Of all the ways to lose a deal, the most reliable is to project a self-orientation. When your client feels that your motivation is limited to transferring their money to your wallet, with a brief stopover in your company’s checking account, they’re all but certain to disengage and choose a salesperson who is truly interested in helping them improve their results. Even if that perception isn’t accurate or even fair, it’s enough to override any advantages you might have built up.

For instance, a young entrepreneur who occasionally calls me always starts the conversation with "let's do some business." Business goes both ways, but his attitude practically screams that I should buy what he sells without any prospect of my earning his business. This poor, hapless soul believes I am a wallet from which he is supposed to remove money. The transaction he seeks is one that benefits him, with no consideration for what I might want or need.

It's safe to say, then, that a self-orientation can harm your sales results. However, it isn’t all negative: as long as your sales approach is other-oriented, i.e., focused on helping others improve their outcomes, then a self-orientation can do wonders for your professional development.


Self-Orientated and Self-Reliant

Only he who is self-supporting is free, self-reliant, independent.” – James Allen

Many years ago, I taught at Capital University. Many undergraduates there were interested in working for a non-profit, a place where they could make a positive difference and not just a paycheck. Few of them recognized that it’s difficult to help other people until you can take care of yourself, which means developing your own competencies.

You are the largest and most important project you will ever undertake. As your own architect, you must design and execute the exact life you want for yourself. The more you work to build the skills, competencies, character traits, and habits that create that life, the greater your capacity will be to help other people. The paradox of an other-orientation is that a selective self-orientation enables you to become someone valuable to others.

You might notice that a lot of successful people carve out a large part of their morning to take care of themselves. They exercise, they read, they meditate, they journal, or they do something else that both improves them and prepares them for their day. This is the positive form of self-orientation, the kind that leads to a more powerful other-orientation.

Indeed, taking care of yourself is a prerequisite for being able to help others. Most effective leaders have a well-developed self-discipline. Because they can exercise what we might describe as personal leadership, they have a greater capacity to lead others. A person who struggles to take care of themselves will have a tougher time leading others. In sales you lead your clients, but you’ll never get there until you can lead yourself.

Personal and Professional Development and Self-Orientation

One of the worst misconceptions about education and development is that it ends with a diploma. No one stops developing physically or mentally at age 18, so why do we limit “education” to that thing you do before you get a real job? Indeed, Robert Kegan's research shows that humans continue to develop throughout their entire lives, rendering an “end” to development arbitrary at best.

Most successful people never stop improving themselves. The more they develop their skills and competencies, the more they can help others. That’s why you still find CEOs at conferences and workshops and bookstores—all places where they can gain some insight, learn about some new strategy, or find some other development opportunity. It's little wonder that the people who contribute the most to our society stay so busy improving themselves.

Self-Orientation and Your Intent to Be Other-Oriented

Personal development and professional development are individual pursuits. You can think of them as part of the "lonely work" you do, the work that no one sees. Because you largely do this work alone, you have no reason to worry about being self-oriented. But you can still develop yourself with the intention of more effectively helping others improve, including the clients you serve in a sales or sales management role.

A person who struggles to take care of themselves will have a difficult time helping others. We see this often in sales: a salesperson who doesn't know more than their client about the decisions they need to make and the better results they are chasing will not be much help. Talking about your company, your clients, and your "solutions" during a sales meeting is self-oriented, as it seeks to replace value with credibility. In reality, credibility can only be proven inside the sales conversation.

Effectiveness and Other-Orientation

Certain professions require you to be self-oriented in a positive way, working to improve yourself so you can be other-oriented and help others. A medical doctor spends years gaining the competencies and knowledge to enable them to take care of their patients. Professional sales doesn't require quite so much formal education, but it does require developing the insights and experience to be other-oriented—providing your counsel, your advice, your recommendations, and your commitment to help your clients succeed.

The greater your capacity to make a difference, the more powerful your other-oriented approach will be. You cannot create value for a client without first developing yourself into a consultative salesperson. The more you improve yourself, the more you can help others to improve their results—if you want to lead them to self-improvement, you have to go first.

Post by Anthony Iannarino on January 16, 2022
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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