Training is Key, Any Way You Slice It

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In Japan, sushi is not simply considered food but rather it commands such a special place in the culture that it typically takes more than 10 years of study and training to become a sushi chef. Put in context, that is a longer period than is required to become a medical doctor. On the surface, placing a thin slice of raw fish on top of a small ball of rice does not seem all that difficult. However, to the Japanese and those that follow the tradition to learn the art of being a sushi chef, it is a lifetime journey of mastery and not something that can be learned in just a few years.

An aspiring sushi chef is considered an apprentice for upwards of five years. And by the term apprentice, I mean that during that time they do very little in the actual preparation of sushi other than watch. In fact, students start at the very bottom, cleaning and doing the most undesirable work. Once they have proven their usefulness and devotion, they may move forward with small tasks like preparing the rice. Step-by-step, the students get closer to actually becoming a full-fledged sushi chef—but this is only after learning each step along the way with precision and perfection.

Knowing this information gives one an appreciation for the old-fashioned work ethic that is so important to success. While the type of training I described above would be beneficial to most every career, salespeople should particularly take note of the aspect of lifelong learning.

While there are no doubt countless restaurants that employ sushi chefs that have completed far less training and have far less experience than 10 years, the more important lesson is that it is unmistakable when one is dining in a restaurant that is headed by a master sushi chef. In that same vein, it is very obvious to the buyer on the other end of the phone receiving a sales solicitation, and even more unfortunate to receive an in-person presentation, by a salesperson who is poorly trained and lacks motivation other than the ability to get by for another day.

When I began my career in sales, I was very much the apprentice for almost two years before I was out in the field actively making sales calls. My company made sure that each sales executive attended a formal training program that lasted six months. The following 18 months we spent as junior reps. Today, I am a product of that training, and I’m still learning every day. For those who manage a sales team, you likely already value and recognize the importance of training and experience. If you haven’t yet, make that a priority and you will see the benefits accrue. 

Rob Wardlaw is the associate publisher of Gulfshore Business magazine, robw@gulfshorebusiness.com. 

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