Why Learning Beats Knowing in B2B Sales Productivity

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In Rookie Smarts, Liz Wiseman explains why people often perform at their peak whenever they’re doing something for a first time. You show up to do a job. You know you know so little, and need to know so much. You arrive with the humility to admit you don’t know as much as you need to, and a desperation to figure things out. The combo forces you to find and leverage resources around you. It’s a ‘learner’s advantage’ and one which, in my view, perfectly suits the complexities and uncertainties of B2B sales, today.



Wiseman contends that working environments are increasingly Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous [VUCA]. It’s a military acronym commonly for environments that require heightened awareness and situational adpetness. Such environments are where conditions can change quickly, mistakes are easily made, and surprises lurk around every corner. Smart rookies avoid this trap. They do so by combining their ‘rookie smarts’ with iterative cycles of experimentation. It’s a mad dash to improve their own performance. They take small steps, quickly and smartly, then seek feedback and coaching. It’s hyper-learning with a 5X effect. She notes that ‘smart rookies’ typically bring 5X more expertise to a problem than a single expert. Because they reach out to 5X more experts for help.

This combination of iterating and seeking help is how top-performing new hires succeed. Facing a lack of certainty, they bring an abundant curiosity to their work. It matters. She quotes clinical psychologist Henry Cloud: “certainty is one of the weakest positions in life. Curiosity is one of the most powerful. Certainty prohibits learning, curiosity fuels change.”



Learning occurs deeply and quickly when we’re desperate for the skills and knowledge being learned. The implication: what’s needed is less aspiration for learning and more desperation for learning. It’s not something to schedule and do at an appointed time; it’s something to do ‘in situ’. When it’s needed. Because the option of not learning has a much bigger downside.

Wiseman’s perspectives are a call for leaders to leverage the ‘rookie smarts’ on their teams. The reward? Better outcomes. Achieved from “expert networks, greater agility, and tireless improvisation.” It’s a prescription for accelerated learning. In my view, it’s needed. To conquer the compexities and uncertainties in B2B sales that otherwise strain day-to-day productivity. Know less; learn more.



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