Selling Business-to-Business should be fun. Often it can feel like a grind. There’s a need to make selling B2B more fun by provoking more learning from the grinding. Those involved in teaching, training, e-learning, and change management have important insights on how to do so.
Clark Quinn notes (in his book Engaging Learning) that often the fun of learning, at work, is ‘hard fun’. “It’s fun, in the sense that you’re engaged, there’s a story that you care about and you have the power to act; it’s hard in that it’s not trivial – there is sufficient challenge to keep you on your toes.”
In Quinn’s view, one of the keys to making work more effective via more learning is to make the learning interface inherently interesting to the end user. This requires the creation of learning environments where important behaviors affect goal achievement, where contexts are meaningful to the learner, and where decisions have visible consequences. “These types of learning experiences are difference-making.”
In my view, such learning environments resemble Chip Heath’s notion of ‘destination postcards’. They give sales people a sense of where they’re headed, and proof that what they do matters. They direct logically oriented folks + motivate emotionally oriented folks, then shape the path forward for both. They re-kindle a child-like curiosity to tackling challenges. They provoke learning, even in the absence of coaches.
Part of my firm's DNA is to make work fun (again). From my years in higher education administration, I discovered the energizing effects learning has on how work gets done, and how well it's done. Walk into a work environment that has a ton of energy. Look closely. Chances are it's because the worker bees are creating a ton of value and continuously learning how to do so. They're doing so with the help of each other. There's a 'we're all in this together' mentality.
As a result, in my view, there's much to be gained by instrumenting how work gets in ways which provoke learning. B2B sales is a perfect example. My contention: the more sales people can learn whether or not what they're doing matters (from each buyer's perspective), the faster they'll learn to create more value more often for every buyer. As sales people learn more, they'll earn more.
In my view, this requires instrumenting sales work in ways which encourage learning with a child-like curiosity.
Clayton Christensen recently noted why some people are more innovative than others: they've retained their child-like curiosity about how things work and have a fearless drive to fix things that aren't working. In my view, this requires sales people have a viewfinder that makes it clear how things are working (in the back-and-forth between sales efforts and buyer behaviors) and what things aren't working at all.
Sugata Mitra's 'Hole in the Wall' research shows that when given a chance children learn, quickly, topics they previously knew little, if anything, about (as he explains in his recent TED talk). Based on his research, sales people also need a viewfinder that's focused on things sales people care deeply about. Just like the children in Mitra's studies, it'll spark curiosity + provoke learning.
We’re seeing early proof that such learning environments for sales people work as intended. They provoke changes in the behaviors of sales people in ways which set them on a path to increased sales productivity. Some sales people, when able to see + understand their (disappointing) Return-on-Effort, gain a new will, and curiosity, to try new tactics. From their tries, they see what they do matters. They're innovating in small increments, discovering it's painless + worth doing, then doing more of it. They're having hard fun.
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