Sales Mastery Through Habit
Success is achieved by focusing on the habits that shape every aspect of our lives. As gracefully pointed out in Chet Holmes’s book “The Ultimate Sales Machine”, you develop a skill by not doing a 1,000 things but by doing 1 thing 1,000 times. These habits done over and over again develop into masterful skills which in turn leads to success in any field. The beauty of a developed skill is not only that we become good or great at something but we become more efficient which allows us to work on other skills. A great example of this is my journey as the head of sales at Arkus. Here is a look into how habits develop into skills and how it relates to the success of Arkus as a Salesforce Implementation Partner.
How do we learn a new skill?
According to Noel Burch’s Conscious Competence Ladder there are four stages of learning; Unconscious Incompetence, Conscious Incompetence, Conscious Competence and Unconscious Competence. These stages highlight two factors that affect our thinking as we learn a new skill: awareness (consciousness) and skill level (competence). According to the model, we move through these four levels as we build competence in a new skill. Here is an overview of those four levels and how it related to my journey here at Arkus.
The first stage is called “Unconscious Incompetence” and this is when you do not understand or know how to do something and you do not necessarily recognize the deficit. This is a critical level as it requires us to have awareness that this skill is important to develop. It also requires a good amount of courage to accept we don’t know what we are doing and the willingness to do something about it. Fortunately for me this was pretty easy for me to accept since I never did any sales in my life. The question became what do I need to do to become great at it which led me to do research and find the best sales professionals I knew in my network and pick their brain.
Once I took the step to do research, I graduated to the next level. This is the level called “Conscious Incompetence” and this where learning begins. Even though you still don’t understand or know how to do something, you apply the discipline to try and that is exactly what I did. The advice I got was to always have a positive attitude (losing is part of the game), sell yourself, use a CRM and never be afraid to talk about money. So that is what I did: I studied every self help guru out there, started using Salesforce to track my leads and started to build a message that showed the value of Arkus.
The first level requires awareness and courage which for me was to accept I knew nothing and needed to do research. The second level requires discipline which I did by incorporating a process based on the advice I received from my network. This third level called “Conscious Competence” is the result of the hard work. This stage which probably took me 3 years or so to get to is when I finally understood what sales is all about and knew how to be good at it. This level is all about hard work and growth. It’s applying those traits (awareness, courage and discipline) everyday looking for new ways to get better and the continual practice at it. We had success over the first 3 years (otherwise we wouldn’t be in business today) but how well I told the Arkus story and how well I managed our leads and partners got more efficient and polished by the day. A great example is how I managed leads in Salesforce. I went from managing my leads via a “List View” and calling them all on the same day once a week to a way more efficient system leveraging tasks and chatter. Now my leads get followups when they should and my team is well informed as to where we are. It took awareness to realize that the more leads I had to manage the more my existing system wasn’t going to work. I then had the courage to change and the discipline to try a new way.
The last stage “Unconscious Incompetence” is very similar to the previous level but the skill becomes "second nature" and can be performed easily. Sales is not something you can do in your sleep but at this stage you are well polished, rarely rattled and highly efficient. It doesn’t mean you stop growing or learning, it just means when you are thrown a new opportunity your instincts take over and you immediately start a plan of action. That is how it is for me now. As new relationships or leads come to me, I don’t need to think about what I should do or what I should say. I just do it. The last thing to point out on this level is that to sustain it, you need to keep doing it otherwise you will drop back to the previous level. Yes you can pick up a bike after a few years and ride it but it will take a little time to get you back to where you were when you did it everyday.
The journey to develop a new skill is not easy. You need to have awareness, courage and a lot of discipline to be good at something but the good news is the more you apply them the easier it gets. Also, celebrating the small successes along the way helps build confidence and more courage to keep going. I can still remember the excitement we had when we landed our first project over five years ago. Oh how time flies when you are having fun!