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Chris Lytle

By: Chris Lytle, Content Developer

I was talking with a sales manager last week and I mentioned “The Bannister Effect.” When that was met by silence, I backtracked and asked him if he know what “The Bannister Effect” is.

When I was a little boy, I had a book called The 100 Greatest Sports Heroes. One of my favorites stories was about the British miler Roger Bannister—he broke the barrier—the 4-minute mile barrier.

For nine years the world record in the mile stood at 4:01.4. Some speculate that the “conventional wisdom of the day” maintained that a man would die if he put out any more effort. Bannister’s own memoir blames the disruption in training brought about by WWII as the major culprit.

Once Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile on May 6, 1954, it only took another month and a half for John Landry to break the 4-minute mile barrier and Roger Bannister’s record.

By the end of 1957, 16 runners had broken the 4-minute mile.

“The Bannister Effect” is the phenomenon of one person showing others that it can be done and, thus, prompting others to believe and achieve.

I market a product called Instant Sales Training. Each week, I create a short audio “knowledge bite” that sales managers can download and send to their salespeople ahead of the sales meeting. I also create some discussion questions so the manager can hold an engaging sales meeting.

I suggest that the managers assign the content three to five days before the sales meeting. That way, a salesperson or two might have implemented an idea with a customer or prospect and have a story to share about it.

A salesperson with a success can share it and the others can see that it can be done. “If she can get results with this idea, so can I,” they reason.

Michael Bosworth and Ben Zoldan encourage this kind of sharing and story telling in What Great Salespeople Do.

They write, “Sales reps can learn a lot from each other’s stories as well. Firefighters have long understood the value of such peer-to-peer story sharing. Every night, in firehouses across the country, firefighters take part in a tradition where they share stories about their day. It’s more than just a social ritual; it’s a means by which firefighters learn from one another’s successes and failures and build institutional memory within their departments. The goal: to make sure every single member of the firehouse has the same level of situational knowledge. With lives at stake, the 87/13 rule simply is not an option in the firefighting profession.

“Sales managers can foster similar peer-to-peer learning by encouraging reps to share stories (including dumb ass selling moments) with each other. One of our clients actually replaced his weekly sales meeting with what he calls “The Monday Morning Campfire.” Instead of focusing on forecasts and pipelines, he goes around the horn and has each of his team members share a story about a recent selling experience. The young reps learn from the old reps, the old reps learn from the young reps, and because the lessons come through storytelling, they’re much more likely to be remembered and taken to heart than anything learned from a sales manual. Since our client implemented the campfire meetings, attendance is up, morale is up, and his salespeople are more engaged. The meetings also promote a culture of story and reinforce the way he wants his sellers to communicate with buyers.”

I call mine “the honors class in selling” sales meeting. It’s peer-to-peer experience sharing and story telling. You’ve got to come to it with an opinion and be willing to share an experience.

Someone always has to go first. Roger Bannister lead the way in breaking the 4-minute mile. Today high school students have run sub four minute miles and the world record is 3:43. 17 seconds lower than Bannister’s barrier buster.

Who on your sales team is showing that it can be done?

My new book is a compilation of 23 of my weekly sales meeting scripts. Need some meeting ideas? Check it out here.

Reprinted by permission

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