Selling Power Magazine Article

Turn Knowledge into Action
Gerhard Gschwandtner
Successful sales executives have one important edge over peers who achieve only average results. That edge lies in their ability to turn knowledge into action. Some people know how to talk smart in meetings, but when it comes to action, they hesitate, retreat, ponder or procrastinate. They have knowledge, yet they don’t realize they have to take the next step to achieve a goal.
Sales executives who are action oriented show measurable results at the end of the day. Knowledge-focused people will often spend an entire day coming up with reasons why something can’t be done. Sometimes smart people don’t realize that action is often a greater laboratory for learning. Without taking action steps, no one ever learns what will work and what won’t. Theories never made a sale.
Many companies put a premium on knowledge and are proud of being “learning organizations.” The concept of knowledge management is a smart idea. It’s a strategy of getting the right information to the right people at the right time, so that they can take action and create value.
Yet, as Starbucks president Howard Behar said, “A learning organization is useless unless it is a doing organization.”
In the field of sales management, it is fairly easy to find information on best sales practices; it is far more difficult to get the entire sales team to apply these practices consistently and successfully. There are several forces that stand in the way of getting a sales team to act in a purposeful, focused and determined fashion.
1. Uncertainty
Every time the economy goes through a wave of change, the uncertainty about what comes next increases. Not knowing what comes next is the big pie thrown into the face of knowledge management. Smart sales leaders teach their team that action always requires more courage than knowledge. Without courage there is no chance for success.
2. Procrastination
H.W. Shaw once said, “The greatest thief this world has ever produced is procrastination, and he’s still at large.” What causes many salespeople to procrastinate is fear. They may fear change, rejection or failure. When Lance Armstrong was asked how he won the Tour de France four times in a row, he replied that he did not do it by procrastinating.
3. Lack of energy
Salespeople often become energized when they get to perform their favorite task (like demonstrating a brand-new product), but when it comes to writing follow-up proposals they only do the bare minimum. Salespeople who display a lack of energy often work for managers with low expectations.
4. Lack of leadership
Very knowledgeable sales leaders often succeed by talking their way into a position of power, but they often fail to inspire their team to tackle the challenges that will move their business to success. Successful leaders encourage their team to take the best course of action, even at the risk of failure. These effective leaders act with purpose, and they are clear about their intentions. They act in concert with their strong beliefs and make sound decisions. President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “I am just an ordinary man without any special abilities, except this: I do the things that I believe ought to be done. And when I make up my mind, I act.”
The difference between a company and its competitors is the ability to act and execute quickly. To succeed, it takes fewer people who can “think smart” but more people who can “act smart.” You know it. So, just do it.
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