It has become almost cliché among professionals who are no longer content with their level of success or income: “I’m ready to take things to the next level.”
That line is right up near the top of the list of business clichés I dislike, right along side “Exploring strategic alternatives” (read: selling the company), and “This is low hanging fruit” (read: anyone should be able to sell this, what’s your problem?).
The “next level” is not a merit badge given to folks who’ve been selling for a while now. It is not a pacifier to be given to the most tenured seller when it seems their sales strategy is in a rut.
Think of “The Next Level” as a personal operating standard. You’ve worked hard, you’ve learned, and maybe you’ve achieved benchmarks A, B, and C in your career. But now, you’re no longer content with your ABCs. Perhaps it is time to review what’s gotten you this far (your personal operating standard)… and ask whether these are the very actions or work styles that keep you from going farther.
"At eighteen, our convictions are the hills from which we look.
At forty-five, they become the caves in which we hide."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
Reflect on the way you work now. Aside from the fact that you have a better laptop or smartphone, how is it different from the way you worked five years ago? Ten? What kind of structured knowledge have you absorbed in the past few years? Have you taken any classes or gone to any learning events that fundamentally changed the way you think about, approach, and conduct your work? What have you done in the past 12 months… that scared you? (People often have a sense of fear when they know they’re pushing themselves to new limits. Done anything to scare yourself lately?)
“The Next Level” is a very poor goal. Make it more specific to develop your sales strategy. What kinds of accounts would you like to gain and succeed with that you don’t have now? What kind of income would you like to earn that you’re not earning now? What first-of-a-kind accomplishment would allow you to look back and say… “Wow. I am operating at a whole new level!”?
Friend and colleague Steve Marx recently shared a great quote that we’ve all heard before, but it’s worthwhile thinking about again and again: “If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.” The source of the quote is unknown. But the excitement—and rewards—of working toward a new career goal… is something that should be known by all of us.
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