As a sales educator and consultant, my work has consisted of bringing about positive change in sales organizations, sales managers and sales people. While my content has always been about sales in one way or another, my actual work itself has always been to create change.
So, I’ve made “creating change” a focus of study for at least three decades. Over that period of time, I have assembled a set of principles and practices that I use to facilitate change in organizations and people.
I have, of course, recognized that, as an outside force, I only have a limited ability to help a person change. Take, for example, the best practice of “thoroughly preparing for a sales call.” I can share with them why that practice is a good idea, I can lead them to see what it would mean to them, and I can show them exactly how to do it, but I can’t make them change. Ultimately, the desire to change has to come from within the person.
And that is the focus of this post.
If you’re not a trainer, why would you be interested? Because, as a serious professional, you share the need to change and improve and grow – to continually improve your performance and develop more completely as a human being. If you are a serious professional, there should be a question which continuously pops up in your mind. And that is, “How can I change and improve myself so I can continue to provide for my family and impact my workplace? “
But I’m not interested in superficial answers, I’m interested in exploring the deeper, let’s call them “spiritual”, answers. Let me explain.
This is a diagram from my book, Take Your Sales Performance Up-a-Notch.
It is one way of looking at human behavior – our behavior.
Think of this as a diagram of one way to look at each of us. Some of you are familiar with my onion analogy. Imagine this diagram is a pie-shaped slice of an onion. There are layers and layers of substance to the onion, from the thin and crinkly skin at the surface, to the strongly pungent core.
Each of us is like that. We have layers and layers of complexity and substance to us.
On the very surface are our interactions with other people – our customers and prospects. These interactions are often shaped and directed by the sales tactics we’ve learned along the way. This is the person that our customers see. For example, you may ask a customer a series of good questions. That series of questions is a tactic – the very surface of who you are. If you, over a period of time, develop that practice of asking questions effectively, you’ve created a skill. Notice that is a slightly deeper issue. Good for you. That’s important. However, in the bigger picture of everything that you are, it’s the most superficial part of you.
As we peel each layer off of the onion, we go deeper into the person that we are. Just beneath the surface are the strategies we design, the goals we set, the habits we have built up over the years, and the ways we go about doing things.
For example, let’s say you ask your customer good questions. That’s a tactic — on the very surface of your being. It’s where you interact with someone else.
The reason you ask questions — the motivating force that underlies your use of that tactic — can be one of a number of things. Perhaps it arises out of a strategic plan you created to learn more about your customer. The strategy was the deeper motivation that gave rise to the more superficial tactic.
Or, you may have developed a goal to ask four questions during the course of the day. In that case, the goal was the deeper motivation.
Or, maybe it’s just your habit to always ask good questions. You’re not really sure why you have that habit. In that case, the habit was the deeper issue that caused you to ask those questions.
Or, finally, the deeper issue could be a process that you’ve created that requires you to fill out a form with the answer to that question. Regardless, your sales behavior always arises out of one of those four motivations. You either work intentionally, with planning and forethought, as evidenced by your goals, strategies, and processes, or you work “unconsciously,” through your habits and routines. These motivating forces lie just beneath the surface, but they shape your actual behavior.
Peel off that outer layer, and we’ll find, at the next deepest level, our attitudes. You’ve heard many times about the importance of a good attitude. That’s because your attitudes give rise to your habits and your goals.
When you’re burdened with a depressed, pessimistic attitude, you don’t set worthwhile goals or aspire to great accomplishment. The opposite is also true. When you have positive, optimistic attitudes, you naturally aspire to challenging goals, and that leads to energy and positive behavior.
If your attitude is positive, you’ll feel like you can positively influence a prospect. That positive attitude can lead you to creating a goal and developing the strategy that you’ll need to achieve that goal.
Back to the asking questions example. Let’s say your positive attitude has led you to develop the goal of acquiring three new accounts this month. Now that you are optimistic enough to set a challenging goal, you need to create a strategy to achieve it. So, you decide on a strategy, part of which requires you to ask good questions of a certain number of prospects.
In this example, your attitude led to a goal, which led to a strategy, which led to the actions you took with your prospect. Your actions bubbled up from the inside out.
But, you’re still not at the very heart of things. Underlying your attitudes are your values. Values refer to the things you hold dear and important. For example, you may value integrity, success in your job, and the well being of your spouse. These values give rise to certain attitudes about those things.
Take the situation where you highly value your spouse’s physical well-being. Since you value him or her so highly, you think positively about your ability to provide protection and security. Out of that attitude arise your goals and strategies.
But, you’re still not finished. Underlying and supporting your values are your beliefs. For example, you may believe that it is always the husband’s responsibility to support the family no matter what. This belief may be so deep inside you that you never really articulated it. It’s just been embedded deep into your psyche.
As a result of that belief, you place a high value on the physical well-being of your spouse because, after all, it’s your job to take care of that. That value leads to attitudes, which lead to goals or habits, which lead to behavior.
There is yet one layer deeper. And that is your worldview. Your worldview is comprised of your fundamental, core beliefs about the world and yourself. It’s composed of the absolute deepest beliefs you hold about your purpose in life and the way in which the world functions. It differs from the beliefs above it only in degree. The worldview comprises the beginning of the spiritual part of ourselves. These beliefs shape everything above them.
For example, one person may believe that the universe is so connected that everything we do is a result of fate or destiny. Another individual may believe the opposite, that we are creatures with free will existing in a world that responds to us. A third may believe that we are the creation of a loving God — designed for a specific purpose.
If you hold a world view that attributes everything that happens to you as controlled by fate, or destiny, you’ll have little interest in building positive attitudes, creating goals, developing strategies, practicing skills, and using effective tactics.
I’ve personally seen tribal people in developing countries who hold a world view like this. As a group, they never seem to make much progress, and many live in a life style and economic conditions that have changed little over the generations. The lack of improvement in their conditions is, in my opinion, a function of their worldview. In many cases, millions of dollars of aid and years of assistance at the more superficial levels have done little. Real change won’t happen until they make changes in their world-view.
This basic view of yourself and the world is usually influenced by your culture. It is often influenced by religious education, because it borders on the spiritual part of us.
Now, you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with sales or management. Study the illustration. Notice that there is a direct relationship between the higher layers and the deeper layers. When changes are made in the deeper layers, those changes affect everything above them. A small change made deep down in a person will affect almost everything above it.
If you change your attitudes, you’ll change your strategy, habits and actions. Change your values and your beliefs, and you can’t help but change your attitudes. Modify your worldview, and everything above it will change.