Sharpen the Saw
Do you recognize this short story?
One day, a man walking through the forest came upon a logger (lumberjack) who was sawing away at a large tree and not getting very far at all. The man approached the logger as he stopped for a moment to rest and observed that the logger would get further if he sharpened his saw. The logger replied that he just didn’t have the time to sharpen the saw because he was busy cutting down the tree, and went back to his work.
This story is from Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the 7th Habit, Sharpen the Saw. We learn that if the logger had taken the time to sharpen his saw, he would have achieved his goal in a more effective manner. Instead, he chose the status quo.
Often times, we learn something, practice it for a while, gain success and then go back to doing things the old way, simply because it’s easy or we’re tired. This is the best time to sharpen your saw. Find ways to do things differently. Add a new skill to your portfolio, refresh an old skill that was working for you, attend a conference that offers a fresh perspective, take a class, read a book… and so on. If you’re not sharpening your saw, you’re not growing, and if you’re not growing, you’re dying.
We did an informal poll of a group of salespeople, asking them what they did on a day-to-day basis to keep their messaging skills sharp. Here are some of their ideas:
1) Mix it up. Some sales techniques you learn can seem cheesy, or even intimidating at first. Try them anyway. They’re only cheesy when executed poorly, and sounding the same as everyone else is far scarier. Prospects will appreciate that you sound different from everyone else.
2) Teaching is learning. Explaining a concept to someone else is one of the most effective ways to ingrain that concept in your own mind. Look for the opportunity to coach one of your peers on their messaging.
3) Peers are the toughest critics. When’s the last time you gave a sales presentation to your manager, or a fellow salesperson? That can be far more nerve-racking than presenting to your prospects. But your toughest critics are your best coaches. Volunteer to do a practice run of one of your upcoming sales presentations on one of your weekly team sales calls.