In our mature marketplace, the team that can maximize their value proposition with key decision makers often wins the business. We are no longer selling widgets to part makers, but total solutions. People buy from people, and relationships still play a role, but the decision making process in many instances is now designed to minimize this facet of the process.

The Gallup Organization asked 1.7 million employees working in 101 companies within 63 countries the following question: “At work do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?” When employees answered “strongly agree”, they were 50% more likely to work in business units with lower employee turnover, 38% more likely to work in more productive business units and 44% more likely to work in business units with higher customer satisfaction scores. And over time, those business units that increased the number of employees who strongly agreed saw comparable increases in productivity, customer loyalty, and employee retention.

What percentage do you think strongly agrees that they have an opportunity to do what they do best every day? 20%. Equally alarming is the longer an employee stays with an organization and the higher they climb the traditional career ladder, the less likely they are to agree that they are playing to their strengths. Why do 8 out of 10 employees feel that they are miscast in their role? Why do organizations operate on 20% capacity? What opportunity exists for organizations to look inward and capitalize on this wealth of unrealized capacity? What does this have to do with selling?

Most organizations are built on two flawed assumptions:

  • Each person can learn to be competent in almost anything.
  • Each person’s greatest room for growth is in their area of greatest weakness.

Characteristics of this thinking:

  • Spending more money on training employees after they are hired instead of selecting them properly in the first place.
  • Most training dollars are spent on plugging the gaps in skills and competencies.
  • People are promoted based upon skills or experiences they have acquired.

New Assumptions:

  • Each employee’s talents are enduring and unique.
  • Each person’s greatest room for growth is in the areas of his or her greatest strength.



What is a strength?

Consistent near perfect performance in an activity

  • For an activity to be a strength, you must be able to do it is predictable. You must also derive some intrinsic satisfaction from it.
  • You do not have to have strength in every aspect of your role in order to excel.
  • You will excel only by maximizing your strengths, never by fixing your weakness. Find a way to manage around your weakness.

How do we build a life around our strengths?

• Understand how to distinguish your natural talents from things you can learn.

• We must differentiate between what is innate and what we can acquire with practice.

– Talents are naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling or behavior.
– Knowledge consists of the facts and lessons learned.
– Skills are the steps of an activity.

• These three combine to create strengths

Thus, the key to building a bona fide strength is to identify your dominant talents and then refine them with knowledge and skills. There are many tools available to determine dominant talents, but we must first understand the definition of talent.

Any recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied is a talent. Why are talents enduring and unique?

Your recurring patterns are created by the connections in your brain, and, beyond a certain age, you are not going to be able to stitch a completely new design – your talents are enduring.

In order to completely understand this concept, we need a short exploration of brain physiology. Brain growth is ‘backwards’.

During early development, the brain gets large quickly and then shrinks into adulthood.

  • 42 days after conception, the brain experiences a four month growth spurt.
  • On the 42nd day, the first neuron is created and after 120 days, you have 100 billion.
  • 60 days before birth, neurons begin communicating using axons to reach out.
  • Successful connections are called synapses and most happen in the first 3 years.
  • By age 3, all 100 billion neurons have made 15,000 connections.
  • This is your pattern of threads – unique, extensive, and intricate.


So, all that work for nothing?

  • Nature dictates that many of these connections get ignored.
  • Ignored connections break down and lose effectiveness.
  • Between age 3 – 15, billions and billions of these synapses are lost.
  • At age 16, half are lost and cannot be rebuilt.

Nature forces you to shut down billions of connections so that you can focus on the remaining ones. Without this design, we would be frozen in sensory overload. Jorge Borges told of a boy “possessed of an infinite memory. Nothing escapes him; all of his sensory experience, past and present, persists in his mind; drowned in particulars, unable to forget the changing formations of all the clouds he has seen, he cannot form general ideas, and therefore…cannot think.”

To save us from that fate, nature and nurture reinforce some connections and lets others wither and fade away. We emerge then as a distinctly talented individual blessed and/or cursed to react to the world in our own enduringly unique way. As an individual employee responsible for both your performance and for directing your career, it is vital that you gain an accurate understanding of how your mental connections are grooved…most take this for granted and never maximize our true value proposition.

Greg Terrell is currently the National Sales Manager with Coventya, Inc. He has held technical, marketing and sales/sales management positions in the metal finishing industry since 1991.