The Sharing Economy: Paying it Forward in 2017

We’re all familiar with the sharing economy. There’s sharing your home (airbnb) or just your couch (couch surfing). You can share a car parked nearby (zipcar) or have a complete stranger share his car and drive you anywhere (Uber). These services let us share commodities, space, and other, under-utilized resources. But what happens when we start sharing knowledge? This next step for the sharing economy has enormous potential value.

In his Harvard Business Review article, Michael Porter explains the concept of “shared value.” Briefly stated, in addition to focusing on profits, companies need to focus on contributing something back to society. Leaders should consider all aspects of the company and how it impacts society. There’s an obligation for organizations to contribute, whether that contribution is environmental, social, or economic.

Porter’s discussion is focused on giving back to society as a company. Giving back on an individual basis usually takes the form of mentoring. Senior executives do this through programs like SCORE to help small businesses. As experts in their field, these volunteers coach entrepreneurs in specific areas, like marketing or sales.

As they share their expertise, these mentors also learn about the entrepreneurs’ innovative solutions—expanding their own knowledge and potentially finding future partners. It’s a two-sided relationship. The mentors listen to and guide the entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs apply the techniques immediately in their businesses.

This concept is applied in different ways in different industries. But the goal is the same: to give back or “pay it forward.” (Think about it. What knowledge do you have that you can share?)

Mentorship programs like this—established or unofficial—are relatively common among business leaders and budding tech entrepreneurs. But they are far less common in one vital business area: sales coaching. Compared with entrepreneurial/tech ventures, the sales field is particularly competitive and siloed. Practical, mutual sharing is scarce. But sales technique is an area that could really benefit from openly sharing knowledge between veterans and newcomers. For both sides, mentoring and coaching represents potential shared value.

Sales coaching veterans who take time to share their knowledge and experience with budding sales representatives help both the sales coaches and the mentees. Some are already doing this enthusiastically—and effectively—like John Barrows and Tony Robbins. Many more sales trainers and trainees will discover the value of this type of sharing economy in 2017. It’s a shift in the sales coaching and sales training industry that will impact people in the field in ways we’re only beginning to see.

If you’re engaged in sales (who isn’t?) then ask yourself a question. What are the ways I can “pay it forward” in 2017?

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