SALES

4 Magic Questions That Create Success

These questions, answered in this order, transform you into an irreplaceable resource.
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Regular readers know that I'm big on simple ideas that can have a huge impact on personal success. This series of four questions, each building on the previous question, are adapted from a conversation with best-selling author Greg Wingard (The Red Bucket Strategy and Guaranteed Success). Simple though they may seem, these questions can literally change your life.

1. Is there a fundamental skill I've been neglecting?

Regardless of what you do for a living, you cannot succeed if you're failing to master the basics. For example, I've known managers who can quote from dozens of management  books, but haven't even mastered the simple (and essential) art of coaching.

Similarly, I've run across dozens of marketing folk who can expound in detail upon worldwide brand strategy, but have no idea how to locate a qualified lead for their sales team.

The lesson here is simple: learn and do the basics of your job. Unless you're doing that, you can forget about success, because it's just not going to happen.

2. Is there something I should stop doing?

Great! You're doing the basics, so now it's time to look at the stuff that's getting in your way.

Look at your daily routine, your weekly activities, your monthly commitments. If you're like most people, you're probably doing things that aren't just useless, but counterproductive.

For me, it's computer games. If I play more than the half-hour or so that it takes to blow off steam, I emerge from the experience depleted, tired and uncreative. For other people, it might be web-surfing when you should be prospecting for customers, or watching mindless TV when you could be learning something valuable.

Whatever it is for you, you'll get a huge burst of productivity when you limit (or stop) these behavioral impediments to your success.

3. Is there a basic skill I need to upgrade?

Congratulations! If you've gotten this far, you've already gone beyond most people and are well on your way to success.

Now it's time to examine the basic skills required for your job and identify any that need improvement. For example, if you're in sales, maybe you're good at asking questions and presenting solutions, but tend to hem and haw when it's time to close the deal. If so, work on your closing skill.

Similarly, if you're a manager and great with people but weak at financial planning, find ways to shore up that weakness and (ideally) turn it into a real strength.

4. What extra skill will bring me the greatest success?

Wow! You're handling all the basics equally well and you've cleared the deck so that nothing will get in your way. It's time to SOAR, baby! Here's how.

Step back and look at the proverbial "big picture." From this perspective, identify a skill or habit that today is totally foreign to you but which, if you mastered it, would also propel you to a level of success far beyond your current situation.

For example, suppose you're a brilliant innovator and have mastered all the basics of engineering. What would happen if you mastered the ability to sell your ideas to anyone? Similarly, suppose you're making a decent living in Sales. How much more successful would you become if you mastered business accounting?

BTW, it's these "above and beyond" skills that turn you from a plug-and-play commodity (the status of most folk) into an absolutely irreplaceable resource.

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Last updated: Nov 14, 2012

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed over a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is "Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts that You Need to Know."

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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