“Philosophers are people who know less and less about more and more, until they know nothing about everything. Scientists are people who know more and more about less and less, until they know everything about nothing.” — Attributed to Konrad Lorenz

Most sales reps are quite adept at having a conversation with an incredibly wide range of people on a vast array of topics.  That is, they fall more to the philosopher end of the scale. 

Some sales reps are deeply technical.  They know exactly how their products and services work and precisely how to best apply and implement them.  They’re living breathing manuals.  They’re scientists at heart.

All successful sales reps have healthy egos and while they publicly profess great humility, are exceedingly certain they are not only stunningly gifted product experts, but also silver-tongued-devil class communicators.

These facts point to the fundamental challenge of becoming and remaining a truly professional salesperson; one I’ve personally wrestled with for many years.  Given our responsibility, we are required to be philosophical scientists.  We have to talk to, develop solid business relationships with and become respected and liked by executives, engineers, finance pros, operations folks, technocrats, marketing types, receptionists, janitors…, freakin’ everybody!  All that communicating however, is utterly useless without a wide, deep reservoir of expertise about product, service, industry, application, installation, maintenance, technology, upgrades…

I won’t hold out my approach to slaying this dragon as the best one.  It’s certainly not the only one.  It’s’ simply the one I use.  (And I must add, it’s “messy discipline” reflects the schizophrenic nature of the sales beast in me.)  Every Friday at end of business, I (attempt) to clear my desk.  When I do, I invariably pick up the slip of paper that has the above quotation on it.  That’s my signal to reflect on two sets of questions.

  1. Am I a better philosopher than I was last Friday?  What totally new topic did I learn something about?  How will that help me sell more faster?
  2. Am I a better scientist than I was last Friday?  What new fact(s) did I learn about my core responsibilities?  How will that help me sell more faster?

The habit helps me.  Maybe it’ll help you too.

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