What’s Holding You Back?

Whether you’re working on improving yourself personally or professionally, it’s essential to have the ability to be introspective and analytical, in order to identify what you need to work on. That’s also true when you’re coaching others.

In that, self-improvement has a lot in common with troubleshooting systems and equipment at work: diagnose, analyze, repair, test, prevent. I’m not going to spend this entire column beating on that analogy. I’ll give it a rest and move on after pointing out that with either troubleshooting or coaching you spend your time identifying and fixing what’s not working, as opposed to what’s working fine.

It’s a normal tendency to want to focus the things that we’re already good at. I’ve often said that no one’s ever won a medal at the Olympics in their worst sport. But long term improvement in performance comes from recognizing weak points and working on them until either they’re no longer weaknesses or, ideally, they become strengths. Systematically approaching weaknesses like that, one after another, and improving them is what coaching and self-improvement is all about.

If you’re a sales manager, even if your sales team is good, and delivering good results, it’s still important to look for opportunities to help them grow. None of us is perfect and even your best salespeople always have something they can improve on. The same is true for salespeople: Finding ways to improve what you do and how you do it is what will take your production to the next level.

When it comes to identifying opportunities for improvement there’s endless grist for this mill, so let’s identify one of the most common: lack of confidence. More specifically, lacking the confidence that what you are presenting to clients is something that they will want.

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The importance of belief in yourself and your products and services is everything. Assuming that you’ve qualified the client correctly after asking questions and listening to their answers, your proposals should be on target.

As harsh as it sounds, as a salesperson, if you don’t have a deeply rooted belief that your products or services are worthwhile you’re shooting yourself in the foot. I think that all of us can think back to instances where we either didn’t make a sale, or we made a smaller sale than we could have because we lacked the confidence to really go for broke.

It was a lesson that I learned way back in the earliest days of my first job in retail. And it’s something that I’m still confronted with from time to time.

This past fall, the company I worked for launched a new product that, to be completely honest, most of us found baffling. I don’t want to get too much into it here, and swerve hard into self-promotion. Suffice to say that it’s a product that if you’re being charitable, you would call revolutionary, and if you were cynical, you’d call crazy.

Anyway, long story short: We, the people whose job is to promote and sell it found ourselves dealing with our own fear, uncertainty and doubt over our own product.

It took some effort, and a bit of a trip outside the comfort zone to get our heads around it and find both the belief in its necessity and the value proposition we could present to our resellers.

I bring that up to underline that no matter how long you’ve been at this, you’ll find you’ll need to revisit the same ground more than once as work to improve yourself and your results. Prepare for it and embrace it.