Fable Friday: Anna Karenina and a lesson from Tolstoy, make joint calls!

Leo Tolstoy can either delight you or drive you nuts when he goes off on some 50 page riff on issues that were important to him, such as politics, war, culture, society, the roles of nobility, the peasants and the military.  But as the reader you learn a lot about how he felt about these topics and gain insights into the way people lived in the middle of the 19th century.  There is much to reflect on in these side passages, and then Tolstoy eases you back into the story.

He does this in “Anna Karenina” many times and one of these “riffs” involves the estate owner Constantine Levin, who strives mightily and continually to do his best as a farmer and to be a benevolent leader of his people.

Levin is aware that it is time for the hay to be mowed on his vast estate. There is much to do and it must be done quickly, so Levin decides to work alongside the peasants with a scythe, do all the tasks they do, mow and rake the hay, tie it in bundles, put it in the wagons and store it.

The day is long and hot, the work arduous, and as evening comes, Levin is finally done, and he lies on the ground looking up at the sky. His shirt is soaked through with perspiration and he smells the newly mown hay and watches the sun set.  A feeling of ecstasy that he cannot comprehend falls upon him.

But in contrast, the peasants are not ecstatic.  They are not used to having the master work alongside them, questioning how they do things and showing them what must be done. It is their job, they believe, to take care of the hay.  Having the estate owner in the field upsets what they believe to be the right and natural order of how to do work.

When I read the passage I thought of how in our modern business world we avoid making joint calls in much the same way.  Let’s look at three important reasons to make joint calls:

1)       You want your boss to accompany you on a call to a customer, to show the customer that his business is important.  The boss and the customer then do all the talking and the relationship is solidified.

2)      You bring a product expert with you to explain derivatives or wealth services because you don’t understand them and need product support to address a need you uncovered.

3)      Your boss asks to make calls with you from time to time to observe your performance and coach you to improve.

What’s that third one, you say? My boss just wants to come along and watch me work so he can help me get better?  Yes, that’s it.  It’s probably the most important of the three, and yet it’s the one that is most often lacking among sales teams.

If you are a sales manager, how many joint calls do you make with your less-experienced relationship managers, solely for the purpose of helping them improve?  You can see that if you do this with all of them, they will become more productive much sooner, and that in turn will help you and the team meet your goals.

So take a lesson today from Leo Tolstoy.  Get out among the people, watch them work, lend a hand and help them improve.  It’s a good way to…

Think Like Your Customer

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About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

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