A Research Paper By Jasmine Vincent, Executive Coach, SINGAPORE
How to Maximise Your Sales Performance, Success, and Happiness as an Entrepreneur
If you are an entrepreneur (e.g. real estate agents, insurance advisors, independent consultants/coaches, lawyers, doctors, business owners, etc.), you are in the driver’s seat of your business. That means you have the complete freedom to define your purpose, who you want to serve, and how to show up. This is a luxury that is available to you and rarely available to those who are employed.
Given this freedom, you have the choice of designing your business in a way that is aligned with everything you stand for and where your talents are at play. We need to recognize that this core ability to choose1 is the invincible power within us and cannot be taken away from us unless we allow that to happen. When we forget to choose, we are transferring this freedom and power into other people’s hands. The result? We become less happy, successful, and productive than when we are taking over the wheel of choice.
The Importance of Our Business/Career/Purpose
In a panel study2 where Gallup interviewed 10,598 people internationally, only 19% of the participants can give a strong “yes” response to the questions “Do you like what you do each day?”. Considering the number of hours we spend at work (about one-third of our day or nearly half of our waking hours), this figure looks depressing. Nothing is worse than spending a large part of your precious life doing a job you are not excited about.
The Economic Journal did a longitudinal study3 of 130,000 people over several decades. The study looked at the impact of major life events (such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or the death of a spouse) on our life satisfaction over time. They found that after a few years, people recover to the same level of wellbeing they had before their spouse passed away. However, this was not the case — especially for men — for those unemployed for over a year.
As an entrepreneur, the health of your business has a huge impact on your life. You likely spend many hours daily thinking about your business. When your business is thriving, it indicates that you are enjoying what you do, are good at it, and are looking forward to doing more of it. Conversely, when your business is struggling or, even worse, suffering, it can have a negative impact not just on your financials but also on your relationships, physical health, and possibly, where you live as well.
Given its importance, it is pertinent that you choose carefully and effectively designing your business/career/purpose. In another Gallup panel study4 that interviewed 14,366 people, Gallup found that those with high career wellbeing (i.e. how you occupy your time or simply like what you do every day) are more than twice as likely to be thriving in their lives overall.
The Three Elements of Your Business
Ideally, your business is a representation of these three elements:
- What you ideally like to offer
- Who you ideally hope to serve
- How you ideally like to show up
The use of the word “ideally” is on purpose and reaffirms the importance of making a choice, given that you have the complete freedom of choice to design the right business elements as an entrepreneur.
What You Ideally Like to Offer
When I speak to clients who are currently in employment and hoping to pivot to running their own business, the initial ideas on what business to run is almost always:
- About the skills and experiences, they have accumulated in the past decade(s) of their working life. E.g. an Analyst will think that they are good at using Microsoft Excel and crunching numbers. However, both of these are skills and what is missing is the identification of talent. Perhaps this Analyst is talented in seeing patterns in data and having the strategic perspective of identifying the best option forward given the scenario.
- About what the market needs. While it is true that there must be a demand for what you have to offer, defining what your business is offering based on what your prospective clients want is similar to putting the cart before the horse and, at worst, fitting a square peg in a round hole.
In defining what you ideally like to offer, think from a place of what value you bring to the table. Typically, this includes the talents you have, the experiences you have gained as well as the skills you have developed.
Who You Ideally Hope to Serve
For those who have experienced serving clients that drain your energy, you will likely drag your feet, or your heart will feel heavy as you think about serving that client again. On the other hand, if you are serving a client that energizes you, you will look forward to it and be happy to spend more time with the client and do more for them.
As an entrepreneur, you have the power to choose who you want to serve. E.g., if you are a life insurance advisor, you have three choices in terms of clients: mass market clients, High Networth clients (“HNW”), or Ultra High Networth (“UHNW”) clients. Someone excited about serving the mass market client may be driven by the opportunity of meeting a high volume of diverse clients and the relative ease and speed of closing smaller deals. Those excited about serving the UHNW segment are likely to be driven by the significance of dealing with this level of clients and the option of taking the time to serve their needs effectively.
In defining what you ideally hope to serve, it’s helpful to think from the perspective of significance versus volume. High-value clients are typically not high volume, and high volume clients generally are not high value. Some will also include demographics such as age or gender. There is no right or wrong, just what energizes you.
How You Would Like to Show Up
When you think of showing up, think about how you will like to get your clients or be in front of clients. To illustrate this, let’s assume that you need to find new clients, i.e. generate leads. There are many ways of doing that, and here are a few common ones:
- Develop content and post to your website and social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.).
- Join networking events, work with the crowd, and exchange contact details.
- Speak at an event or webinar
- Send email marketing campaigns.
- Cold calls
- Referrals (by your past clients or existing contacts)
While one may think that how you show up is related to your experience, it is more than that. There is something innate that drives someone to prefer one approach versus another. E.g., if you enjoy parties and meeting as many new faces as possible in events, you will most likely be very comfortable showing up in a video, or you will feel like you are at the top of the world when working for the crowd in a room. If you are a thinker, it is most likely that you prefer to think deeper about how you can be more effective and achieve your objective. In that case, something that is more “behind the scene” may work better for you (such as blog writing or email marketing campaigns). Those who are highly selective of who they want to work with may prefer to work solely by referrals.
How to Maximise Your Best Opportunity for Performance, Success, and Happiness
5 Our brain is wired to welcome what it perceives as easy and resist what it perceives as hard. This bias is called the cognitive ease principle or the principle of least effort. It is our natural tendency to take the path of least resistance to achieve what we want. So, as you think about aligning what your brain will welcome and the three elements of business discussed above, consider:
- What excites/energizes you
- What you prefer (i.e. what you feel most comfortable with)
- What do you think you are most confident in
There are three ways to find out:
- Reflect on our past work achievements. While this is the most intuitive, the answer we find is often tied to our skills and experiences. Even if you can include your talents, it is hard to pinpoint all the talents precisely.
- Ask family and close friends. While they know us the best and can provide accurate feedback, there is always a lens of biases involved.
- Take an assessment. There are many paid and free assessments available online. How do you choose? For those who are deep thinkers, the myriad of options may even lead to analysis paralysis.
Discover Your Talents With Cliftonstrengths®
Our talents are the way we most naturally think, feel and behave. Because talents are innate, patterns consistently repeat. To excel in your chosen business and find lasting satisfaction in doing so, you need to understand your unique patterns. Building a business based on your talents will tell your brain that it is the path of least effort and success, i.e. you can be at your best and achieve consistent performance, success, and happiness.
Gallup’s CliftonStrengths assessment (formerly known as StrengthsFinder) is a scientific way to develop a clear understanding of your talents. Started in 1999 and backed by five decades of human behavior research before its launch, the CliftonStrengths assessment gives you — upon answering 177 questions — a ranked order of your 34 talent themes. To date6, 26 million people have taken this paid assessment. As part of their learning and development, over 90% of Fortune 500 companies offer strengths-based development in their organization, and CliftonStrengths is the foundational development tool.
Develop Your Talents Into Strengths
It is most common at school and at work that we are asked to put more time into where we are weak. For those who have been in corporate employment where there are quarterly, half-yearly, or annual performance reviews with your manager, you may have received training in areas where you are weak. While we can continuously improve by building on our weaknesses, we can never reach a level of excellence. Conversely, when we build on talents by adding skills, experiences, and practice, we are essentially developing our strengths, and excellence and consistent performance will ensue.
In Gallup’s study7 of 250,000 sales reps in 170 organizations, they found that the top 25% of the sales force generated an average 57% of year-over-year sales increase in their companies. On the other hand, the bottom 25% of the sales force was selling less than it had the year before. Gallup’s research indicated that the best sales professionals had talents — the unusual ability to build enduring and profitable relationships with clients, close business, and keep those relationships long-term.
How Strengths-Based Coaching Can Help
ICF certified coaches are professionally trained to listen actively so that they can ask powerful questions to evoke your awareness and move you towards clarity and actions towards your goal. CliftonStrengths is a great shorthand for your coaches to understand what drives you and what your needs and values are.
E.g. an entrepreneur who the Woo® talent theme in her top five ClftonStrengths will find it a breeze socializing a networking event and charming as many new people as possible for leads. Another person with a high Relator® talent theme may be more comfortable generating leads through existing networks and referrals and deepening relationships with a few clients.
When you work in an area of strength, you will be at the top of your game. It will feel natural, you will yearn to do more, the performance can be consistently repeated, you will be in a flow, and you may even be wowed by how you did it. Knowing your CliftonStrengths is the beginning of your strengths development. Hiring an ICF Certified Coach who is also a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach will help move you to your desired goals based on what is innately you and where you can maximise your performance, happiness and success.
1 “Essentialism” book by Greg McKeown
2 and 7 “Wellbeing” book by Tom Rath and Jim Harter
3 “Lags and leads in life satisfaction: A test of the baseline hypothesis” by Clark, A.E., Diener, E., Georgellis, Y., & Lucas, R.E.
5 “Effortless” book by Greg McKeown
7 “Strengths-based Selling” book by Brian Brim