Increase Your Sales Competence

As you increase your level of knowledge, you automatically increase your sales competence. As knowledge helps you lower your own fears, that vacuum is replaced by a positive force known as competence.

There are four basic levels of competence. These levels especially apply when you are learning anything new—such as learning computer skills, or mastering one-time closing. These are:

  • Level #1—the unconscious incompetent
  • Level #2—the conscious incompetent
  • Level #3—the conscious competent
  • Level #4—the unconscious competent

Level #1. The unconscious incompetent doesn’t even know that he (or she) doesn’t know what he’s doing. Like the kid trying to make his first bow in the laces of his tennis shoes, or the CEO learning her first computer program, we experience Level #1 all our lives. Or, at least as long as we keep trying new things. In that sense, unconscious incompetence is a necessary, if not good, thing. Generally, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. If you take up rollerblading, you can count on being an unconscious incompetent before you can startle the neighbors with your speed and agility. That’s why sales of helmets and knee guards are so high. We can’t get to full competency, much less to step two in the printed instructions, until we master step one.

Challenges arrive when we take up residence at Level #1 and don’t move on.

Let’s compare this to something as simple and reflexive as driving. Assuming you do have a driver’s license, you probably don’t drive today as you did when you first had your learner’s permit. You are at Level #4 when it comes to driving. It’s become an unconscious move to turn on your blinker, your lights, and navigate your local area, right? So, you would say you’re an unconsciously competent driver.

Okay, let’s say you’re given a new driving experience. You are now sitting in the driver’s seat at a Nascar race. Do you know how to drive? Yes. Do you know how to drive a stock car at 200 miles an hour around a circular track without hitting something or causing bodily harm to yourself in some way? Probably not. In that context, are you Level #4? No. You’ve just stepped back to Level #1.

The same applies to new selling strategies.

Yesterday you may have been a master at the outdated techniques of high pressure sales and today you are facing an entirely new way of doing business. Again, that’s okay because you will move on to the next steps. Won’t you?

Level #2, the conscious incompetent, is really a state of awareness. You vaguely know that there’s a certain something out there. You also are aware that you really don’t know very much about it. At this level you don’t know everything you need to know about a subject. In other words, the conscious incompetent knows he or she doesn’t know.

The people who are comfortable with Level #2 don’t give it much thought. In fact, they avoid thinking about those nagging questions. People who want to move on and up with life, people like you, will be curious at this level. You want to learn more. If you’re intimidated by the amount of information you must grasp, don’t be. You will get where you are going. You will become a master of the one-time close because you have the drive and the discipline to achieve it.

Level #3, the conscious competent, is busy reading, studying, watching the experts, picking up new information and learning everything he or she can about the subject at hand. The person at Level #3 is even experimenting, trying new things, and learning what works and what doesn’t work quite so well. It’s an exciting level because things are happening. Progress is being made. And you don’t find yourself paralyzed by fear as often. In fact, long stretches of time pass without you even thinking about some of the many things that filled you with apprehension in the recent past.

Level #4, the unconscious competent, is the level of the master closer, the closing specialist. If you continue to train, you will get there and probably a lot faster than you now believe. This is the ultimate experience. You are so knowledgeable and experienced that one-time closing is a natural process.

You barely have to think about it before you flawlessly execute your presentation. Your sales reflexes are so finely honed that the process has become internalized. Your sales presentation is finely tuned and targeted precisely to serving the unique needs of your clients with the unique solutions provided by your product or service.

Certainly, those nagging fears still drop in now and again, but they’re way in the background. You know how to handle them. More than that you are handling them.

Level #4 is a very heady place to be. You’ll like it. Are you ready to enter Level #4? Are you ready to become a one-time closing specialist? Only you know the answer. But I suspect it’s a resounding “Yes!”

Copyright Tom Hopkins International, Inc. Excerpted from the hard cover edition of Sell It Today, Sell It Now.