You know the question that most people ask me on LinkedIn?
Which sales books do you recommend to read and which sales conference do you think is worth attending.
Now, anybody who knows me knows that I’m not a huge fan of sales books, let alone conferences. Why?
Because to date, most of the books that I have read are very often more theoretical (what should work), than practical (what does work).
A lot of the conferences that I’ve attended over the course of my career have had a lot of WOW not a lot of HOW.
I don’t really blame the speakers, they have anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes to deliver a perfect keynote. To fit actionable, tactical strategy in a 45-minute talk, the topic would need to be pretty narrow.
Thus, to provide value to as many people as possible, speakers need to focus more on tools and conceptual takeaways for the audience to connect to their needs, instead of detailed processes and strategies that are ready to be implemented as is.
Speakers are left giving a lot of wow, but very little how. When the audience returns home, they have so much caught up to do that they never make the necessary connections to implement the information they learned to their business.
Most of the conference’s motto is that you should leave with at least one idea. Even if you can leave with one idea, I don’t like the idea of sitting through hours of irrelevant content to find it.
That’s not a very effective use of your time. I’d much rather scan the content lineup and invest my time listening to a specific podcast on the topics that interest me or reaching out to an expert to walk me through what I need to do for my business.
Most of the talking points tend to revolve around basic “hacks” turned into complex strategies. Or meticulously edited version of events of how that particular achievement in question came into existence.
I utterly hate the inspirational but un-actionable content that is thrown at everyone on the keynotes. Granted, it gets your blood pumping but it’s not something that you can go and implement in your process and see results.
In most cases, the things that do work for company A might don’t work for Company B.
Now, some people might disagree with me and that’s fine. There are a lot of good conferences and sales books out there that genuinely help people get more knowledge or help solve their pain points. I’m not advocating against reading sales books or attending conferences.
So, what’s missing?
What I want to talk about is the dogma that has been set when it comes to the way we acquire knowledge in sales. A set rule that only reading books and attending flashy sales and marketing conferences somehow will help you close more deals and make your sales team more efficient.
Somebody once told me:
Hard work is not sexy. Championships are not won in arenas nor in those 90 minutes of the game. They are won by being consistent, dedicated and disciplined off-field grinding, when nobody is watching.
What most people don’t do (or forget to) after attending a conference or reading a book, is execution.
And that right there is the missing element. At some point, you just have to stop reading books, purchasing new tools, setting up sales processes and get right down to selling. Writing emails, making phone calls, following up and that is how things actually get done.
Accumulating knowledge is great, but if that knowledge does not transform into action then it loses its relevance pretty fast. The perfect ratio of consuming knowledge/content and executing on it should be 1 : 3. Meaning if you spent an hour listening to a podcast regarding improving your sales demos, then you should spend at least 3 hours executing on the knowledge you just acquired.
Nobody can hardwire you to execute, you have to do it yourself.
Reading an endless stack of books without ever taking action on what you learn is the ultimate waste of time because it gives you the illusion of hard work and progress without requiring any real effort.
So, in this blog post, I will break down two different sections, acquiring knowledge and executing. And possibly, help you prioritize what you need to do and which course of action to take.
Let’s start with acquiring knowledge
There are so many different ways to get knowledge these days. Thousands of hours of content is available on channels like youtube, you can listen to an endless stream of podcasts. Don’t even get me started on articles.
Are you familiar with the term, GIGO?
That’s Garbage In Garbage Out.
That’s how you’ve got to look at the way you consume knowledge. Quality of knowledge going in your system equals to better quality ideas flowing out. However, a very important part of this equation is how much of that knowledge you get in your system.
Eating a kilo of steak is not suddenly going to make you muscular. It takes patience, dedication at the gym, clean diet, moderate eating of protein (steak in this case) and plenty of rest. Meaning a lot of elements need to come together in order for you to see results.
Now, getting the knowledge is just the first part of the equation. You don’t have to attend four conferences and read 12 books a year in order to be able to do that.
There is no one size fits all. If your company can afford and gives you the opportunity to attend a conference, it’s definitely a good thing. You get to hear other people’s opinions and learn new ways of how to go about doing your job.
But attending a conference without a plan of action or reading a sales book and not making use of that knowledge is just asinine. It will give you something to talk about in a group full of salespeople, but do you really know if the stuff book really works? you don’t until you try it and see it for yourself.
I, myself hit roadblocks all the time in my job. Be it be a lack of email ideas, or I’m stuck with the demo script, perhaps my follow-ups need a refresh. Generally, when I’m lacking good ideas I turn to a source that can give me the fastest answer.
Mostly, that is resolved by a quick google search. Tons of resources are out there to take advantage off at the click of the button and you can solve the problem at hand.
You have to analyze yourself, what kind of issues you’re facing? What course of action would be the best one to take in that particular case? And, if that the best use of your time?
With all the knowledge and background noise out there, it’s best to look at the issue at hand and see which action is more appropriate to help resolve it.
Looking for email templates? a simple google search should suffice.
Looking for VCs? Probably best to attend events where they are all there.
Looking to create a pitch deck? A good podcast might help
Want to become a better manager? Perhaps try reading a good book about management.
You have to match your roadblock at hand with the appropriate response. Sales books are not going to answer everything for you and conferences require a lot of your investment. Not just of money but your time as well.
Now, on to the Execution
Look, no matter how you acquire knowledge. It will all come down to executing it. You can spend thousands of dollars at a sales conference and be inspired or spend 5 minutes on a google search. It all comes down to what you do next that really matters.
Basics will always win. Those emails, calls and social media pings. Sure, strategies might change a bit since sales are evolving but it all comes down to covering those cadences.
I’ve seen people take this to an extreme as well (myself included). Constantly working and trying to get better and throwing hours at the problem thinking it will vanish due to all that “hustle” and hard work. It does not.
Try to achieve some sort of balance. Put some tunes on while driving, you don’t have to listen to a podcast to maximize your effort. People get burnt out when they take things to extremes.
This 24/7 hustle mantra is a sure-shot way of putting yourself into an early grave.
Yeah, I know Gary Vee does it. He also has a content team that spews out content round the clock for him, manages his social media, lines out speaking gigs for him. Not to take the credit away from him but getting to the top of your game is a marathon and not a sprint. It didn’t just happen overnight for Gary, much like for anyone else. It takes time, patience and a whole lot of persistence to get to the top. Slow and steady wins the race!
I love boxing and working out. I go to the gym 5-6 days a week. I eat relatively clean, meaning no junk food, sodas, or sweets. I ate the same lunch, chicken breast, buckwheat with broccoli for 2 years straight. Every single day!!!
Guess what happened? I never want broccoli nor buckwheat to be in my vicinity, ever!!
Consistency is good but when you take things too far as I did, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Moderation is the key here.
I love reading about how other companies went from $X ARR to $X K ARR in 12 months. How they built a powerhouse of an inside sales team in less than 6 months.
It makes me want to replicate what those companies are doing but every company is different. Reading is definitely fun, however, what most people miss out on is the execution. It comes down to actually doing something about the situation you’re in and trying to improve it for the better.
That requires putting the knowledge to work. If it does not work, go back to the drawing board see what went wrong and try to re-work it. Rather than looking for another solution, try to keep working the problem at hand with a different approach.
It’s also very important to know the distinction between strategy and tactics.
Strategy focuses on doing the right things; tactics focus on doing things right. They are highly interrelated, especially when it comes to sales execution. Many companies have deployed brilliant strategies and still missed their number. This is due to poor execution. Companies who fall into this category will likely survive but will find growth difficult. Counter this with having the wrong strategy. When companies deploy ineffective strategies, they die. Their ability to execute simply determines how quickly they will die.
The alignment between strategy and tactics creates sustainable growth year after year. The execution of those tactics is where the magic happens. It’s one thing to have a great playbook. It’s another to actually be able to run the plays effectively. This is the very essence of execution.
But isn’t investing in yourself a good thing?
Hell yes! it is. Reading quality sales books and attending conferences is a great way to invest in yourself. But the best way is by executing what you learned. Trying different things out and seeing what sticks.
You don’t have to attend a 3-day conference to learn “new ways to optimize your sales funnel”. Or read a new book about building up your sales funnel. Instead, you can ask a sales professional who can help you by looking at your funnel and give feedback.
Start with what you have. Look at the data points, see what’s been working for you and where exactly is the drop-off and then laser in on that section and try different things to see what works.
At the end of the day, it will all come down to actually keeping your head down and executing. Make a game plan, plan out your steps and go after them. No sales book or conference in the world can give you the magic wand that can solve all your problems. It starts with small changes that give the maximum impact.
Should you decide to attend a conference, take a look at this list.