This article is excerpted from Discover Your Sales Strengths: How the World’s Greatest Salespeople Develop Winning Careers, by Benson Smith and Tony Rutigliano, Copyright 2003 by the Gallup Organization (Warner Business Books).
The power of knowing your strengths is obvious to some, but the majority of us fail to give this important matter any real thought. In fact, a majority of the people we talked to had limited knowledge of their talents, their innate potential for strength. Trying to build a successful career without this powerful, important information is like trying to drive down a highway with a foggy windshield. If we’re lucky, we will avoid a head-on collision, but we will most likely miss the important signs that tell us when we need to stop, turn, or yield. Why is it so hard to see our strengths clearly?
Strengths, those capabilities that enable us to perform will in various parts of our lives, spring from recurring patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior that occur spontaneously and become unique parts of our personality as we mature into adults. Since these patterns are such an intrinsic part of us, as natural as breathing, we can take them for granted. People who meet other easily see nothing special about this gift. Empathetic people just assume that everyone reacts to the emotions of others as instinctively as they do. As a result of the spontaneity with which we apply our talents to various situations, we overlook them and how important and valuable they are.
Our human penchant for fooling ourselves can also cause us to have less than accurate assessments of our abilities. In our “plus columns” we often will list strengths we would like to have instead of those we really possess. We might think we’re good with people because we’d like to be. Similarly, we might attribute strengths to ourselves because we believe those in our types of jobs or circumstances are supposed to have those strengths. If we think that successful salespeople are aggressive, or competitive, or disciplined, we might conclude that we must have those strengths because we are successful in sales.