In the last few weeks, I have been confronted with two posts on LinkedIn, both suggesting that there is no value in reading books, least of all books written by people in their fifth decade of life. I was more offended by the advice that one shouldn’t read books than I was the public display of ageism, especially considering recent events.
A few days later, an internet troll attacked me on Twitter (where else can you find unrestrained rage, anger, and vitriolic attacks). After asking me whether I believed it is vital to develop relationships in sales (something about which I have strong feelings), he attacked me for not understanding modern sales, citing his personal experience. In one tweet, he disclosed that he follows no “sales trainers” and that he has never read a single book on his chosen profession (a profession he is going to teach others now).
Our interaction ended when I challenged him to be a better troll by not being so boring (there is nothing worse than a dull, repetitive, banal troll). He replied by telling me to “walk my talk.” I shared with him that Umberto Eco, the semiotician, literary critic, and novelist wrote that having a reasonable thesis about something requires reading at least thirty books. Still, an original argument requires something closer to three hundred books on the subject. I asked my troll to list the thirty books that shaped his thinking on sales, and he has since gone missing.
Umberto Eco died with no less than thirty-thousand books in his library. When people would visit him, they would often ask him whether he had read all of the tens of thousands of books on his shelves. Eco would tell them the books that he hadn’t read are more important than the books he’d already finished, calling the unread books his anti-library.
What was unknown to him was of greater value to the future than the knowledge he had already acquired.
What You Don’t Know
One way to think about the core idea here is that what you already know has resulted in you becoming the person you are now, and has allowed you to generate your present results, good or not-so-good. This idea being true, producing better results means becoming the person who is capable of doing so. The person that comes after the person you are right now should be a better version that is transformed (even though there are plenty of examples to the contrary when people regress). Becoming that person requires two changes: 1) What you know and believe, and 2) What you do and how effectively you do it.
What you don’t know is more valuable than what you already know. What you believe is the most substantial part of your current results. Transformational breakthroughs come from new knowledge, new beliefs, and new actions. Because something is unknown to you, it doesn’t mean that it is a mystery to everyone. Much of what you need to know is already known and documented in books, videos, and audio programs. Inside a book, you will find what other people know and believe, and in actionable books, you will discover what actions the author took—and recommends to you—to produce results.
Without exploring what is known, you deprive yourself of the opportunity to grow. More still, by avoiding ideas with which you disagree, you are sure to miss the insights that would help you see things through a higher resolution lens.
Doing Things Differently
When people or organizations get stuck, it’s because they don’t change what they know and believe and refuse to change what they are doing. You cannot become something more than you are now by continuing to do the same things you have always done.
When someone believes something you don’t, takes actions you refuse to take, and produces better results than you are creating, you have all the evidence you need to justify an examination of their knowledge, their beliefs, and their actions. The idea here is called modeling, where you find someone who already has the result you want and model what they believe and what they do.
Stubbornly clinging to what you know, believe, and do is how you end up stuck. Only you can get yourself unstuck by being willing to do the hard work of acquiring new knowledge (especially around ideas you resist looking at because it conflicts with what you already know), new beliefs (especially the ones you find revolting because it invalidates what you already believe), and new actions (especially the ones you don’t want to take because it means doing things differently, and doing hard things).
Here a list of books you might pick up to help you grow and transform:
- Art Sobczak’s Smart Calling: Make sure you get the third edition with new content. If you make calls, you must read this. It will improve your results.
- Mark Hunter’s A Mind for Sales: Arguably Mark’s best book to date, and one that will help you take care of your mindset.
- Jeb Blount’s Virtual Selling: Jeb has written the handbook you need to use video in your sales process. Go here to get the Kindle version.
- Jeff Shore’s Follow Up and Close the Sale: You will have to preorder this one.
- Jeff Bajorek’s When It Goes Sideways: Jeff’s little, actionable book for the post-crisis time in which we find ourselves.
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Filed under: Sales