Amateurs Built the Ark, Professionals Built the Titanic

- Rod Osthus

I didn’t coin that title but, when I saw it, it reminded me of the strategy many companies are using to prepare their salespeople for the 2018 selling season. I call it the Titanic Sales Strategy because it creates false confidence in their plans and in their salesforce’s ability to get sales in this highly competitive marketplace.

Builders of the Titanic believed their ship was impenetrable because of the extra thick steel plating used to construct the hull. That attitude led to overconfidence in a ship, later found to have steel of inferior quality, that was never really capable of holding up to its assumed level of invulnerability.

In like fashion, architects of the Titanic Sales Strategy believe they’re developing more competent field sellers by teaching them knowledge skills, in lieu of selling skills. Learning to analyze personality types, segment customers, use digital field mapping programs, and develop business plans doesn’t enhance a seller’s ability to write orders.

Salespeople need to learn sales skills, so they know how to capture appointments, get more new customers, stay out of price fights, increase average order size, deflect competitor programs, and manage performance issues. They have to know how to control conversations, handle objections, protect margins, and keep customers long-term.

How will your sales reps respond this year when farmers say, “It’s too early to order. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet”? What will they say when they’re asked for plot data, free seed for test plots, or simply say you’re too high priced. The answer is 80 percent of the reps who call on farmers won’t know what to say to keep control of the conversation, therefore, they’ll lose the sale.

Jim Rohn said, “If you let learning lead to knowledge, you become a fool. If you let learning lead to action, you become wealthy.” Get your people into training on how to sell to farmers — training from someone who lives and breathes it every day with sales reps and their customers. Give your sales team the opportunity to win, by giving them the selling skills they need. Build them an ARK of assurance — a sales training system that, no matter how tough the selling environment, makes them highly competent and capable of getting the sale.