By Steli Efti, Co-Founder and CEO of Close
When the journey to success seems long, it's tempting to chase shortcuts. We live in a world where gratification can happen with the tap of a button, and waiting a few seconds for a video to buffer can send us into a rage.
A swipe left and you can find a date. A swipe up and you can order a product. A double tap and you can kick-start an interaction.
Unfortunately, there's no Tinder for success. There's no quick and easy way to win in the world of sales. There's no surefire tactic that will guarantee a close. There's no simple way to immediately start crushing your quota week after week.
Shortcuts are enticing, but more often than not, they aren't what we need. The best sales professionals (and founders in general) that I've ever met or worked with take a different route: They chase practices that have stood the test of time.
The best don't pivot every six weeks to follow a new trend. They don't change their job title every time a new industry becomes popular. The best embrace the timeless practices that have helped so many others find success.
And what are those timeless practices they embrace? Here are a few simple ways to uncover tried-and-true practices worth emulating.
Read the classics from your profession.
One of the most common mistakes made by people trying to succeed is falling victim to recency bias. They only read the latest blog posts. They only buy the latest books. They only rely on the latest podcasts.
But some of the best knowledge available is found in content that's 25, 50, 100 and even 2,000 years old. These works laid the groundwork for many of today's best practices. That's why when I recommend sales books the list often includes The Art Of War by Sun Tzu (written in the fifth century BCE). Classics like this are classics for a reason -- they are filled with insights that can still be applied today.
Start with a set of first principles.
Speaking of the classics, one of the great minds attributed with coining the idea of first principles was Aristotle:
In every systematic inquiry (methodos) where there are first principles, or causes, or elements, knowledge and science result from acquiring knowledge of these; for we think we know something just in case we acquire knowledge of the primary causes, the primary first principles, all the way to the elements. It is clear, then, that in the science of nature as elsewhere, we should try first to determine questions about the first principles.
The naturally proper direction of our road is from things better known and clearer to us, to things that are clearer and better known by nature; for the things known to us are not the same as the things known unconditionally (haplôs). Hence it is necessary for us to progress, following this procedure, from the things that are less clear by nature, but clearer to us, towards things that are clearer and better known by nature.
In other words, start with something you know is true about a situation and work backward to get the outcome you want. Every meaningful conclusion you come up with should arise from the fundamental realities you are certain of. For example, you might know:
- The date by which your prospect must spend their budget
- Which competing tools a prospect is already using
- That a prospect just raised a round of VC funding
- How many employees work at a company
- Which industry loves your product most
Facts like these give you a foundation for understanding your audience and developing best practices. As you reverse engineer what leads to each fact, it becomes easier to determine how you should proceed with your sales calls, prospecting, value proposition and all the other steps that can help you win. Kevin Rose's interview with Elon Musk offers a snapshot of the way Musk thinks about first principles.
Study popular mental models.
First principles can also be described as a great mental model. Mental models are frameworks consisting of assumptions and generalizations that we can use to better understand the world we live in, from cause and effect to compound interest. Michael Simmons's chart of mental models is a great starting point for studying the models that can help you make better decisions in business -- and in life.
Wrapping Things Up
None of the above are shortcuts.
Cultivating best practices requires time to learn and engage in deep thought. And you know what? Most people won't do it. Most people will read this article, feel inspired for four hours and then revert back to chasing shortcuts.
That's a good thing for you. It means you have an opportunity to stand out. It means you have an opportunity to gain an advantage. It means you have an opportunity to leapfrog the people chasing dead-end shortcuts by instead chasing timeless practices that still work today.
Steli Efti is the Co-Founder and CEO of Close, an inside sales CRM for startups and SMBs.