Learning or Forgetting: Whats more important?

One of the key issues facing business isn’t learning, it’s forgetting; according to some experts. Organizational “learning” (i.e., executive management programs, selling techniques and processes, technical skills, and team building, etc.) is one of the hottest management topics, but some say that “forgetting” (i.e., the old traditional ways of doing things) is far more important.

The enabler for constructive change, whether in business or persona is an ‘eraser’: “You can’t live without an eraser”. Some words of wisdom:

“The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old (traditional) ones out.” – Dee Hock

“The greatest difficulty in the world is not for people to accept new ideas, but to make them forget about old (traditional) ideas”. –John Maynard Keynes

The old (traditional) image of the salesperson was as a mere glad-hander, someone whose only skill is “knowing how to talk to folks”. Think of the phases that come to mind when you think of a salesperson and selling. “A good salesperson is born not made”; “Selling is 90% luck”; “A real salesperson can sell ice to an Eskimos”.

Underlying all these adages is the view that it’s personality not understanding; temperament not training; magic not skill; make the top salespersons what they are. For many people in sales, Horatio Alger’s old “luck and pluck” is still the talisman to which we attribute the salesperson success.

In business-to-business selling, the traditional method or old way involves two false assumptions. It assumes, first, that all potential buyers can use your product or service, and second, that if you only “show and tell” the customer about it, they’ll appreciate the “obvious” benefits and rush to buy from you. These assumptions violate a central principle of business interaction: People buy for their own reasons, not yours. Traditional, product-focused selling ignores that fact.

On the other hand, Strategic Selling acknowledges this fact as central, and puts the burden for making the sale on both buyer and seller (it’s a joint-venture). It’s up to both the buyer and seller to move the process forward by mutually encouraging positive information flow. There’s no assumption suggesting that the customer already has a need for the seller’s product or service. On the contrary, the entire interactive process is geared to determine, up front, whether or not there really is a need.

Thus, Strategic Selling follows the natural order of decision-making and involves three distinct but interrelated thinking processes beginning with “cognitive thinking” which is understanding the customer’s concept/need, then “divergent thinking” regarding the available options to satisfy the need, and finally “convergent thinking” which is the selection of the best solution. This concept was developed by J.P. Guilford through his extensive clinical research and documented in his book ‘The Nature of Human Intelligence’.

The immediate benefit of this approach is an alignment between the salesperson and the customer’s decision-making process and gives the salesperson greater control and more flexibility by facilitating the customer’s natural way of thinking and decision-making.  And, in the longer-term, by establishing this constructive dialogue with the customer it enables the concept of No-Sell selling and a Win-Win outcome.

Win-Win means a highly valued and effective solution for the customer, and a long-term, profitable, and reference-able account for the salesperson.