Are You an Amateur or a Professional?

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People often think the difference between an amateur and a professional is whether or not they get paid to do what they do. But is an Olympic athlete not a professional? Is a kid hustling lemonade from a roadside stand a professional? The reality is the distinction goes beyond pay. The distinction is more about about what you're focusing on in your professional growth. The distinction is about the basics.

An amateur might read a book, watch a video, take a lesson, etc. and then immediately go forth and apply the newly gained knowledge. They will test things out, see if and how they work, repeat the things that do, and eliminate the things that were not successful.

It becomes about getting things right. An amateur gathering knowledge might say something like, “How much can I learn so that I can do things correctly?”

I acted this way as a youth basketball coach. I bought a book on coaching, learned to come up with drills and a practice plan, and then executed things in the book to get my team game-ready. Compared to the other coaches who practiced at our gym, we looked like an organized practice machine. Parents weren’t angry with me when they watched our practice. I was engaged, organized, and our kids got better over the season. I was teaching my kids to run plays, set picks, and to move the ball around the court, and they could do it.

But they weren’t great dribblers. Passes were often intercepted. Shots were missed all of the time. Sometimes it was the shot selection. Sometimes it was that the mechanics of the shot were not good enough for the good shot to make it.

My kids learned the game, but they didn’t really learn how to play it. I was focusing on the wrong things.

Amateurs work to the level that they can do things. Professionals work to the level that they can't not doing something. Professionals understand what the basics are, why they are the basics, and how to master those basics until they become habit, until become second-nature to them.

It’s why a movie actor can play different roles. It’s way an NFL player can change teams and get up to speed within a week. It’s why a magician can learn new tricks. The environment does not change the professional’s ability to perform, because they have mastered the basics.

Your salespeople may be professionals in the sense that they get paid for what they do. But are they acting like it? Do they understand the basics of what is required? Do they understand why the basics work? Have they mastered the basics to such a high degree that they could change to another product, service, pricing model, etc. without any hesitation?

The majority of sales teams that we work with are “making it up.” They have never been taught the basics, what they are supposed to be doing, what the process for executing is, and on and on.

The real question is, do you want your team to be professional, or are you content with not being criticized by the “parents watching from the sideline?” What effect would it have on your business if you had professionals out there driving revenue into the business?

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