The very act of selling is about creating a preference to buy from you, to work with you, and to make you part of your prospect’s team, which today means you are part of their brain trust. Right now, it’s easy to be confused by all the things that you see, hear, and read about what you should be doing to create new opportunities, to win new business, and to grow your sales.
You are supposed to be adopting digital tools, social selling, leveraging technology, embracing AI, and a dozen other imperatives, all of which may have more or less value depending on what you sell, how you sell, who your clients are, and how you compete and win. There is, however, a single common factor in all of these things that still has the greatest impact on whether you create and win opportunities and grow sales. That common factor is you. Said another way, you are not the largest part of the value proposition.
While any of the list of things might improve your results, there is one that counts for more than all the rest combined. The single greater factor is you, the salesperson. Said another way, you are not the largest part of the value proposition. In large part, you are what your dream client is saying yes to—or in some cases, you are what they are saying no to.
If you are the largest factor in success or failure, then it naturally follows that the more you improve yourself, the more you improve your results. Or as Rohn put it, “Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better.” I might say this more forcefully, strongly suggesting that wishing isn’t going to do anything, and recommending massive action in its place.
There are certain character traits and behaviors that the world rewards. Other character traits, beliefs, and behaviors that are punished. The better your character, your beliefs, and the actions that flow from them, the more effective you will be in sales—and every other area of your life. You might think of things like self-discipline, optimism, caring, competitiveness, resourcefulness, persistence, initiative, and communication as “personal” development, but the truth of the matter is that the person you are is also the professional. The Zen masters have another way of saying this, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” This is why personal and professional development cannot be separated.
That said, in sales, there are skills necessary to succeed. We know what they are, even if many are not yet being developed by most salespeople or the sales organizations that employ them. They are closing, prospecting, storytelling, diagnosing, differentiating, negotiating, business acumen, change management, and leadership. These skills can be taught, and the greater the skills here, the better the results—provided you get the character traits right. The personal and the professional are so tightly intertwined that they cannot be teased apart.
If you want to create a competitive advantage, the place to start isn’t going to be in anything external. It isn’t going to be found in tools, or social channels, technologies, or the dozens of other things that might capture your attention. The one thing that you most need to change is you, and developing yourself personally and professionally is the very best investment of your time, energy, money, and resources.