I have had the good fortune to have worked in a few different start ups. One of the things that I really like about this kind of work environment is the lack of silos. In larger organizations, most departments (sales, marketing, finance, operations, etc.) get partitioned to some extent from other departments. In early stage start ups, there is literally and figuratively no room for that.

It’s interesting for a “sales guy” like me to get to sit next to the caliber of accountant or engineer that is drawn to and accepted in a start up environment. Often, we can learn a lot from each other. Sometimes, we get to see how deep knowledge in one arena can mask pretty dumb ideas in others.

For example…..

I was working in a technology start up a few years ago. I had helped the company to raise seed capital, and I stayed on to help with some key negotiations. One of the other guys on the start up team was an engineer with a very impressive resume. So impressive, that about six months into the start up, he got an offer that he could not refuse from a Fortune 100 company. We were sad to see him go, but he was smart to take the job.

During the few weeks between the time that he accepted the job and left for it, he and I were in the office one day. He knew that I worked as a business consultant (among other things), so he asked me if I had ever heard of a specific kind of management process. I had not, and asked him what problem he was trying to solve by learning more about that specific process.

He told me that his experience in the past was managing engineers. This new job put him into a position to manage the managers of engineers, which he had never done before. We talked for a while about some of the challenges he might be facing, and I suggested a few books from my personal library that I would be happy to loan him.

His response was the impetus for this blog. He said:

“David, if I needed to read a book in order to do this job better, then I would not be the right person for this job.”

I was speechless. When I finally came to my senses, I told him that this was the dumbest thing I ever heard him say. As I have reflected back on this over the years, I realize that this attitude is, unfortunately, not unique.

How can it be that it seems natural for doctors and lawyers (among other professionals) to be required to have continuing education, but business managers don’t feel the same need? Now there are certainly a lot of people buying business books or magazines, listening to podcasts and audio books, reading blogs, etc., but in spite of the large numbers doing such things, it seems frighteningly easy to meet people who don’t even consider keeping themselves up to date and full of new ideas.

In sales, this is particularly foolish. I maintain that at a lot of levels, there is nothing new in sales. However, sales is an interpersonal skill, and there are always things to learn or to be reminded of that can help close more deals, close them faster, qualify them better, etc.

In sales, when you do something better, you often give yourself a raise (if you have a good compensation plan). In spite of this, most salespeople I meet, and most I have worked with, scoff at the idea of trying anything other than what they have always done.

Abraham Lincoln is famous for saying, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. Stephen Covey use this same idea as his seventh habit of highly effective people. If you assume that you know everything there is to know about being effective in your work, well, you are just making a proverbial ass out of yourself.

Don’t be an ass. Don’t be reactive. Don’t come into work, chase your messages, tweets and voice mails and come up with the same results you always have. Rather, follow the advice of Lance Armstrong:

“Ride your strengths, train your weaknesses”.

Whatever you need to improve on, there is a book, a blog or something on the back end of a Google search to help you. Take the time to sharpen your saw, and go after that bigger tree.

If there is no-one there to hear it fall… well, we can save that for another post.

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Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!

-David