March 18

How Much Is Hubris Costing Your Sales Organization?


Bob Dylan penned the popular song, “The Times They Are A-Changin.’”  While the song was originally written around changes in society, the lyrics below pretty much sum up the past year for sales professionals and most businesses.

And you better start swimmin’

Or you’ll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin’

Sales organizations that aren’t a-changin’ will sink like a stone because the changes aren’t over.

Successful sales organizations that can flex and change recognize their super power is the ability to learn and un-learn. It’s the key to changing and remaining relevant to customer needs and wants. They’re good at letting go of what doesn’t work so they can lean into what is working.

Simple to say, so hard to do.

Let’s take a look at two reasons human beings - salespeople - avoid change and learning.    

#1. Hubris. Jim Collins, author of “How The Mighty Fall,” did a terrific job of identifying the five stages of decline to which every institution is vulnerable. Hubris is the first stage discussed in the book.

He wrote that success can lead to arrogance, which results in forgetting what made a company - or person - successful in the first place. My former boss and mentor often said, “Be careful that you don’t start believing your own press releases.” He was teaching us to avoid hubris. 

Think about a motivated, new salesperson. She’s open to learning and trying new things. She seeks advice and coaching from others and applies the advice. She works hard, doing whatever it takes to succeed.

These habits and mindset create sales success.

Sometimes, with this success, two troublemaking twins show up: Arrogance and complacency.   

“I’m a top producer. No need to change my approach.”

“Look at my track record. Why fix it if it ain’t broken?”

“I’ve been at this game a long time. I know what to do.”

The eagerness to learn erodes because hubris is replacing the salesperson’s desire to change, grow and improve.  As desire and learning decreases, so do sales results.

Time to un-learn to learn.

During your next one-on-one coaching session, help your salesperson avoid the curse of complacency by improving their self-awareness around the slow erosion occurring around learning and improving.

What did you used to do, which you no longer do, that created consistent sales success?”  

“What’s making you so resistant to change? What’s do you think is behind that?”

“What do you need to learn to remain relevant in your customer’s eyes?”

Help your sales team to embrace the concept of un-learning to learn. Because:  

Times are a-changin’

#2. Accept the reality. Change and mastery of new skills and habits are difficult. Our world is filled with social media influencers touting their secret formulas for “losing 20 pounds in a week” or “become a gazillionaire by the time you are 12.”

It’s easy to believe this fake news and give in to the pull of instant gratification. It’s human nature to avoid the hard work involved in making changes. For example, in sales:

  • Your current value propositions are outdated and don’t resonate with the prospect’s business pains. You need to design new sales messaging which is work.
  • You’re hearing new objections from new decision-makers during sales calls but out of habit, you respond with old, outdated responses. It’s work to identify objections and create new responses.

Successful sales teams are constantly un-learning to learn. They have to release “old stuff” to make room for the “new stuff.”

The great news is that salespeople can change and master new skills. Teach your team members to tap into that powerful brain and apply the concept of self-directed neuroplasticity. The research is clear that when you repeatedly think and practice a new skill, you will form new neural pathways in your brain. It’s called Hebb’s Law. Cells that fire together, wire together. Your sales team is capable of developing new skills, responses and habits.  

Sales is a-changin’. Help your sales team master the ability to un-learn and learn.

Good Selling!


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