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Feb 7, 2013 | Anne Babej, CPSA

The Japanese use the word kaizen to describe the nature of the global marketplace.  It means “a state of constant change and evolution.”  This term accurately reflects the reality of today’s world – with its advancing technologies, changing needs, and changing perspectives.  To be successful in this environment, we need to evolve along with our changing marketplace. This requires a constant commitment to professional development.

Taking Stock of Yourself
Managing your own professional development starts with assessing where you are now.  Take a realistic inventory of your personal and professional assets:

Your Personal Inventory:

    - What are your personal interests?
    - What are your notable skills and abilities?
    - In what activities do you excel?
    - What are your key areas of knowledge and understanding?

Your Professional Inventory:

    - Assess your level of competency in your current job.
    - Where do you excel?
    - In what areas do you require further skill development? (To help you with this, make use of psychometric assessments.)
    - How do you rate yourself on the five main Keys to Sales Success: 
      1) Product/Industry/Company Knowledge and Pride
      2) Sales Personality Traits
      3) Self-Management Skills
      4) Strategic Planning Skills
      5) Influential Communications Skills

Creating a Plan
Once you have taken inventory, you are ready to create a plan for your professional development, which will enable you to reach your goals:

    1.  Identify the competency requirement for the job level you plan to achieve.  What will you need in terms of experience, education, and attitude?

    2. Set goals and time frames for achieving these competencies.

    3. List the steps you must take to reach your goals.  This will include planning to take applicable courses, seminars, and/or self-directed learning programs.  Be realistic about the effort, development, and tasks that will be required to reach each step of your plan.  Identify what you need to do and what you are prepared to do to accomplish each step.  Set completion dates for each step using a time-management system, and schedule the time necessary to complete each task.

    4. Act. Don’t wait another minute. Put your plan into action.

Creating an Environment for Development
It is important to create an environment that facilitates ongoing self-improvement.  Consider the following strategies:

    Practice consistent, self-directed learning using online courses/webinars, CDs, and books.  These will help you develop those areas in your personal and professional inventory where you have identified a need to strengthen your skills.  Practice key skills on a regular basis by making this part of your weekly schedule.  Look for some options here.

    Make note of any problems or mistakes you encounter in your day-to-day job performance, and develop tactics to correct them.  Identify the skills you need to develop to prevent them from recurring.

    Interact with your peers on a professional level.  There is a saying that goes, “If you want to fly with the eagles, you can’t hang around with turkeys.”  This is an important concept for development because it suggests how necessary it is to exist in an environment of continual enrichment.  Tactics to create this interaction include finding a mentor or becoming a mentor, actively networking, attending courses, industry events, and so on.

    Learn how to use and understand the most up-to-date tools.  Since the tools we use to conduct our businesses are constantly changing and advancing, we too must continually upgrade our knowledge and skills.  Investing the latest sales tools is a smart way to keep ahead in your career.  Keep informed about the latest technological advances, and learn how you can use these technologies to enhance your work.  Investigate the sales tools your competitors and peers are using to support their work.  Effective salespeople learn to use all the resources and tools at their disposal to manage their time and efforts better.  In particular, it is important to understand software products and their potential application to sales.  The right tools can make an important difference in the way you perform your job.

    Pay attention to your health.  Managing your health is critical in all aspects of your life and affects your ability to do your job.  Make sure you set personal health and wellness goals as part of your total goal-setting plan.  A common characteristic of highly successful people is a high energy level.  You must manage your health by eating properly, exercising regularly, and controlling stress factors.  Your life needs to be in balance if you wish to succeed.

Change is the one constant in today’s marketplace.  To keep up and be prepared, use the tips outlined here to form a solid strategy for professional development and career management.

Click here to view this article in French.

About the Author:
Anne Babej is the COO at the Canadian Professional Sales Association. She also oversees CPSA’s Sales Institute, which provide many in-class, online, or in-house sales and business training courses, as well as Canada’s only recognized sales designation, the Certified Sales Professional (CSP) designation.

Contact us today at or 1-888-267-2772 to see how we can help you and your team reach new heights in sales success.

Copyright ©2013 by The Canadian Professional Sales Association
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Recommended Reading:
Getting the Dream Team…By Investing In It
Diamonds in the Rough: How to Polish the Next Generation of Sales Professionals
Sales are Only as Strong as the Sales Team: The Value of Sales Training and Coaching

Learn more about CPSA’s Sales Training Centre.
View more sales articles from CPSA’s Knowledge Centre.

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