9 Mins Read

The Fast Path To Transforming Your Sales Career Is Thinking Big (And Acting Small)

Brandon Fluharty  |

Brandon Fluharty |

⚡️ Today’s level up ⚡️

Today’s edition encourages you to evaluate your thinking – are you operating from the mindset of your smaller self or your bigger version? Giving power to your “big” self will change your sales career (and life). Here’s how to do it.

Let’s go!

Read time: <9 minutes

If you missed last week, read it here.

 

Who’s calling the shots in your head?

I have a confession.

When I got to the VP level and earned 7-figures in SaaS sales for the first time, I was let down.

For one, I was expecting something a bit more emotionally gratifying by the feat, but more than that, when I looked around at the people who had also done it or were also carrying VP titles (and actually managing a large team), I discovered something disappointing – “These people don’t know any more than I do. They’re just trying to figure it all out too.”

However sobering that discovery was, it was also a liberating lesson.

Those I had propped up on a pedestal weren’t any more special than me. There wasn’t anything in their DNA, or education, or training, or experience, or credentials, or habits, or title, or anything really that made them stand out any more than I did.

The fact is, the higher you climb, the more insecure people can be and the more they’re enduring the battle of feeling like an imposter – just like you and me!

Although I didn’t start running faster with this knowledge upon discovering it, I did eventually use it as my main source of power. If these people are just as insecure as me, well, likely so too is everybody else I admire – authors, athletes, actors, and even the big-wig CEOs I had hoped to meet with.

From that point on, I decided I no longer needed to play it safe. In fact, the safer place is at the very top. Because if they’re just like me, then I have nothing to fear.

The summit is safe. It’s down in the marketplace where you have to watch yourself.

So friends, let’s ditch the cozy confines of the busy streets where everyone else is blindly playing the wrong (trivial) games and set course for a higher elevation (where you can win big).

For bigger returns, ask yourself a bigger question (often)

Want a killer question you can ask yourself that will break through the clutter? Shatter the noise? Get you focused on what’s truly (big) and important right now?

Ask yourself this:

“What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

I can’t take credit for coming up with this powerful question. No, that belongs to Gary Keller, author of The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. But I can do my part to make sure it’s a part of your daily rhythm.

If you get in the habit of asking and answering this question often, you rise to the summit of the mountain and start playing a different game than everyone else. It has an impact not only on your sales career, but every domain of your life.

In Keller’s own words, “The Focusing Question is so deceptively simple that its power is easily dismissed by anyone who doesn’t closely examine it. But that would be a mistake. The Focusing Question can lead you to answer not only “big picture” questions (Where am I going? What target should I aim for?) but also “small focus” ones as well (What must I do right now to be on the path to getting the big picture? Where’s the bull’s-eye?).

It tells you not only what your basket should be, but also the first step toward getting it. It shows you how big your life can be and just how small you must go to get there. It’s both a map for the big picture and a compass for your smallest move.”

Let’s break down the anatomy of this powerful question.

According to Keller, “The Focusing Question collapses all possible questions into one: “What’s the ONE Thing I can do / such that by doing it / everything else will be easier or unnecessary.”

PART ONE: “What’s the one thing I can do…”

Keller goes on to say, “This sparks action. “What’s the ONE Thing” tells you the answer will be one thing versus many. The last phrase, “can do,” is an embedded command directing you to take action that is possible. People often want to change this to “should do,” “could do,” or “would do,” but those choices all miss the point. There are many things we should, could, or would do but never do. Action you “can do” beats intention every time.”

PART TWO: “…such that by doing it…”

This is a critical component, and Keller says “This tells you there’s a criterion your answer must meet. It’s the bridge between just doing something and doing something for a specific purpose. “Such that by doing it” lets you know you’re going to have to dig deep, because when you do this ONE Thing, something else is going to happen.”

PART THREE: “…everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

Here, Keller quotes Archimedes, “Give me a lever long enough and I could move the world,” and goes on to say “and that’s exactly what this last part tells you to find. “Everything else will be easier or unnecessary” is the ultimate leverage test. It tells you when you’ve found your first domino.

It says that when you do this ONE Thing, everything else you could do to accomplish your goal will now be either doable with less effort or no longer even necessary. Most people struggle to comprehend how many things don’t need to be done, if they would just start by doing the right thing. In effect, this qualifier seeks to declutter your life by asking you to put on blinders. This elevates the answer’s potential to change your life by doing the leveraged thing and avoiding distractions.”

Keller says that he makes The Focusing Question a way of life (and so can you). But he goes on to provide this warning: “Obviously, you can drive yourself nuts analyzing every little aspect of everything you might do. I don’t do that, and you shouldn’t either. Start with the big stuff and see where it takes you. Over time, you’ll develop your own sense of when to use the big-picture question and when to use the small-focus question.”

As mentioned above, you can use The Focusing Question in various areas of your life. Keller provides additional guidance by explaining, “Simply reframe The Focusing Question by inserting your area of focus (like your job, or health, or family, etc.). You can also include a time frame – such as “right now” or “this year” – to give your answer the appropriate level of immediacy, or “in five years” or “someday” to find a big-picture answer that points you at the outcomes to aim for.”

So let’s get specific. Use your job as a strategic seller to ask specific Focusing Questions across your account list. These could look something like this:

  • “What’s the ONE Thing I can do to improve the buying experience for…?”
  • “What’s the ONE Thing I can prepare for to be ready for this call with…?
  • “What’s the ONE Thing I can show in this meeting for…?”

 

The path to great answers

“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” – F.M. Alexander

Still with me?

Hopefully you can see and feel how this powerful question, when asked often and across everything you do in life, can lead to bigger and better outcomes. And not only that, but by simply playing the game “bigger” (at the top of the mountain) you reduce the friction, competition, and unnecessary noise that occurs when playing the “trivial” game (in the chaotic marketplace).

But we’re not done yet.

1. Ask a great question

Keller reminds us “The Focusing Question helps you ask a great question. Great questions, like great goals, are big and specific. They push you, stretch you, and aim you at big, specific answers. And because they’re framed to be measurable, there’s no wiggle room about what the results will look like.”

I love that Keller comes from a sales background himself and uses a very sales-specific example. Let’s look at it and then help you figure out how to incorporate it into your own personal OS.

“Let’s take increasing sales as a way to break down each of the quadrants, using “What can I do to double sales in six months?” as a placeholder for Big & Specific. Now, let’s examine the pros and cons of each question quadrant, ending with where you want to be – Big & Specific.” (Fig. 19 below)

QUADRANT 4. Small & Specific: “What can I do to increase sales by 5 percent this year?” Kellers explains “This aims you in a specific direction, but there’s nothing truly challenging about this question. For most salespeople, a 5 percent bump in sales could just as easily happen because the market shifted in your favor rather than anything you might have done. At best, it’s an incremental gain, not a life-changing leap forward. Low goals don’t require extraordinary actions so they rarely lead to extraordinary results.”

QUADRANT 3. Small & Broad: “What can I do to increase sales?” Keller dismisses this by saying “This is not really an achievement question at all. It’s more of a brainstorming question. It’s great for listing your options but requires more to narrow your options and go small. How much will sales increase? By what date? Unfortunately, this is the kind of average question most people ask and then wonder why their answers don’t deliver extraordinary results.”

QUADRANT 2. Big & Broad: “What can I do to double sales?” Keller explains why this doesn’t work in your favor: “Here you have a big question, but nothing specific. It’s a good start, but the lack of specifics leaves more questions than answers. Doubling sales in the next 20 years is very different from attempting the same goal in a year or less. There are still too many options and without specifics you won’t know where to start.”

QUADRANT 1: Big & Specific: “What can I do to double sales in six months?” Keller breaks down why this is so effective by saying “Now you have all of the elements of a Great Question. It’s a big goal and it’s specific. You’re doubling sales, and that’s not easy. You also have a time frame of six months, which will be a challenge. You’ll need a big answer. You’ll have to stretch what you believe is possible and look outside the standard toolbox of solutions.”

But this is just one side of the coin. There’s still more work to do. A great question naturally needs a great answer. Keller lays it out like this “So if “What can I do to double sales in six months?” is a Great Question, how do you make it more powerful? Convert it to the Focusing Question: “What’s the ONE Thing I can do to double sales in six months, such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

Turning this into a Focusing Question goes to the center of success by encouraging you to hone in on what matters most and start there.

2. Find a great answer

The challenge of asking a Great Question is that once you’ve asked it, you’re left with needing to find a Great Answer.

Luckily, Keller has an effective framework to help you on this path.

“Answers come in three categories: doable, stretch, and possibility. The easiest answer you can seek is the one that’s already within reach of your knowledge, skills, and experience. With this type of solution you probably already know how to do it and won’t have to change much to get it. Think of this as “doable” and the most likely to be achieved.

The next level up is a “stretch” answer. While this is still within your reach, it can be at the farthest end of your range. You’ll most likely have to do some research and study what others have done to come up with this answer. Doing it can be iffy since you might have to extend yourself to the very limits of your current abilities. Think of this as potentially achievable and probable, depending on your effort.

High achievers understand these first two routes but reject them. Unwilling to settle for ordinary when extraordinary is possible, they’ve asked a Great Question and want the very best answer.

Extraordinary results require a Great Answer.

Highly successful people choose to live at the outer limits of achievement. They not only dream of but deeply crave what is beyond their natural grasp. They know this type of answer is the hardest to come by, but also know that just by extending themselves to find it, they expand and enrich their life for the better.

If you want the most from your answer, you must realize that it lives outside your comfort zone. This is rare air. A big answer is never in plain view, nor is the path to finding one laid out for you. A possible answer exists beyond what is already known and being done. As with a stretch goal, you can start out by doing research and studying the lives of other high achievers. But you can’t stop there. In fact, your search has just begun. Whatever you learn, you’ll use it to do what only the greatest achievers do: benchmark and trend.

A Great Answer is essentially a new answer. It is a leap across all current answers in search of the next one and is found in two steps. The first is the same as when you stretch. You uncover the best research and study the highest achievers. Anytime you don’t know the answer, your answer is to go find your answer. In other words, by default, your first ONE Thing is to search for clues and role models to point you in the right direction. The first thing to do is ask, “Has anyone else studied or accomplished this or something like it?” The answer is almost always yes, so your investigation begins by finding out what others have learned.

The research and experience of others is the best place to start when looking for your answer.

Armed with this knowledge, you can establish a benchmark, the current high-water mark for all that is known and being done, with a stretch approach this was your maximum, but now it is your minimum. It’s not all you’ll do, but it becomes the hilltop where you’ll stand to see if you can spot what might come next. This is called trending, and it’s the second step. You’re looking for the next thing you can do in the same direction that the best performers are heading or, if necessary, in an entirely new direction.

This is how big problems are solved and big challenges are overcome, for the best answers rarely come from an ordinary process. Whether it’s figuring out how to leapfrog the competition, finding a cure for a disease, or coming up with an action step for a personal goal, benchmarking and trending is your best option. Because your answer will be original, you’ll probably have to reinvent yourself in some way to implement it. A new answer usually requires new behavior, so don’t be surprised if along the way to sizable success you change in the process. But don’t let that stop you.

This is where the magic happens and possibilities are unlimited. As challenging as it can be, trailblazing up the path of possibilities is always worth it – for when we maximize our reach, we maximize our life.

Curious where I’d generally find my big answer? I’d write it out first. For my job, I wouldn’t create a boring account plan (marketplace work), but an account win narrative (mountaintop work).

Sometimes I’d challenge myself with using the PR/FAQ format, as writing out the account win from a year from their starting point was a forcing function to think about the possibilities creatively and use the FAQs as the specific roadmap to make it come to life. I even convinced a few others to give it a try (← steal this and try it too!).

YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY READING: To Reach New Heights In Your Sales Career, Treat Yourself Like a Brand

What did you think? Was this helpful? Send me an example of your Focusing Question. I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

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