SWOT-ting Up on Your Sales
It takes self-confidence to be a good salesman or woman. Diffidence might work once or twice, but it’s not something you should make a habit of. In fact, you should take steps to overcome it as soon as you become aware of it.
Too much self-confidence, however, is a disadvantage, too. That’s because it prevents you from seeing those things which you need to correct.
In this article, we’re going to do a bit of “swot-ting” up. We’re going to apply this well-known formula – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and strengths – to you. The goal is to help you to improve. This won’t be a five minute exercise that you can do on the back of a napkin while your partner recharges your glasses. Instead, it will take some serious thought, self-examination, and honesty. You’ll reap only out of it what you’re willing to put in.
No one will see these results except you. You can burn them when you finish if you wish. There’s no need for anyone to know how you fared. But, it’s essential that you fix the deficiencies you uncover.
You may be thinking that your strengths are as plain as a pikestaff, and that you have so many that Wikipedia couldn’t contain them all. For modesty’s sake, limit your list to ten. You’ll see in a moment why. You can always add more later.
Write down each strength and then give a good reason why you believe it to be so. A poor answer is, “because I make sales”. If you didn’t, then you’d be in another line of work. A good answer might be, “because my prospects know that I understand them”.
For each strength you must have a unique reason. If you can’t think of one, then it’s probably because you’re looking at the same one from a different angle. In this part of the exercise you want to identify specific strengths and match them with equally particular reasons.
If you’re like most people, then this list will be a lot shorter than the previous one. This problem can be easily rectified. Begin by listing the weaknesses you know you have and then go back to your strengths and ask yourself how each of them could also be a weakness.
For example, how could it be that each of your strengths was misconstrued by someone else? How could each one work against you? How could you lose sales as a result of them?
Then just as you did for the strengths, write down a good reason why you think that each is a weakness. Remember that you must have a unique answer for each one.
You should now have about ten strengths and a dozen or more weaknesses. This is good.
Opportunities can be difficult to see for most people. Entrepreneurs have a sort of built-in radar for recognizing them that is rare in others. If you lack this ability, don’t let that put you off. It simply means that you will have to find other ways to identify them.
Start with your strengths. What opportunities do you see in each one? Write each one down and explain why you feel that way. Maybe it’s something someone has said to you, or maybe you have found yourself involved in some tangential work that you never expected.
Now take it a step further. What would an opportunity look like if it was to go beyond where it is right now? Think about other people who have this, maybe those who are outside of your industry, but whose circumstances were similar. Recall what you’ve read in the lives of others in business. (You are reading, right?)
Now look at your weaknesses. What opportunities could arise if you corrected each one? This is the place to let your imagination run riot. Think of the possibilities. Let yourself go. What could you do if the things that you believe are holding you back the most weren’t there?
Threats lie at the other end of the opportunity spectrum. Just thinking about them should bring you back to earth.
Look at yourself. What self-sabotaging behaviours have already threatened your success? Start with the opportunities you missed in spite of your strengths and then work back to your weaknesses.
Let yourself feel all of the emotion from those missed opportunities. Don’t allow yourself to write them off as part of the job. If you don’t feel something of the disappointment or even pain that came as a result, then you’ll remain dulled to the power that it can have to motivate you to do something to improve it.
This isn’t living in the past. It’s getting things out in the open so that you can deal with it effectively. You see, if all you do is focus on your strengths, then you’ll never get any better than what you are. Your weaknesses will remain so and probably get worse; and when that happens, your threats will increase whether you realize it or not.
A final step
As a final step, ask yourself what you have to do to strengthen your weaknesses. To look at this another way, ask yourself what you need to do differently to take advantage of the opportunities you know are there.
In recent years, much has been made of playing to your strengths, and while that is important it isn’t the whole story. You also need to work on mitigating the impact of your weaknesses. If you fail to act on what you’ve learned in this exercise, then the time you’ve spent on it will have been wasted.
More than that, you will have chosen to ignore your opportunities.
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