Three-Part Series by Whitten & Roy Partnership
In this three-part series Dr. Roy Whitten and Scott Roy, founders and directors of international sales consultancy Whitten & Roy Partnership Ltd, share expert advice on transforming sales performance and managing sales teams. Based on their RACE framework, which means Results = Attitude + Competence + Execution®, the series begins by looking into aspects of managing attitude, while the two other parts, published in February and March, will be discussing competence and execution.
Developing sales people is a science and an art. It is also one of the most challenging, frustrating and exhilarating roads a sales leader can travel. And when you get it right, the rewards blow your mind – and fill your wallet.
Why is 'developing people' so hard?
This is one of the great questions of human history. It has been addressed by the leading thinkers in philosophy, theology, psychology and sociology, as well as new disciplines focusing on the field of transformative learning and change.
How people change has been Dr. Roy Whitten's particular passion for decades. During his doctoral work in the years 2001 to 2004, he was introduced to the new science of neuroplasticity: the study of how the brain rewires itself to pursue the aims of its owner. (For a compelling introduction to this fascinating subject, read The Mind and the Brain by Schwartz & Begley).
Neuroplasticity provides a scientific explanation of what previous thinkers, over centuries, have concluded about what, on the one hand, keeps people from changing and, on the other hand, what can be done to help them change.
What is the autopilot?
What seems apparent are these critical points: For the first few years of life, approximately from birth to five years of age, children are incredibly ‘neuroplastic’. They learn quickly and deeply, they fearlessly pursue what interests them, and they change naturally and easily.
But around the age of five, the brain develops a self-reflective capacity that starts interpreting what it senses in the world. It starts drawing conclusions about what it sees and hears. Then, at lightning speed, it makes predictions about what will happen, and these conclusions/predictions drive behavior that becomes automatic and habitual.
It is precisely this human capacity to operate on autopilot that is the source of many sales people's resistance to transforming the way they sell. Unfortunately, this is how habits develop and how they stay in place.
To “build your people” sales managers have to help their staff to turn off the autopilot so they can learn and integrate something new. Then, it is necessary to have something to teach them that is so intriguing and effective, that they want to make it work. In essence, it is the combination of getting off autopilot (if only for a few minutes at a time) and wanting something new that aims the brain to rewire itself.
And, of course, sales leaders have to do this first themselves if going to succeed in leading others to do it.
How to turn off the autopilot?
First of all, to be able to turn off the autopilot it is crucial for sales managers and salespeople to learn to be in the present moment and to access their own natural brilliance, the capacity they possessed during the ages 0 to 5. To build people's ability to generate outputs, in other words sales results, it is necessary to change their inputs.
The very first input to address is attitude. It is our firm belief that salespeople can indeed learn transformative skills that allows seeing possibilities, staying committed and having them wanting to do what the business needs them to do.
The technique we use to help sales teams to identify differences in attitude involves drawing a horizontal line across the middle of a piece of paper or on a whiteboard. As a next step, we ask them to describe the feeling of when their attitude is ‘up’, and then write those descriptions above the horizontal line. While definitions are subjective, being ‘up” generally is described as being committed, relaxed, objective, creative, enjoyable.
On the other hand, as we also ask to describe what attitude feels like when it is ‘down’, the descriptions we write below the horizontal line generally cover words like being frustrated, difficult, stuck, ineffective.
Our advice would be for sales managers to start using the phrases ‘above the line’ and ‘below the line’ with their teams to identify their attitude as they work. It is fascinating and rewarding to watch what happens as people simply become aware of their attitude while working.
How to shift attitude?
Once people become aware that their attitude is “below-the-line”, they will want to shift it. This takes a surprising amount of mental discipline.
First, it is necessary to move quickly into the ‘present moment’. To do this, Whitten & Roy Partnership teaches a technique called Split Attention, in which people continue to work while also focusing a part of their attention on something physical. For example, people continue a conversation in which they are engaged while at the same time becoming aware of their breathing of touching their fingers.
The result of Split Attention is a calmer and clearer state-of-mind. In this state, it is possible for people to determine their best next steps in response to the challenges and pressure of the moment.
People can know what they want and what they need to do to achieve it. With this “above-the-line” attitude, people become clearer of their goals and more proactive about their actions.
Of course, all these steps sound easy on paper, but in reality require effort to master.
It is reassuring to remember that we did that naturally in the first five years of life, and, with practice, we can reclaim this ability.
Dr Roy Whitten is an expert in attitude and its role in human performance. In over 40 years as a trainer, consultant and coach, he has personally coached and trained over 100,000 people. Scott Roy, an expert in the art of selling and sales management, built and ran large sales teams as well as founding a nationwide insurance company. In 2009 they both founded Whitten & Roy Partnership, which takes a radically different approach to sales training. Today operating in 19 countries around the world, Whitten & Roy Partnership is an international sales consultancy that helps leading global businesses and organisations in the developing world transform their sales results. For more information visit their website.