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5 Small Steps To Ultimate Sales Success "Selling worth doing is worth doing badly ? at first!" ~ Gavin Ingham, 2002 Have you ever wanted to learn something new but just found it too difficult? Or started something but gave up because you just couldn't get the hang of it? Or maybe you just find the thought of ringing new clients far too scary? Perhaps you sometimes get great results but don't know what you're doing differently? Could you be stuck in your ways? If any of these could possibly be true then this article is for you. Everyone would agree that the ability to learn, understand and utilise new information, strategies and behaviours is important particularly with a topic such as sales where you may well have tried before with limited success. In order to help this process it is important to understand the learning process itself and the stages through which we develop new skills, behaviours or attitudes. Whenever we learn anything new we go through 5 steps. Sometimes we will do this so quickly that we may be unaware of the process whereas other times we may be made much more aware of the process by our emotions. Understanding this process, why we do it, the pitfalls and the strengths will allow you to maximise your learning capabilities. Step 1) Unconscious Incompetence. You are unaware of what you don't know. You don't know all that you don't know! Step 2) Conscious Incompetence. You become aware of what you don't know. You're ignorant and you know you are! Step 3) Conscious Competence. You become aware of how to do things properly. You can do something but you have to be concentrating on it. Step 4) Unconscious Competence. You are unaware of how you do things you know. You do things without even thinking about it! I think one of the best ways to really understand this process is to consider a specific situation such as learning to drive. Do you remember learning to drive? I think that most of us do! It was for most of us a fairly sizeable landmark in our lives so it tends to stick in our memories! I certainly remember learning to drive! Like most teenage lads it meant a lot to me ? freedom, adulthood and sex appeal! On my 17th birthday I dragged my mother out to the car and hopped in to have a go. I knew that I would be able to drive! I had been watching others for months in preparation ? this was going to be easy! How unconsciously incompetent was I?! I was totally ignorant of how difficult this was actually going to be! Ah well, ignorance is bliss. Easing into the seat I grasped the wheel, started the engine, depressed the clutch, punched the accelerator and ? stalled the car! Not deterred I had another go ? same result. Another ? another ? another. Suddenly I was overtaken by the dawning recognition that this was going to be really difficult and challenging. Welcome to conscious incompetence! Gavin you're useless and you know you are! But I was determined to learn to drive so I persevered and practised. After a lot of heartache and effort I eventually reached the point where, if I could maintain my
concentration, I was actually quite a proficient driver. Now I don't know if you remember your driving test? I do. There was so much to concentrate on wasn't there! Keeping your hands at 10 to two, mirror, signal, manoeuvre, the examiner, the speed limit, the road signs and that's without mentioning the other road users! Remember taking your test and that's probably a fair gauge of conscious competence! "Now you really go out and learn to drive!" That's what everybody said to me when I passed my test and they weren't wrong. Your whole concept of driving changes. You don't have to focus on every little detail all of the time infact you might not have to think about it all. Have you ever driven somewhere got out the car and thought ? how did I get here? I don't even remember driving here. Welcome to unconscious competence! Fabulous the way that the brain works isn't it! Being able to operate at unconscious competence clearly has many advantages. We're able to multitask, we generally operate fluidly and easily, it's within our comfort zone, it's stress free, it's the way we do things and for most people we spend the vast amount of out lives here. Just think about it for a moment. How many things do you now do that you once had to think about consciously. Walking, talking, picking things up, bodily awareness, writing, driving are all great examples but we also become unconsciously competent at responding to certain stimulus in certain ways. If I were to walk into your office and say, "Right! Time to make 100 cold-calls" you'd probably be unconsciously competent at producing a feeling and a response. Maybe not a very nice one! When a client snarls, "That's too expensive, you must be having a laugh!" chances are that you will also be unconsciously competent at producing an emotional reaction. So unconscious competence does have disadvantages too. We are unconscious or unaware of our responses or our behaviours therefore we may gradually change what we are doing and be unaware of it. We may find it very difficult to teach others our skills because we are not aware of how we put them together. Maybe we continue to do things in a way that used to be unconsciously competent but external changes now mean that what we are doing is now wrong. And here's the challenge and the danger of unconscious competence. When does unconscious competence become unconscious incompetence? It's very difficult to say for sure because the one commonality between the two is that we are unconscious! Reacting in a certain way to a certain stimulus may be right for one situation but it may be wrong for another. Take the example above of the snarling client. Many salespeople would feel frustrated and angry without having to think about it. When we unconsciously learned this response there may well have been good reasons for it however I'd suggest that if you want to be a sales superstar then this kind of reaction is unconscious incompetence. One of my first clients used to frequently tell his salespeople that they should sell products that were a 50% match and that if they couldn't they were bad salespeople. Maybe in his day the clients were happy with this kind of product but in today's competitive markets they certainly would not be! Maybe this boss was once unconsciously competent but changing market conditions, changing client attitudes and his lack of flexibility had left him unconsciously incompetent. Most dangerous of all was the fact that everyone in the business knew it but him! So it's clear that if we are doing things unconsciously we need to periodically step back and
have a look around to see if what we are doing makes sense and is getting us the results that we want. If it is great, if it's not ? change it for something that does work. But if unconscious is where most of us are most of the time conscious incompetence is what most of us try to avoid at all costs. When you are learning a new skill or behaviour and you reach conscious competence how does it feel? Take a bit of time to think about it. Typical associations with unconscious competence are feelings of stress, frustration, challenge, obstacles, pain, outside your comfort zone, lack of control, uncomfortable, fear and uncertainty. When we think about ringing new clients on the phone this will often occur the moment that you step outside of your comfort zone and have a go. Indeed this barrier is so great for many people that they would rather give up than actually break through. But the human mind is a clever animal and it won't punish you for this ? nope! It will give you reasons, other things to do. It will rationalise, explain and help you to feel OK. As you slip back to unconscious incompetence you will feel perfectly great because ignorance is bliss! To achieve anything worthwhile you must break through this barrier. And you can! As children we achieved some absolutely amazing feats. One of the most impressive was learning to walk. How many times do toddlers fall over? Thousands and thousands but the one thing that you can count on is that they always get back up again. Crawling for the rest of their lives is never an option ? they are going to walk just like the rest of us. It's a certainty. Yet as adults we're not so resilient. We don't tend to push, push, push our limitations. Infact there are many people who, even with the weight of the medical establishment behind them, fail to teach themselves to walk again properly after an accident even though physically they could. Somehow life and growing up seems to programme us to not try as hard. There might be many reasons for this however I think that one of them is the perpetuation of the win / lose culture in our society. There can only be one winner and for every winner there must be a whole group of losers. You often cannot win unless you've beaten someone else. Now don't get me wrong I do not subscribe to the no competition brigade ? that's just sop ? what I do believe however is that we should create ways for us to win by being the best that we can be. In cold calling many salespeople set unrealistic targets that they are never going to hit because they have benchmarked someone else. Had they benchmarked themselves they would have found that they were winning all along. On the other side of the coin we need to realise that everything in life is a learning experience. Eddison's much hyped quote as he failed to invent the light bulb for the umpteenth time was that he had eliminated another way to not make a light-bulb! In sales we have to accept that we will continue to be put through the learning experience for the whole of our career. As a director, author, business owner and sometime sales guru (!) I believe my sales ability to be a real asset to my business however I am constantly put through learning experiences. And I wouldn't want it to be any other way. My feelings as yours are telling me something. They are reminding me to be prepared to practise and to make sure that I am at the top of my game. So how do we break through from conscious incompetence to conscious competence? Persistence. Determination. Self-belief.
Drive. Tenacity. Repetition. Add your own here!!! But if I was to say to you, "Hey look! Just go out there and be tenacious, persistent, determined and have drive!" you'd tell me to tell you something that you didn't know! And quite rightly so! Because we all know that this is what's required ? it's maintaining it that's the challenge. I was reminded of this when I first started sales coaching. I was working with a client who had a small telesales team. Two of his staff were organising a campaign focused on a specific niche market. They were targeted to make 100+ outbound calls per day, to speak to 25 decision-makers and to organise at least 2 interviews. For the market they were working in this was about average. One of them was very positive and was consistently surpassing his target. He was a joy in the office and great to have on the team. The other however was really struggling, not good around the office and mostly fairly negative. I wasn't specifically working with these chaps and therefore hadn't really spoken with them much but we had been introduced. One afternoon as I was sitting there I found myself alone with the chap who wasn't doing so well. I asked him what he was doing and how it was going. He turned to me, scowled and said, "I'm cold calling, what's it look like! It's awful!" Needless to say I left him alone. About half an hour later the other chap went to make a coffee so on a whim I followed him determined to ask him the same question. As I asked him he turned to me and smiled, "I'm developing an new and essential part of the business. This project is going to get me into major account sales and get me noticed within the company. I should be promoted within 6 months. It's hard work but I know that it will be worth it!" Interesting! Same job, same opportunity, same potential clients, same products ? totally different meaning. The meaning we attach to things determines the impact that they have on us. When you attach a strong personal meaning you don't have to remind yourself to be motivated or persistent, you just are. The successful sales professional in the above example doesn't constantly have to harry himself to be motivated because he knows why he is doing the coldcalling and he knows what it means for him. He'll still have days when he feels less motivated, outside his comfort zone, challenged and uncomfortable but he will view them differently because he will accept them as part of the essential development process on his journey to success. Exercise: Take a moment to review your goals. When you've done this make note of why setting up client meetings plays a vital part in helping you to proactively achieve these goals. If one of your goals is materialistic, try getting a picture of it and sticking it by your phone. Every time you make a call think to yourself ? "one step closer!". Top Tips for the 5 Steps to Sales Success 1. Look around at what you habitually do and how you habitually react once in a while. 2. Most things worth learning will feel uncomfortable or challenging at some point. 3. Practise, practise, practise! 4. It takes several week's worth of telesales to beat your fear.
5. Challenge yourself one step at a time. "But Gavin ? you said there were 5 steps." Correct. And in my opinion there are. I have been teaching the 4 steps to success now for several years and in several different forms and I have used it successfully in individual coaching sessions with both myself and others. Powerful as I know that it is I believe that the fundamental construct has inherent challenges? If many times we find ourselves back at unconscious incompetence despite our best efforts or we have to keep dropping back to conscious competence to check ourselves then we are performing below our potential. There must be a better way? Step 5) Mastery. Mastery is something more than unconscious competence ? it has an extra, somewhat mystical quality. It's the sort of state that most of us only experience once or twice in a lifetime ? you probably never quite know how to describe it. Top athletes would call it being in the zone. I remember the first time I saw it in action. I was nearly 13 and the athlete in question was Sebastian Coe. He smashed the world record for 800m running 1 minute 41.72 seconds, a time nearly two seconds faster than the next fastest person ever. But it wasn't the time ? it was the way that he ran it. Majestic, graceful, relaxed. He made it look easy! Of that race Seb himself said, "Other sportsmen say there are moments when they are outside themselves, watching from the stand, as it were, and I've only experienced that in the 800 metres." I believe that we all have the potential to enter this state if only momentarily and I believe that this is the state that top salespeople reach when they are playing their best possible game. When I present, this is what I strive for and, having achieved it a few times, I can say no more than that once you taste it you know that you have the tools to recreate it and become the best that you can possible be. Exercise: Describe what cold calling will be like when you achieve a state of mastery? What will you be doing? Feeling? Thinking? What is the one most important thing that you need to learn to help you to move towards mastery right now? For the last 10 years, Gavin Ingham has been helping sales people to explode their sales performance by turning self-doubt, fear and lack of motivation into self-belief, confidence and action. With his inspirational approach to sales performance and motivation Gavin combines commercial experience, personal excellence and communications technologies in delivering personal and business sales success. Visit http://www.gaviningham.net now to join my free monthly newsletter packed full of sales secrets and strategies. Join now and get my ground-breaking 9-part objection handling course absolutely free.