Continued Personal Development – Part 1

This is one of a series of blogs written specifically for those people in small businesses who are responsible for winning sales. These people will often have other roles and responsibilities which requires them to be very time-efficient during their selling activities. Larger businesses are likely to employ one or more full-time salespeople and this blog series is also written to help these people.

Most people quit their formal learning when they finish full-time education. They learn at school to pass GCSE exams; they learn at college to pass A-level exams; they learn at university to gain their degrees. After that, their books are put away and structured learning, more often than not, stops. They get a job and start their career.

Although there is much for the average university graduate to learn about the world of business and selling in particular, this learning is often delivered as unstructured and pretty informal on-the-job training rather than a formal, structured training programme. So their formal learning activities come to a halt as they graduate.

The brain is like a muscle

The brain is like any other muscle in your body. It doesn’t work very efficiently after a period of little or no exercise. Like every other muscle in your body, your brain needs the right food and plenty of regular exercise to operate efficiently. After a long lay-off, you should exercise your brain gently at first and gradually increase the intensity.

Ideally, during their full-time education, students should be taught about how the brain works and the value of continuing with a programme of learning, even after their full-time education stops. Indeed, it is suggested by some experts in this field that you should invest between 3% and 5% of your annual income on your own personal development, each year.

If you study successful people, you will find that they spend a lot of their time on activities like creative thinking. They spend their time working ON their business, rather than IN their business. Successful people know the value of using their brains. Many exercise their brains through a process called mindstorming.

Mindstorming for creative solutions

Mindstorming can be performed anywhere, anytime and all that is required is some paper, a pen and your brain. The process of mindstorming generates a large number of possible solutions to a specific problem. If it’s a new concept to you, this is how it works:

Firstly, at the top of the page, you write down the problem for which you want to identify solutions. It is important to write down the problem as clearly and as succinctly as possible. For example, “what steps can I take to reduce operating costs in my business by 20% before 31st December?”.

Next, write down as many solutions as you can think of which solves this problem. Write down a minimum of 20 answers, more is better in this situation. Capture ideas as they come into your mind without any judgement as to their suitability. This is because new ideas will spawn out of those ideas you do write down. It doesn’t follow that any new ideas which spawn from a “wacky idea” will themselves be “wacky”.

Thirdly, when you have the answers listed on your sheet of paper, you can then begin to rate each of the ideas. The basis of your rating might be speed of implementation / cost of implementation or ease of implementation / impact and effectiveness of the solution. How you order them is up to you.

Finally, pick the highest ranking answer and take action to implement it. On occasions, you might pick several of the highest-ranked answers and implement them all. It would depend on the problem you are looking to solve.

If your challenge was to find and engage with more potential buyers, you would be wise to select several of your top answers and implement them all to maximise your chances of identifying new prospects. Keep good records regarding the actions you take and the results you achieved. This information can be used when you analyse the effectiveness of the initiatives you took to improve your future prospecting performance.

Next time, I’ll explore how much time you should invest in your ongoing personal development and why building a Library of personal development materials is essential if you want to fulfil your potential.

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