I wrote a blog post last week about dumb things that otherwise smart people do or say. The conclusion of the post was that there is always something to learn in order to improve, and it is foolish to think otherwise, or to avoid efforts for self-improvement because of this misconception.

To make the point, I invoked the spirit of Abraham Lincoln (sharpen your ax before trying to cut down the big tree) and Lance Armstrong (ride your strengths, train your weaknesses). I suggested that in your efforts to sharpen and train, there are plenty of books, blogs, podcasts, etc. to help you.

But what’s the problem?

Which ax should you sharpen? Which weakness should you train?

The advice is my last blog is good advice (if I may say so myself), but it presumes that a person knows what needs improvement. This is often not the case. What to do?

Let’s attack this like salespeople – PROFESSIONAL salespeople!

When I go to meet with a prospect, I don’t assume that I know what issues they might have. I don’t even assume that the prospect is aware of the issues they might have. I go into the meeting with the idea that IT IS MY JOB to help me and my prospect discover together what issues might exist that I might be able to help with.

In the vernacular of the sales process described in my book, Mastering Your Sales Process, I call this step “Needs Analysis”.

Have you heard of it? It is THE core element of a professional selling system. If we don’t know what our prospect needs to fix, how on earth can we offer a solution that has value to them?

Do you have some kind of a systematic needs analysis that you use with your prospects? (If not, shame on you!). How did you develop it? Could you develop a new needs analysis for a new kind of prospect if the opportunity to do so arose? What if you got a new job? What if your company started selling in a new market, or started selling a new kind of solution? You would have to develop a new needs analysis system in order to be successful. The ability to do so is an important part of being an effective salesperson in an ever changing world.

So what if the product was you?

See where we are going here?

If the goal is the improve, but the question is “improve what?”, then the answer is needs analysis. Do you know how to do one? If so, do a needs analysis on yourself as a salesperson, or a tennis player, or a spouse, or whatever area of your life that you want to improve. When you find your answer, go find books or podcasts or coaches that can help you.

If you can’t find the answer yourself, recruit the help of a friend, a co-worker, a manager, a life coach, or a spiritual adviser (for those of you in my adopted home state of California).

If after all of this you can’t come up with an answer, then allow me to suggest that your first skill to improve is the skill of developing and conducting a needs analysis on ANY kind of problem that comes along. It will make you a better salesperson, and will give you an important tool with which to improve all of the areas of your life that are worthy of an investment of energy towards the return of self improvement.

Then you can do the needs analysis on yourself, and go after all of the rest of the stuff!

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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