“Learning is like rowing upstream; not to advance is to drop back.”
— Chinese Proverb
I conclude this 5-part blog series with a story about Gandhi:
In the 1930's there was a young boy who had become addicted to and obsessed with eating sugar. His mother decided to get help and took the long and hot journey with her son walking many miles and hours under the scorching sun.
She finally reached Gandhi and asked him to tell her son to stop eating sugar, it wasn't good for his health. Gandhi replied, "I cannot tell him that. But you may bring him back in a few weeks and then I will talk to him." The mother was confused and upset and took the boy home.
Two weeks later she came back. This time Gandhi looked directly at the boy and said "Boy, you should stop eating sugar. It is not good for your health." The boy nodded his head and promised he wouldn't. The boy’s mother was puzzled. She asked "Why didn't you tell him that two weeks ago when I brought him here to see you?"
Gandhi smiled and said "Mother, two weeks ago I was eating a lot of sugar myself." (story from Gandhi, The Man: The Story of his Transformation by Eknath Easwaran, p. 169)
As sales leaders, when it comes to building high performance sales teams and compensating them appropriately, it is important that you “stop eating sugar” and embrace sales as a management science that can be understood and replicated. Ours and others’ data shows that sellers can increase the value of what they sell by how they sell, becoming themselves a powerful source of competitive advantage, in the same way as R&D, Engineering, Manufacturing and other management disciplines. Yet most companies and business school elite fail to recognize this.
Two factors seem to contribute. First, selling is intangible compared to products, product development, customer support organizations, and so on. Most sellers work out of sight of company management. Since people tend to discount what they cannot see, this causes management to attribute seller results to what they are selling rather than how they are selling.
Second, high performing sellers are often not understood because management looks at what they do as an art, rather than what it is: a mix of science, process, and interpersonal ability. This in part could explain why only 35 of the approximately 4,495 degree granting institutions in the U.S. provide students with an opportunity to minor or major in “sales” at the undergraduate level and only 8 institutions offer an MBA with a sales focus. (note, data from DePaul University for Sales Leadership.)
With this context in mind, I encourage you to re-read this blog series, and focus on :
- Viewing the sales function as a management science that can be understood and replicated across an organization
- Follow a sales methodology that integrates relevant skills for winning in the their market
- Measure and compensate sales performance appropriately.
Start embracing sales with the same rigor and analysis you would other MBA functions. Are you ready to stop eating sugar?
Ryan Kubacki is President of Holden International, a global sales training and advisory firm. He is also co-author of The New Power Base Selling: Master the Politics, Create Unexpected Value & Higher Margins, and Outsmart the Competition. Pre-order your copy.