“The most dangerous person, is a person who doesn’t know what they don’t know”
– A long forgotten old boss of mine

Can you sell? If so, does that mean that you can just go do it and never work on getting better? Is this really the best approach in a profession where in many cases improvement in performance can have an immediate and significant impact on your compensation? So why wouldn’t you work to improve skills? It seems like an obvious thing to do, but many people just don’t. Why? Let’s explore that through some analogies.

My (almost) seven year old son started taking tennis lessons this year. If you have ever watched a group of 4 very small boys take tennis lessons, you quickly find a lot of respect for the patience of the teacher. They do learn real tennis skills, but the teacher does a great job of keeping it interesting by alternating skills work with various games and physical conditioning activities (like pick up the cones without getting hit by the tennis balls he fires at them).

The funny thing is this: My son and I were talking about learning something (I can’t remember what), and I made an analogy to his tennis, to which he replied “yeah, well I already know how to play tennis”.

Now you must understand – about 20% of his lesson is spent actually hitting the ball forehand or back hand, but he has never done anything other than attempt to hit the ball over the net once after it was gently served up by his teacher. Not quite the image of Wimbleton that most of us associate with the actual playing of the game.

In spite of this fact, he believes that he knows how to play tennis. Kids are cute, right?

Unfortunately, all to many salespeople have the same misperception about their sales skills. They may have found some random success during their career, maybe even a lot, but that does not mean that they know how to sell as well as they could. Allow me another analogy:

If you will excuse the generalization, bigots have it easy in my mind. The world is black and white (no pun intended). If you are of race X, you are bad, period. No mental processing required – very energy efficient! People who are stupid, think they know it all.

Conversely, if you look at the greatest philosophical scholars of all times, they struggle with questions like “what does it mean to really know something”, and “what does it mean for something to be ‘red’”. These great thinkers understand that to make a sweeping, fast assumption about something is to lose the essential question of what is this thing that is being considered.

For a salesperson to believe that he knows how to sell and therefore does not need to examine his own skills; to attempt to refine his craft; and work to improve his game is analogous to the bigot (not pretty, or right!). Whatever endeavor we pursue, there is always room for improvement, this is the path of wisdom, and of increased success.

OK – one last analogy:

I studied martial arts for many years. On the first day of the first class, we were shown how to throw a straight punch. Years later, me and the rest of the students were still quite consciously throwing this same punch, working to make it more precise, more effective, more correct – and recognizing that there is (always) room for improvement.

All of these students knew how to punch. We also knew it on the first day. We could have decided then that we were done, but we would have missed the rewards of studying the subtlety of our endeavor, and reaping the rewards of both the improved performance that focused study brings, and the rewards of simply pursuing an endeavor.

Maybe you know how to sell, or punch, or play tennis. That doesn’t mean that you should turn off your brain and stop learning. If you are inclined to do so, please recognize all that you are missing by doing so, and then perhaps reconsider.

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Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!

-David