ciencies, commit to more training, and seek hands-on experience that may lead to an acceptable level of proficiency—but gaining experience does not ensure expertise. Stage 3: Skilled and aware (“I know what I know.”) Also referred to as “conscious competence,” this stage is achieved by practice, experi- mentation, experience, unabated ques- tioning, and a recognition of one’s strengths and weaknesses. Equally important is one’s willingness to com- mit to and follow through with ample determination to steadily achieve and maintain increased skills and knowl- edge. A critical consideration in this stage is that uncertainty and destabi- lization can occur as one’s familiar routines are challenged. Most failures occur because of lack of attention, not lack of talent. Success depends on making new skills a habit. New technologies and market shifts are constantly changing the industry landscape, oftentimes alter- ing what seem to be established rules. Ambiguities and insecurities can pro- duce market turbulence that must be monitored and accommodated. Mas- tering new skill sets to address bur- geoning business methods or ad- vanced technologies can distance those in stage 3 from the pack, build their competence, and fortify their confidence. Stage 4: Skilled and unaware (“I don’t know what I know.”) The journey does not end when this stage is reached. While day-to-day routines seem to be on automatic, particular caution should be given to avoid sinking into inertia, whether personally or organizationally. At this level, one’s thought process, decision- making, and commitment for continu- ous improvement must be constantly scrutinized and modified. Don’t forget that being in this stage in a single area does not mean that one is in it in all areas. Awareness and practice are mandatory for any unskilled talent. What separates “skilled” reps from “unskilled” competitors may not be obvious; in fact, it may be more a mat- ter of scale or personal character than an absolute skill. In First Things First, Stephen Covey points out that compe- tence includes technical knowledge, conceptual aptitude, and the ability to effectively interact with others. He maintains that while “Competence is what we can do”…“character is what we are.” Both qualities are require- ments for salespeople. ; Thomas is an independent freelance writer and marketing consultant. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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