Are You Selling or Learning and Selling?

November 10, 2006

People just don’t know what to do with us. We get all sorts of reactions when we tell them that “information literacy” and Internet search skills can streamline their business and increase their sales. Most people are indifferent. Some feel threatened. Many think they already “know-it-all.” And a few (too few) are genuinely interested. Let’s take a look at someone in that last, “genuinely interested,” category.

Colleen Stanley teaches selling skills here in Denver at Sales Leadership, Inc (www.salesleadershipdevelopment.com). She looks, at first blush, like a lot of other sales speakers and trainers. But, she’s different. She’s interested in the world around her – not just in her own particular brand of sales approach. And, she even talks about the Internet and its effect on sales. Believe me, that’s rare.

Lately, we’ve been going to a lot of sales presentations and reading a lot of selling magazines, blogs and newsletters. We almost never hear anything about how the explosion of online information is radically changing the world of selling. We’ve written other articles about this phenomenon in The Selling Power without the Search Power and Is Anyone Doing Sales Training for the New Economy? (Click on the titles and you can read the full articles).

Last week, we attended one of Colleen Stanley’s executive briefings called “Getting Face Time with the Decision Makers.” This two-hour session included a look “at the impact of the Internet on professional selling” and addressed “why old selling techniques don’t work with today’s buyer.”

We won’t summarize her content in this article except to say it’d be worth your time and money to go to any of the classes or briefings she offers. What we want to do here is look at Colleen herself, and what she teaches, to see why she responds to our ideas with “genuine interest.”

First, she starts by being informed. In her training session, Colleen told us that the old selling model was based upon product knowledge. Today, that’s not enough. The new selling model must take into account that “because of the Internet, your customer may know as much or more about your product as you do.” We cannot tell you how many sales trainers we’ve listened to or read lately that seem to have missed that small fact that the Internet has been invented. She hasn’t.

Second, she understands that good selling skills have to do with things like “critical thinking skills” and “brain dust” (her term for ideas and intangibles). She seems to have noticed that we’ve all moved into an information economy where creatively using that information will become the next critical selling skill.

Which brings us to her third trait – she’s doesn’t already think she knows it all. This is the rarest trait of all. We understand that we teach something new and different, and that it can sometimes be a bit threatening. Colleen is one of the few sales trainers who is not only unafraid of new ideas like ours, but is actively pursuing them.

What it comes down to is this. We see so many sales trainers who are simply not interested in learning new things. They’re only interested in telling – and selling. One of Colleen’s directions to us was, “If you don’t get a deal, by golly get a lesson learned.” She’s practicing what she preaches. Deal or no deal, she’s interested in the lessons she can learn. And that, we think, is the difference.

What about you? What about your employees? What about your business partners? Whether you like it or not, the world is changing and the future belongs to those who are willing to learn. As Colleen would say, are you cultivating your brain dust – or just letting the dust gather?


  1. I can’t agree more that the internet and knowing how to use it “effectively” can help sales. I agree with Colleen, which would not be surprising since I trained, coached and mentored her as my associate for almost 4 years.

    But I think one fundamental point is still being missed here. Sales is still and always will be about picking up the phone, or getting out of the car and making a “sales call” and interacting with a prospect live. I haven’t met an Owner, President of a company, or V.P.of Sales that doesn’t also think this. They agree also with using the internet as I do.

    However,I’m finding that too many salespeople are resisting these behaviors because as we know, no one likes to make cold calls, and hoping that the internet will be thier panacea to making a sale is misguided and frankly lazy.I see salespeople that “hope” the internet will make the sale for them vs. talking live to a prospect. This reduces the chance of a “live” no and then facing rejection. This is often due to what we call “need for approval.” Salespeople don’t want to hear no beacuse their need for approval takes a hit. So maybe they think it’s easier hoping a website or the internet will make the sale for them.

    Selling has been and always will be still about phone-to-phone, or face-to face interaction with a prospect in many, many types of businesses. Don’t get me wrong. Don’t misunderstand my stance here. I am “not”, repeat not, saying do not enter the 21st century of technology. I welcome it and I use it.

    But in the almost 11 years I have owned a sales training business, and been fortunate to train thousands of salespeople,I still have tons of companies and individuals come to us and ask us how to “make the sales call” from the lead they got on the internet.

    My point? The internet is by itself not the answer to making a sale. USe it as an aid/tool to help. But,get out of the internet comfort zone and pick up the phone or get out of your office and away from that computer and in to your car and go visit a prospect.

  2. The fundamental point here, Gary, is the one you seem to be missing. This article is about how people respond to new ideas and whether they think they already know it all. Colleen doesn’t think she knows it all – and wants to learn more about the power of what we call “information intelligence.”

    We saw a bumper sticker recently that said, “Don’t Believe Everything You Think.” It seems you’ve got the answers. We don’t. And neither does Colleen. This blog is all about the power of learning more and the curiosity that drives that learning.

    Judy Sabah is a pretty well known speaker who just attended a couple of our workshops. Here’s what she had to say about them. “In the presentations with Michael and Sheryl my eyes were opened to how vast that universe is and how to tap into it and use it for greater profitability and quality of life.”

    Once again, I’d like to extend to you this offer – We’d like to learn more about your approach to selling. In return, we’ll show you how the Internet can explode your sales force’s abilities to make more sales. Deal?

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