Success In Selling -- It's Inside You

Jim Blasingame Ever wonder what makes a salesperson successful? Great communication skills? Great products? Great company behind the products? Hard work?

Yeah, all those things contribute to a successful sales career. But I believe the consistently successful salesperson is someone who understands himself and attempts to understand others. In the marketplace, those "others" are prospects and customers.

If you can do that, the understanding thing, you can be a successful salesperson even with a mediocre product, a marginal company, and less than spectacular communication skills.

Can't do without the hard work, though. I know a lot of successful salespeople, but I don't know any lazy ones.

Don't Let Your Ego Get In The Way
The key to knowing yourself lies in the ability to manage your ego. This means you can look inside and identify your weaknesses, then have the inner strength to defy your ego (which is telling you there's nothing wrong with you) and fix those weaknesses.

Knowing your customers begins to happen when you are able to suppress your ego (which wants to tell everyone everything you know), and allow the prospect or customer to tell you what they know, and what they need, first.

You've heard me say this before: You don't have the information that will make you successful, your customer does. The best ego food is success, which is served up when you are LISTENING, NOT TALKING to your customers.

The Realm of Consciousness
There are two levels of consciousness and two levels of unconsciousness which have been identified. I don't mean physically conscious or unconscious. I'm talking professionally conscious or unconscious.

Understanding these levels actually works for all of life's endeavors, but for the purpose of this discussion, I want to focus on them as they apply to salesmanship.

See if you can find yourself somewhere in the four levels. And just to take a little bit of pressure off of your ego, keep in mind that even the most professional, and the most successful salespeople have been all of these at one time or another. The important question is where are you right now?

1. Unconscious Incompetent, aka, DK2 (don't know, squared)
This person doesn't know that he doesn't know. A DK2 is totally clueless about his inability, and likely is quite blissful about it.

At different times in our lives we have all been DK2s. When you are learning something new, or when you find yourself in a new setting, you haven't yet learned the rules and protocols and, for a little while (hopefully), you don't know that you don't know. If you hear someone say, "Poor thing" or, "We can't take him anywhere", and you find out they are talking about you, you probably just did something that was DK2.

Professionally speaking, DK2 is a terminal condition for salespeople. "But", you are asking, with voice trembling, "If I don't know that I don't know, how do I cure myself of this malady?"

Answer: Mathematics. Doing the math on the sales numbers for a DK2 doesn't take very long because DK2s don't sell much. When the multiplier is 6% commission, and the multiplicand is a goose egg, the product of this calculation is also zip. If your sales commissions can be done while driving and talking on a cell phone to your mother, you might be a DK2. If you are working hard but success is not happening, and you don't know why, you might be a DK2.

"Oh, please! Stop me before I DK2 again," you plead. Don't fret. Help is available. Read on.

2. Unconscious Competent
When this person makes something happen he doesn't know why. Sometimes we call him gifted, or a natural talent. Sometimes we think he's just lucky. And for those of us who feel we have to work hard for everything, an Unconscious Competent can also be pretty annoying.

But don't be too quick to envy the Unconscious Competent. Remember, if you don't know how you got somewhere, that's another definition for lost. Talent, charm, and luck are handy when the market's good and things are going well. But when the market softens, the salespeople who last, including the talented, the charming, and the lucky, are the ones who have learned and practiced the fundamentals of professional selling.

Any kind of unconsciousness, competent or incompetent, is dangerous.

3. Conscious Incompetent
This person is incapable and he knows it. If you are looking for a salesperson to train, this is the profile to look for. No ego about what he thinks he knows. No preconceived notions. No resistance to your methods and strategies. A Conscious Incompetent can be an amorphous block of salesmanship clay waiting for the master sculptor of salespeople, the sales manager.

But be careful. Sometimes the Conscious Incompetent wallows in his condition as an excuse for non-performance. Conscious Incompetence should be a temporary condition on the way to a transition to the ultimate level of consciousness.

Any kind of lasting incompetence, conscious or unconscious, is professionally terminal.

4. Conscious Competent
This is the level of consciousness you want to attain. This person gets the job done and knows why.

You can't be a competent salesperson until you to have learned the fundamentals of professional selling. The conscious part comes when you can identify what happened when you succeed, and more importantly, are fully aware and take ownership of what happened when you fail.

Self Analysis
To become a Conscious Competent you have to be able to take a good look at yourself and do something called Self Analysis. Self Analysis is when you are conscious of, and think about what you do well and capitalize on it, and are conscious of, and think about what you don't do well and improve, or minimize it.

After every sales call, good or otherwise, a Conscious Competent replays the whole conversation in his mind:

"Darn, I missed a buying signal when she asked me about our delivery schedule. I won't do that again."

"Boy, I really hit pay dirt with that probe about their expansion plans. I think he now sees me as contributor to their expansion effort."

Self Analysis is not easy for many of us because in order to do it, we have to be able to manage our ego. Ego gets in the way of Self Analysis when it tells us we are successful because we are so smart. Ego also tells us it isn't our fault when we are unsuccessful, which turns a healthy Self Analysis opportunity into a whining pity party. Ego is where Self Analysis goes to die.

It's true that having a high IQ can contribute to your success, but that kind of thinking won't help you improve. Conscious Competent salespeople put their faith in the fundamentals, and blend in their smarts as a kind of secret weapon.

Remember, sometimes your brain can fail you, but the fundamentals will NEVER fail you. Conscious Competents know this.

Conscious Competents Don't Fear Failure
Try as they might, Conscious Competents know they won't get every sale. The reason they don't fear failure is because they know they have the fundamental selling tools to fix what went wrong and be better prepared for the next selling opportunity.

It's this willingness to analyze both success AND failure that makes a Conscious Competents the most consistently successful of all salespeople.

You have to Plan To Be Conscious
Unless your last sales call was so bad that you've now decided to become a backhoe operator, you're going to make another call soon. Which means that every post-call analysis is also a pre-call analysis.

Being conscious should be part of your selling plan of action. You're not doing Self Analysis because you like beating yourself up. You're doing it so that you will be better on the next call. So, after you have spent time analyzing your previous performance, focus this critique on your next call. Imagine how you will present yourself. Practice out loud the way you want to improve yourself. Plan to be conscious.

Competence is not some professional designation like a B.S. degree, CPA, or M.D., where once you have it, it's yours forever. Conscious Competence is more like a golf swing or a tennis backhand: You have to work on it all the time to maintain proficiency. And remember, you have to work on both components. You have to plan to be conscious, and work hard on maintaining professional competence.

Write this on a rock... A Conscious Competent is always aware of his strengths and weaknesses. A true professional never stops trying to improve. When you become a Conscious Competent Professional Salesperson success will come and play in your back yard.

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