Last night I gave the keynote address at my old school's Speech Day...
Apart from being an immensely humbling experience, being back on the platform, this time handing out awards and certificates rather than receiving my (then) very thin envelope of academic achievements, I used the opportunity to remind the graduating class of the importance of maintaining their thirst for knowledge and growth, long after they leave school.
Because your appetite for learning and personal growth directly correlates to your level of success.
I happen to be an example of one of those students that did not take the academic route through life. Instead learning on the job or grabbing every workbased training programme that was ever offered and I’ve personally invested tens of thousands of pounds into my own development over my thirty year career, travelling around the globe to attend courses and to listen to world-class speakers.
This same week I also had the opportunity to introduce my friend Pete Wilkinson, the CEO of Reclaro, a SAAS start-up, which I have an investment in, to Nelson Da Silva the Chief Revenue Officer of Receipt Bank, a fintech business that has an impressive record of growth from startup in 2010 into todays multi-million global tech firm, now employing over three hundred staff.
It was fascinating listening to Nelson recount the early days when they were only a team of eight, he was the entire sales department, on the phone doing demos and signing up their first customers, to now running the entire sales operation globally.
He shared how he began to build out the sales team, initially employing two graduates as his first employees for the sales department. “I find it much easier to mould them into how I need them to be. People with experience tend to want to do things their way, he recounted. He explained that when recruiting he looks for three key characteristics;
not just how coachable they are personally, but how well they can also coach others.
Listening to Nelson, this is not surprising, as finding high quality ready-made skilled talent for a sales team is one of the greatest challenges for a growth business. We are only now beginning to see the introduction of sales focused courses within mainstream education, but with such little literature and academic research into what makes a successful sales person, academia is still catching up. Leaving businesses with two choices;
1. Hire ready-made and trained talent
2. Hire raw talent and train them
If you are serious about the long-term growth and the scale of your business then I’m with Nelson and fundamentally believe that you should be prepared to invest in developing your own sales methodology. One that is documented as your own Sales Bible (your company’s playbook) and be prepared to grow and develop your own talent as you grow.
Businesses that attempt to shortcut this vital step, instead attempting to hire in a ready-formed sales function always fall flat on their bums, and look back in six months and wonder how they ended up with a maverick team of individuals all running around like headless chickens.
Here’s three things you can do to help your own team maintain a thirst of knowledge;
-Begin building your library of templates now your own company’s playbook. Begin with how YOU do sales personally. Document every email, every script, every presentation, every part of the process.
-Invest in skills-based training in the areas your team need to improve. Look for credible but successful trainers with a solid track record with strong teaching methods.
-Link ‘mastery’ and ‘coachability’ in their role to their remuneration packages. Assuming you have a competency framework for their roles (and if you don’t, there’s a good place to start,) grade the levels and at each review date, discuss how they have shown not only how they have mastered this area of knowledge themselves, but can demonstrate how they have used it in their role AND coached others and supported the team as a whole.
Most importantly build a culture where selfgrowth and investment in one’s own education is celebrated and rewarded and you will reduce the risk of hiring on impressive CVs only to have people fail, once they have to deliver on what’s actually required.