I hope you’re making time for professional development. I was talking with a business owner about reading the other day – he doesn’t like to read…this is a problem. Nobody stands still – you’re either growing or shrinking. Another business owner called in some desperation last week from the west coast. They are looking at some new directions…their business was going great, in fact they were so busy they stopped planning, and started fulfilling business. Looking back, their business has become such a commodity that, while they are still busy, they are not making a profit and the future looks grim. Now they’re in trouble….what do they do? No matter how busy you are, and how much you hate to read, you still either increase or digress. What should you be doing?
Read the Right Stuff
There are a million things to read, but reading lots of books isn’t necessarily the right program to be on. I like to read, but I spend more time on one book, and therefore read less books. I firmly believe, especially having worked with my wife to home school 7 children for the past 20 years, that it is better to search out the right books and study them in detail, than to read lots of books. A couple of things I have found helpful:
- Read and reread the stuff that matters
- Mark the things that really matter and make notes in the margin
- After a tip from a friend, I started making an index of key points on the first blank page in the book
- Forget about selling the book on Amazon. If it’s worth reading, add so many notes that no one else would want it
- After reading, I make a list of notes in Evernote by chapter to inculcate what I just read
- I keep the book on my desk for a few weeks after finishing (while beginning the next book) and refer to it often - I make the information usable and therefore memorable.
Turn off Talk Radio and Turn on Great Audio Programs
If you drive or fly (I fly all the time), turn your smart phone into a classroom – add audio programs that help you build in the areas you are weak. Talk radio might be interesting, but it isn’t really useful. Most of it is hype and entertainment, not true value. If you want the news, watch the news or read the Wall Street Journal in 30 minutes. Some key topics I include on mine:
- Marketing strategies
- Sales – strategy and motivation
- Spiritual truth
- Great books on tape related to my field
Note: People learn through different means, but many of us are visual, so while audio books are great, having a book to write notes on might be better – reinforce the good ones by audio. This is not true for everyone so know your own personal learning style.
Seminars and Workshops
Training – I have said this many times, but it demands repeating…Professional Athletes are always training, and then they might play a few minutes or more (in season) once or twice a week. Sales people are the opposite; they train one day a year and play 364 days (Assuming they are still thinking about work over the weekend – which many are). A few key points:
- At the start of the year, figure out what kind of training you need and schedule it…it won’t happen if you don’t plan ahead.
- If you aren’t the person with the budget, lobby your management to make it happen. Even if they don’t bring it in house, you should appeal to go or do something online. I personally feel that, if all else fails, the individual should make the investment personally – but that is a last resort.
- Most of the “Sales Training” provided is really product training – this is largely a waste of time. Study the data sheets as they come out, a few minutes each week, and you’ll have it. You need training on sales and marketing – don’t assume you know it all.
- If you go somewhere for training – plan to go for the training, not entertainment. The high achiever avoids the late night party, fattening foods, and spending each session in the lobby answering email.
- Remember, you are either growing our shrinking – if you avoid training, you are shrinking, even if you don’t believe it. One day you’ll be out of business.
Hire a Personal Sales Coach
I can’t say enough about this one. Every great athlete has a great coach behind them. Business coaching is somewhat new – but quickly growing because it works. I don’t mean “Life Coach” – you probably don’t need one of these. I mean someone who understands your business and who can help you achieve greater things through collaboration, strategy, accountability, and encouragement. If they don’t understand what you are doing, they can’t really help you. Some things to consider:
- It might be costly. Sales managers might not pay, but what if you grew your business by 25% through a coach…the ROI would be there. Some studies show a 700% ROI on sales and executive coaching…I’ve had coaches and have a coaching program simply because it works.
- Not every coach is great for every person. Coaches have a philosophy they work by, and they all approach it differently. You need a coach that gives you what you need, which may not be what you like.
- There must be a common worldview for this to work. Ethics, spiritual views, customer views, values and family, etc. Many things may come into play here, but you don’t want an adviser that will take you down a path that violates your personal convictions.
Master Mind Groups
Don’t confuse this with a leads group…and it’s not exactly coaching either. A Master Mind Group is usually made up of a group of people that do what you do, with a facilitator. A group without a facilitator can also work, however a great facilitator can take a group from mediocre to exceptional. A leads group might be helpful, but this is not a collaboration group since the people in it generally do different things (Rarely do I think these actually work – however there are times…). The Master Mind Group is set up to allow people that do the same thing, in non-competing territories, to review what is working, and to help each other figure out what will work as they tackle the challenges of daily business. I’ve been in a master mind group for the past 4 years and it has really paid off. Here are some important considerations:
- Synergy – the selection of who is in the group is key. Everyone must be a contributor. The sluggard must go.
- The leader is a facilitator, not a teacher. While it is good if this person knows the business, it should not be a teleseminar each time you get online.
- Each person must be committed to meeting – it’s a priority. It might be weekly or monthly. I like the 90 minute monthly meeting model with some form of collaboration in between. I have a private forum set up for those who are in the Solution Provider Master Mind Group I run.
- The group should not be run by a manufacturer or distributor – why? It cramps the meeting – participants suddenly can’t openly discuss changing their business, using different distributors, or taking on new products, or how to get the most out of JMF.
- There should be NDAs in place…I would not allow unethical people to participate, but having things in writing just makes it all the more clearer.
- Avoid the free group…free usually leads to a lack of long term commitment. You get what you pay for in most cases.
What else are you doing to grow professionally? I would love to hear your comments right here!
© 2012, David Stelzl