Well, summer is officially over – time to get back to blogging!

So in the spirit of the age-old school days question, what did I do (learn) on my summer vacation? In a nutshell, I learned from the saddle of my mountain bike that trying to learn and improve (at anything) can set us back temporarily, but that trying to learn and improve is still the right thing to do. Here is the “back story”:

One of my goals this summer was to get into better shape. Towards this goal, I dusted off my mountain bike, and started riding a few times a week in the forest near my house. I have been riding a mountain bike (on and off) for 26 years now, and it felt good to get back to the woods, to hear the sound of the trail under my tires, and to feel the strain of the uphills followed by the exhilaration of the downhills.

In June, mountain biking was just a fun form of exercise for me. By July, I remembered how much I love it, and for the first time in almost three decades of “just figuring it out as I went along”, I decided that I wanted to improve my skills as a mountain biker.

So I did what I always do when I want to learn or improve: I bought some books and videos, read some blogs, and started trying some new things.

Now I am and never was a truly great mountain biker. I don’t do those radical downhill runs you see on the energy drink commercials or any of those flying tricks you see at the X-games. That said, I was always pretty fast on the downhill stretches, and was not afraid to tackle trails that were rockier and bumpier than many weekend warriors I know would take on.

Then I started reading my books and watching my videos.

Then a really funny thing happened.

I actually got worse as a rider.

Now the time spent riding in the hills, off-road on a mountain bike is a bit lopsided. On a typical 90 minute ride, at least 60 of it will be uphill, if not more, so there is a lot of time to think. During this sweaty meditation, I realized that this initial decline in competence and confidence is exactly how learning sales works as well.

Often, when we learn and try to use something new, we become self-conscious. What used to be done unconsciously with moderate competence is now done with marginal competence, clumsiness and great self-consciousness. We think where we used to just do, and it slows us down.

So is the solution to never try to learn? I don’t think so. It seems to me that the solution is to practice new skills consciously until they become unconscious, and as we do – one skill at a time becomes improved, and increasingly unconscious. We can broaden the range of things we do and the effectiveness with which we do them by allowing ourselves to be conscious, to add new elements to our game, and to work with them until we “own” them.

Like many elements of selling, the sudden lack of confidence that comes with “conscious incompetence” is less comfortable than the unconscious less-than-optimal competence we had before we tried to learn. Metaphorically, this translated into a few crashes on my bike over the summer, one of them pretty rough (which dulled my confidence even more, for a time). But if our goal is to improve, then we need to get “back on the bike”, take a deep breath, relax, engage, remember that we know how to do this stuff, and focus on one small piece at a time to work on while the broader core skill set we have carries us through to the end of the ride.

Over time, with effort and resolve, we can improve.

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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