For many years, Harding & Company has studied rainmakers to learn what it takes for professionals to make the transition from doing and managing client work to selling it. One of the biggest reasons that some fail to make this transition is giving up too soon. There are many causes of this problem; one of the most significant is inadequate performance standards.
We define performance standards as measures by which you can determine:
- The degree to which you are succeeding or failing,
- The degree to which you are on track to succeeding or failing,
- How your performance compares to others, and
- Where you should devote your attention to improving your performance, either by doing more or less of an activity or by doing something else.
Of course, performance standards exist in countless fields. We use them when we evaluate our academic performance (grades, class rank, difficulty ratings of courses taken), play a sport, such as golf (putts per hole, making pars) or when we judge the suitability of something, like a car, for our needs (fuel consumption, acceleration, safety ratings).
We know from those fields that identifying and assessing performance against the right standards is critical to success. We know, for example, what we should be reviewing our child at home if she gets generally high grades in math, but fails a test on fractions.
We often forget that we have absorbed these standards from an early age. When faced with a new kind of activity that we don’t fully understand, there is always a risk of applying the wrong performance standards, usually adapted from some other area with which we are more familiar, to our detriment.
One of the authors remembers his first good hit in golf and recalls how satisfying it felt to see the ball sail straight through air right to the place he was aiming for. Without realizing, he applied standards he had learned in other activities, like riding a bicycle, where once you learn how do it you have learned it forever. He thought that he would make one good stroke after another. But golf doesn’t work that way. In golf, one good stoke is just that: one good stroke. It takes a lot of practice to do it consistently. He had to reset his standards for the new game.
The need to change expectations, like this, so that you can judge your own progress is certainly true for those learning to sell professional services. A big part of building the persistence and other habits, needed to succeed at rain making, is the development of the right standards.
In a future post, we will review some common rain making performance, such as time to result, routine ratios and reliability measures.
Post by Ford Harding & Gary Pines