Dare to be Great

I’m a huge fan of martial arts and have been a martial artist all my life, starting with boxing at the age of 7 or 8 and working through various martial arts over the past 44 years. I have been lucky enough to train and compete with some truly inspiring people and have had a constant challenge or goal in place throughout my life. I have, through this, achieved 3 black belts in Chinese Kickboxing, Traditional Kung Fu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I have recently started on a new challenge with Wing Chun.


This focus on a constant process of gaining new knowledge, developing skills and testing those skills has led me, I believe, to achieving far more than I would have done without those things in my life.


Recently, whilst listening to a podcast with the ex-UFC champion Michael Bisping I was reminded of a phrase that I’d heard many many years ago. This phrase, though simple in its makeup, holds a lot of meaning for me and I believe is the key to unlock your career, your personal situation and your sense of self-worth.


“Dare to be great”, for me this means taking those challenges on board, daring to believe you can achieve more than you did before, daring to set higher goals than others and having the fortitude and conviction to achieve them.


This doesn’t mean your goals need to be incredible or unachievable, but simply challenging for you.


I started in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 42 and achieved my black belt at the age of 50. I did this after having several knee surgeries, the last being a total knee replacement. For those of you who don’t know, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a very demanding, sport focussed martial art, showing its dominance in the early days of the UFC and setting an incredibly high bar in terms of being able to demonstrate a high level of skill and physicality in order to achieve the black belt.


So how did a 50-year-old, slightly damaged man achieve this in a field of athletic 25-year-olds? Simple… turn up, have a goal, work for that goal and stay the course.


Now, why am I talking about this in a sales blog? The simple reason is that in everything I do the same rules apply. You want to be good at sales, guess what? Turn up, have a goal, work towards that goal and stay the course. The only difference in developing my selling skills and developing my fighting skills is that in fighting it’s ok to keep learning, it’s ok to ask questions, it’s ok to get beat and learn from the defeat, it’s ok to be a perpetual beginner. In sales though, it’s not so easy to admit a lack of knowledge, it’s not ok to question oneself and it’s not always ok to seek new knowledge.


As a salesperson I was constantly under pressure to perform. I was initially only given some rudimentary knowledge passed down from my sales manager to me. This knowledge was tainted, unstructured and mostly unsuccessful.


In today’s business environment it’s so easy to find good solid, structured training and coaching that provides new knowledge, skills development and behavioural focus that there’s really no excuse not to excel. All you have to do is ‘dare to be great’.


In order to find the right training or developmental support, the first thing to do is consider what that support looks like. We categorise the support we provide into 4 easy areas:


Teaching, this is the exchange of new knowledge, information that allows you to perform a task efficiently and effectively. For example, we often speak to groups of salespeople and one of the first questions we ask is how many ‘Open’ questions are there? Now we all know there are two types of questions (open/ closed) and they form the main part of our ‘toolbox’ when it comes to customer qualification, but how many salespeople actually know what they are? What they do and how many there are of each type?


If you are unable to answer that question, simply go and look it up, take on board the information you find, consider how you’re going to use it and that becomes a ‘teaching moment’.


Training is the next stage, and this is the development of the application. Applying the knowledge in your role and developing a skill – the ability to perform the action well, leading to a level of competency. Training can be a simple process of performing a work-related task, analysing how you performed, considering how you can improve it and then applying that to create a better performance than before.


I ask most salespeople if they have targets, not many do, not many truly understand their targets, and few hit them all of the time. A target is simply a measure, if you understand the measure, you should be able to identify the skills required to hit that measure, therefore logic tells us that it’s a simple process of seeking the information required to develop the skill needed in order to hit that measure?


The next stage is coaching, and coaching is the process of refining skills and behaviours to improve current performance. This can be seen in any sport whereby you practice an activity over and over again, making small adjustments until your performance is better than it was. Without that target in place, without that measure how can you really tell if you’re improving or how to make improvements?


Finally, we have mentoring, this is the process of strategizing. Consider the knowledge, skills and behaviours in place and making sure they are truly aligned to task/ goal/ measure and in place. Searching for new techniques, approaches and tools to achieve those goals more effectively/ efficiently or changing those goals to create new performance measures.


So, in summary, if you don’t ‘dare to be great’ you’ll probably not improve on your performance. In our ‘cost of living’ crisis that we are currently experiencing professional salespeople are one group of people that have both the opportunity and ability to increase their earnings and create a more comfortable lifestyle or a faster career progression for themselves.


So don’t settle, don’t cruise along, dare to be great, develop your knowledge, skills and behaviours and embrace the journey!


Thank you for reading

– Alan

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