What has a schoolgirl’s French lesson got to do with Sales Enablement?

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16th November 2015

I was out playing golf with a pal last week, and he told me his daughter had been having problems with her French classes at school.  She wasn’t alone: it’s a sad fact, but in 2015 the study of languages has hit an all-time low in British schools. Leaving aside the antiquated teaching methods, our kids just don’t see the point of learning a foreign language because everybody speaks English these days.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. According to the CIA Fact Book, only 5.6% of the world’s population has English as their primary language, and quite frankly our kids are missing a trick here. Being able to make yourself understood in a foreign country is a rewarding experience, and holding a conversation with someone whose mother tongue is different from your own helps nurture a positive and sympathetic view of other cultures. As Nelson Mandela once said, ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

Sales enablement is no different. If you’re struggling to teach your sales team new skills, maybe it’s because you’re not speaking their language. If you’re still telling them about your unique capabilities and contrasting that with the competition, or banging on about ROI and getting them to map that to their customer’s budget forecast, then just like those outdated teaching methods, your approach is well past its sell-by date.

Every sales enablement program needs something in it to make it relevant, and it needs to be delivered in context.

My pal’s daughter got lucky. Her teacher found a way of making language learning relevant and fun by doing something that connected with her pupils’ emotional minds. How? She brought in French fashion magazines. Suddenly the kids could see the benefit of learning a foreign language, because the teacher showed them in a practical way how it connected to them and their world. They fell upon the new method with enthusiasm.

Want to do the same thing for your sales people? Try getting them to bring real-life sales opportunities along with them next time you run a sales enablement event. It could be something as simple as output from your Sales Force Automation, or a pre-course workbook they’ve been asked to complete. But make them come armed with a deal that’s important to them. Then apply the new skills or knowledge to their opportunity as part of the training. Show them how their chances of winning the deal would improve by putting your ideas into practice.

Make it real. Speak to them in their language, and you’ll connect with them in a way you’ve never done before. Just like the schoolgirl, your sales people will see your program as really relevant if they are working on something important to them. Their own sales opportunities.

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