As you know Friday I delivered another session of the Ultimate Appointment Making Workshop in Markham Ontario. This is something that is very different from my normal interaction with sales teams, and as a result I always learn some new things that help me when I work with my clients. The key difference that struck me this time was the impact of “group think” on sales people and the impact on their learning.
In the room on Friday there were at least 20 different companies represented from all corners of B2B sales; and with that came a wide range of views, challenges, and attitudes. This was a much more dynamic workshop than most delivered for groups that all come from the same company.
It was refreshing to see how individuals were willing to challenge others in the room, not in a vicious way, but in an attempt to understand the topic at hand, and making sure they take everything out of the day. It was refreshing to see how participants were willing to open up and expose themselves for the sake of improvement.
When you contrast that with some of the posturing and attitudes and time wasting you sometimes encounter with groups inside companies, I began to think about what if anything was behind the experience with the two groups.
Inside companies, you get the typical challenges of any primal group. Aside from the leadership, you always have the alpha dogs, the “experienced” old timers; you know the ones that know it all, because they have had the same year for the last 15 years. You also get the ones who are either open to the learning or are struggling and want the help but sit like wall flowers due to the social structure of the sales team and their role in it. Clearly it is our job as facilitators to overcome this and help create a safe zone where those who want to learn and practice can, and marginalize the interfering “know it alls” who silently bully the others.
It is not a surprise in some ways, the folks at the workshop Friday for the most part paid their own way and were looking to improve themselves and were committed to success. Instead of sitting around blaming the economy for everything, they were stepping up and meeting things head on.
The “group think” phenomenon is a cancer that limits the impact of training and change beyond the workshop, the peer pressure on those wiling to change is real in a lot of companies, at times even from front line managers. We see his during the follow through Action Plan sessions we have. When these are one on one, it is easy to encouraging the willing and segregate the unwilling. But it rears its ugly head in group encounters.
Beyond the social and morale impact on the workshop and follow up sessions, there is the economic impact on companies that look the other way when “group think” raises barriers to learning and improvement. Imagine the increase in revenues if the “experienced” reps were to actually change their approach and their performance as a result. Add to that the increase from those willing to learn and change but are reluctant due to the social realities of sales teams.
On the up side, what I took away from Friday is the need to redouble the effort and focus to positively challenge the unwilling, to engage them to take their negative energy and refocus what they “know” (as in “know it all”), on helping them get over their insecurity about learning something new while not making them feel like they were wrong for doing things the way they had been to date, to involve them in helping those willing to learn.
I want to thank those who came with an open mind on Friday, and those who bring an open mind every day, for helping to reenergize me in the process of helping them.
Tibor Shanto – The Pipeline