Read, read, read! Ask, ask, ask! Learn, learn, learn! Make yourself just a little bit better every day.
Sadly, I’ve found a really ugly downside coming from some of my efforts to promote extensive business learning. “Extensive” being the key word.
Picture the sales rep who gets inspired one day. (That would include just about all of us, right?) Said rep reads a book, for 30 days reads three different business blogs and consults two “experts” about relevant issues. Then the rep gets “busy” and skips a day… then another …then another. Remembering the commitment to self-improvement though, the rep begins to change his or her behavior according to the few new bits and pieces of insight gathered.
That’s where the problems begin. Unless those few new bits of info are right on the money (and what are the odds of that?) the behavior change will almost certainly have a negative impact. It won’t fit well with the rest of your sales process. It might clash with your natural style. Worst case, it’ll make you pompous. The 17th century philosopher known only as AB, put it this way:
“Twas well observed by my Lord Bacon, That a little knowledge is apt to puff up, and make men giddy, but a greater share of it will set them right, and bring them to low and humble thoughts of themselves.”
This life-long learning thing is not for the faint of heart. So make a decision. Become a voracious reader and learner. Or just stay where you are. Pick the former and you’ll succeed. Pick the latter and you’ll be an also-ran. But at least you won’t be a jerk.