On Field Enablement and Story Telling

Watch this video (the first 15 min­utes or so, you can stop after he plays the video clip talk­ing about how math­e­mati­cians think):

Before you watch it, write down these transformations:

  • Change ‘draw­ing’ to ‘story’
  • Change ‘math­e­mati­cian’ to ‘sales person’
  • Change ‘excel’ to ‘powerpoint’
  • Change ‘Adobe Illus­tra­tor’ to ‘Microsoft Word’
  • Change ‘write code’ to ‘cre­ate demo’

Now watch the video:

Draw­ing Dynamic Visu­al­iza­tions from Bret Vic­tor on Vimeo.

And, here’s the prob­lem in field enable­ment. Sales peo­ple are try­ing to exter­nal­ize a story that artic­u­lates value. Field enable­ment gives 3 tools — long word doc­u­ments, long pow­er­points, and prod­uct demos. It’s as lim­it­ing to our story-telling as using excel, illus­tra­tor, or cus­tom code to draw visualizations.

Sales­peo­ple need con­text and rela­tion­ships to form mean­ing, to inter­nal­ize the mean­ing so that they can con­nect authen­ti­cally with cus­tomers and prospects. It’s just like the prob­lem with math edu­ca­tion in the video (within the video)… chil­dren are taught using sym­bol­ism that’s hardly used by the top 100 cre­ative math­e­matic thinkers. Our sales peo­ple are taught using a sym­bol­ism that’s sim­ply not prac­ti­cally useful.

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  1. says

    So that means that the best peo­ple for the job of sell­ing tools and ser­vices are prac­ti­tion­ers with real-life expe­ri­ence. This, and some­one else spoke about the 10,000 hours to mas­tery, allows them to cre­ate con­text, even when the client doesn’t see it.

    A pure sales per­son can­not do this, and hon­estly, most of the sales guys I have seen are use­less in that regards — for mul­ti­ple rea­sons: lack of inter­est, their incen­tives, lack of train­ing, what­ever. All those mea­sures don’t replace first-hand experience.

    From what i have seen in the past, most sales peo­ple are used to fol­low inter­nal processes, and man­age trans­ac­tions. The bet­ter ones under­stand the rela­tion­ship game, but still strug­gle in the scop­ing exer­cise — from assem­bling a BOM of the tools, to iden­ti­fy­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties and defin­ing a solu­tion approach.

    • says


      I’m not sure what your point is. I’m not com­ment­ing on sales peo­ple, but on enabling sales people.

      Most com­pa­nies I’ve worked with have no clue how to do it well. Either they think they need to teach peo­ple how the prod­uct works, or they need to pro­vide lots of tables and charts about things like tar­get per­sona, and com­pet­i­tive fea­ture comparisons.

      Few, if any, do a good job of teach­ing sales­peo­ple to tell a story so that the cus­tomer can inter­nal­ize the value of enter­ing a rela­tion­ship with the vendor.

      Peo­ple learn best through explor­ing rela­tion­ships, dynam­i­cally, not by read­ing through 150 page pow­er­points. (And, I’m not say­ing the pow­er­points have no value either, they have their place.)


  2. says

    A few years ago there was a phase in our com­pany of doing white­board train­ing — field peo­ple got to prac­tice sur­viv­ing with­out a ppt — go in the lions den, absorb the con­text, and tell their story, using white­boards as visual aid (adjusted to the cus­tomers con­text).
    I’m not sure how good the train­ing was, and for how long it held, but I remem­ber being impressed with the approach.

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