I was talking with the president of a company about his sales team. He said that he doesn’t send empty suits out to talk with his customers.

First, he only hires engineers to be his sales representatives.

And then they devote a year to the business before they are ever alone with a customer.

They spend time in each department, including working on the manufacturing line, quality control, estimating, bidding, shipping, billing, contracts, project management, and engineering.

Then they shadow seasoned reps and work on communicating with customers.

They also have coursework and tests along the way.

They study sales, customer service, presentation skills, and business etiquette.

They have an intense first year.

The opposite of this is how some organizations onboard people which I’ve heard called:

“here’s a map and the keys to the car.”

How would you like to be thought of as an empty suit?

Fill Your Suit

Here are some ideas about how we can fill our suits:

Build a library of the publications related to your industry. This includes manuals, textbooks, and magazines. Read from it for ten minutes every day. Every year. From now on.

Save links to the top thirty websites related to your industry. These could be from industry-related associations, suppliers, and competitors. Read these websites ten minutes each day.

Read books on self-development topics for ten minutes each day.

That’s only a half hour of reading that can be worked into your day in chunks.  And it will transform you into a “go to” person in your field. And you will have formed a positive habit.

You might get hooked on the process and extend your reading a few minutes a day until you are up to an hour. Now you are moving into the realm of the elite in your field.

Create your own Frequently Asked Questions list with answers. Type it out and keep it current.

Spend some time in various departments at your company. Make friends there who can help you.

Attend trade shows, make contacts, and collect literature to read about all things related to your business.

Attend presentations about your business. Take notes.

Find a mentor. Hire a coach. I can recommend some if you are looking.

I’ve heard a cute saying that an expert is one chapter ahead in the book. I don’t think that is good enough. I want my experts to be a few books ahead at least.

I’ve also heard “fake it until you make it” but we must be careful with that too. Make it soon.

How many layers deep is your knowledge? Can you take being scratched, or will your shallowness be evident?

We need to keep studying and making sure that we fill out our suits.

I’ve got to go. I have some reading to do.

We can do it.

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