In college, I took a really boring class called Operations Management. Like most boring classes, there were several important lessons disguised in arcane diagrams and efficiency tables. One of the valuable lessons I learned was bottleneck theory.
The bottleneck theory states that you can only produce as fast as your slowest process. For example, if you are bottling soda, you have a manufacturing line that can sterilize 20 bottles per minute, you can fill 15 bottles per minute, but you can only label 10 bottles per minute; your production max is 10 bottles per minute. Your bottleneck is your label machine. If you upgrade your label machine so that you can label 25 bottles per minute, then your filling machine becomes the new bottleneck. Each time a bottleneck is relieved a new constraint presents itself.
You can apply the bottleneck theory to your professional development. By breaking up the sales process into eight key skill areas, we can measure our performance more accurately:

  1. Prospecting
  2. Qualifying
  3. Building Trust / Rapport
  4. Discovery
  5. Presentation
  6. Objections
  7. Closing
  8. Referrals/Resales

For example, let’s say you are excellent at everything but closing. Your scores are all 10, except your rated a 5 at closing. In this example, your results will never surpass your closing skill rating of 5. Your colleagues, who are less skilled than you, consistently earn more than you because they are better at closing. Nothing will make you more angry and despondent, than seeing someone less skilled make more money than you.

So what do you do?

Write down the eight key result areas above. Every time your sales opportunity stalls, put a tally mark next to the corresponding skill. Maybe, nobody is calling you back – tally prospecting. They dismiss you during your initial questions – tally discovery. They don’t want to refer you to anyone – tally referrals / resales. After a while your weakest areas will become apparent. Pick the weakest one and go to work on yourself: read books, go to sales training workshops, seminars or find a mentor who can coach you.
Repeat this process every time your sales results plateau. Repeat this process enough times and you will soon be at the top of your field.