If you think you know it all, you know nothing

This is my second of several blogs delving into the origin and meaning of my sales leadership “Words of Wisdom” catchphrases. You can access the complete list here http://stm360.com/2019/06/words-of-wisdom-for-sales-leaders/

The phrase “If you think you know it all, you know nothing” can be attributed to Laozi, an ancient Chinese philosopher. Laozi also came up with “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. He was one profound cat.

So why is “know it all, know nothing” applicable to sales leadership?

I’m going to cut right to the chase – HUMBLENESS and the willingness to learn are must have attributes for sales leaders. Without them, a sales leader will fail.

Early in my sales leadership career, I feigned I had all the answers. Of course I was clueless like most other new leaders. However my ego would not allow me to seek to counsel of others. My teams and results suffered for it, as did my career.

Almost out of desperation, I started reaching out to more experienced sales leaders. These conversations taught me how to handle typical sales leadership challenges – and my results improved immediately. The positive results fueled my drive to get better. I became a student of all things relevant to sales leadership, ranging from strategies, tactics, and best practices to understanding human nature. That’s when it started to click for me.

Fast forward to today in which my primary business is coaching sales leaders. The first step in the process is a conversation between the sales leader and I to determine if/how we can work together. Approximately nine out of ten times, I’m talking to people eager to learn and get to the next level. We agree on goals, a process, and then get after it.

One out of ten conversations goes like this “Yeah Mike I appreciate your experience and knowledge but everything we have discussed is stuff I already know and do well. I got it covered”. What is the common denominator of this group? They were referred to me by someone of authority such as a CEO or investor because they were underperforming. Even with the inevitable failure on the horizon, their minds aren’t open to learning.

Just think of how the sales environment has evolved (and the speed of change) in the past ten years – SaaS, high velocity sales, inbound, free trials, PLG, Millennials, etc. Impossible for a sales leader to keep up with – unless they open their minds to evolving as well.

I’m very fortunate to be part of the technology sales leadership community in the Boston area. We get together frequently on a formal basis and talk informally all the time. Our conversations range from “How would you do this?” To “Are you seeing this as well?”. In fact we always joke that the longer we do this (sales leadership) the more we realize we don’t know a damn thing.

Which is EXACTLY the attitude to have.

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