Read the following statement and ask yourself how strongly you agree with it: "At work I get to do what I do best every day." To what extent are you able to answer with an emphatic yes?
Gallup researchers have asked hundreds of thousands of questions over the years in an effort to understand what drives exceptional performance. We have found that a person's response to the previous statement is one of the single most important questions we have ever posed. In just the past few years we have asked for responses from more than 2 million people. What did we find?
People's responses to that question link directly to their productivity, profitability, and customer loyalty measures. The more people agree with the statement, the better their performance. The implications of this finding are both simple and complex.
Just doing more of what you do best can dramatically improves your performance. That's the simple part. The more complex part is finding out how to do that in your present role, or finding another role that allows you to do that.
All of us have to be in the right role for our talents to shine. That's what we mean by fit, a close match between our job and our greatest talents.
Years ago, long before we began asking the previous question, we were struck by the observation that in every organization we studied, the best salespeople appeared to be in exactly the right jobs for them, and they usually knew it. When we interviewed top salespeople, they often mentioned this to us within the first few minutes of our conversations.
John [a top-performing salesperson] told us his story: "After college I didn't know what I wanted to do. No job seemed really interesting to me. Then almost on a lark I tried door-to-door sales. To my surprise I liked it. I got a kick out of persuading people to buy. But I didn't like the company much. After a while I was able to get a real sales job with a legitimate company. I did OK, but the job required me to call on the same customers over and over again. You had to be careful not to push people too much, or they would stop doing business with your company. I actually missed the closing pressure of my old job. Finally, after several different sales jobs I found one that was perfect for me. It's fast-paced, you go all out to get the order, and I love it." John has fit... and he knows it.
For salespeople, fit means adopting a sales style that takes advantage of your greatest talents, or if you are changing jobs, finding one that is as close a match as possible to your talents.
Bear in mind that even modest improvements in fit yield big improvements in performance. This is especially true for individuals who already are good performers. Improving fit is the fastest, surest, and most dramatic way to improve your success and your job satisfaction.
Excerpted from Discover Your Sales Strengths: How the World's Greatest Salespeople Develop Winning Careers (Warner Books, February 2003)
About the Authors
Benson Smith is a consultant, speaker, and author for The Gallup Organization, and an expert in the area of sales force effectiveness. Tony Rutigliano is a senior managing consultant, speaker, and author for The Gallup Organization, and an expert in the areas of sales force effectiveness, organizational effectiveness, and talent assessment. Smith and Rutigliano are the coauthors of Discover Your Sales Strengths: How the World's Greatest Salespeople Develop Winning Careers (Warner Books, February 2003).