To succeed in business and sales, it’s all about opportunity

In December, my team will be attending “The Future: Disrupted and Reimagined” event in Melbourne and Sydney, featuring Malcolm Gladwell, author of five New York Times bestsellers — The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, and Steven Levitt, economist and co-author of Freakonomics, SuperFreakonomics, Think Like A Freak and When To Rob a Bank.

Gladwell and Levitt are some of the world’s most interesting and outstanding writers talking about the 21st century world and how we can rethink and reimagine our future in times of great change.

Why am I bringing this to our collective attention?

Because it’s all about opportunity and taking advantage of the conditions we find ourselves in and have at our disposal in order to realise opportunity.

Whether you attend the event or not, I want all of us to be made aware of these authors and commentators who look at the world from many different perspectives — giving us insights into how others think and see the world; what it actually takes for people to succeed in work and life; how we can continue to harness opportunity and grow as people, businesses and communities; and how we can reimagine our future and remain relevant.

For instance, Gladwell highlights that none of us exist in isolation and none of us can truly call ourselves a ‘self-made’ person. What we all need to succeed (at anything) are the right conditions in which to flourish, encouragement and ambition to take us to the next level. However, if we don’t know what we want to do, even under the right conditions and with the right people and support, opportunities can and will pass us by. Gladwell states in his bestselling book Outliers that while Bill Gates was an ambitious and brilliant young man, without being exposed to the right conditions, Microsoft may never have existed.

What does this have to do with selling? Everything.

We cannot sit around waiting for opportunity to land in our laps. We must open our minds, and look at prevailing conditions and support networks in place. We must look at things from different perspectives, try new things, take purposeful action and be adventurous.

Steven Levitt loves to examine the links between seemingly unconnected areas, highlighting new ways of thinking and doing, as well as challenging the old rules of business and making new ones (a man after my own heart). Levitt points out it’s a new world that demands a new way of thinking. For instance, he discusses the sort of topics that are on every business person’s mind these days: the ways to create behaviour change; the incentives that work and don’t work; and the value of asking unpopular questions, and so on.

Levitt challenges us to think about:

  • Why is behaviour change so difficult? How can I change the behaviour of my employees? Why are our incentive programs not working?
  • How can I capture more customers from my competitors? How can I influence current customers to increase loyalty?
  • Why am I not getting the project outcomes I expected? How do I keep the tyranny of emotion, opinion and anecdote out of my project plan?
  • Why is consensus building often a waste of time and resources?

These are just some of the questions we need to be asking ourselves if we are to create the future we want.

We must be adventurous. We must go out on a limb.

If we want to succeed in business and sales we must work in a purposeful system with the support of others. We must:

1. Recognise the opportunities around us, actively put in place a clear sales strategy and go-to-market plan and pursue these opportunities with the right intent;

2. Put in place the right conditions, systems and processes to support our people in finding and winning the right opportunities we want to work with; and

3. Teach, train and continue to coach our people in how to master good selling practices so they are always equipped to find and bring in the right opportunities.  

There is no more BAU — business as usual — we must continue to explore ideas and any relevance they have to the future of business, community, markets and how we can continue to sell, win and retain customers in this ever changing disrupted world.

It all starts with opportunity. Go out on a limb.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

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