In my experience, when salespeople give themselves all zeros (or all tens) on every category of a competency model, their actual level is closer to a four or five, sometimes even lower. Conversely, those who give themselves reasonable scores—say, a six or seven average with an occasional higher or lower score—are generally better than their self-assessments would lead you to believe. There are rare exceptions to this trend, but the point is that genuinely high performers are a lot more honest about their work and how they can improve it.
High Scores, Poor Results
People who score themselves as being highly competent in all areas want others to believe they need no improvement. It’s a very human response: the fear of being perceived as needing improvement causes them to inflate their competencies, to ensure that they are certain about their future. But succeeding at your job is a much surer path to that certainty. Actual competence is easily discerned by looking at a salesperson’s results—the scoreboard never lies, even when it betrays you.
Inflated self-evaluations actually harm salespeople, precisely because they leave little room for improvement. Anyone taking a perfect ten rating seriously would assume that salesperson has nothing more to learn, which would be a terrible mistake. In fact, high scores show that a salesperson is missing two key factors in my competency model. First, they’re missing confidence, which would allow them to disclose the areas they need to improve, without fear. Second, they’re missing authenticity—being comfortable enough in their own skin to give an honest self-appraisal. The first way to improve is to admit to yourself where you need help, followed by working to increase your knowledge and gain the experience that will help you improve—eventually.
Low Scores, Great Results
The person who gives themselves a score of six at prospecting, for example, is likely to be scheduling more meetings than the person who awards themselves a nine. The difference between these two groups of people comes down to their locus of control. The Niners don’t take responsibility for failing to schedule a meeting. Instead, they blame the leads, the contact, the gatekeeper, their competitors, their sales managers, or the fact that they didn’t go to an Ivy League university.
By contrast, the Sixers acknowledge that they are responsible for not being able to get every meeting with their dream clients. When asked about a failure, they will tell you that they botched their response to a question, or that they gave up too soon and should have had the courage to persist for one more round. What they will not do is make an excuse—Lassie never eats their homework—because since they know that they can improve, they don’t feel any need to make excuses. Someone who scores themselves a six out of ten believes they have the potential to grow by another 40%– eventually. As a result of that honesty, they get better faster.
One common trait of high performers is that they do not shy away from development opportunities, be it hiring a coach, getting training, reading books, or finding someone who will be both a mentor and a model. They’re not embarrassed by the areas in which they need to improve, and they are interested in new strategies, tactics, and language choices that would improve their results. The reason high performers excel is that they are constantly trying to find an edge, some way to create an advantage, to be even more effective. When they do well, they often downplay their success, not because they aren’t proud of it but because they know there’s still much more they can learn.
The first step to reaching that level is to honestly assess your strengths, your weaknesses, and your vulnerabilities. Once you acknowledge the areas where you need to produce better results, you can start addressing them. Since no human being has ever reached their full potential, you are better off believing that you can dedicate your life to improving in every area than pretending that you no longer need to grow and improve.
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