By Amy Franko
I’m excited to share that I’m fulfilling a long-time dream of publishing my first book. This has been on the “someday” list for longer than I’d like to admit, and I decided that this was the year to make it happen.
The working title of the book is The Modern Seller, and the premise is that many of the ways we’ve learned to sell or lead sales teams no longer work with today’s customers. To survive and thrive, our customers are needing to evolve into modern organizations themselves, and we have to evolve along with them, into modern sellers and sales leaders.
This isn’t a book about the topics we’re used to, like prospecting, presenting, and closing – although they’re all important to be successful. I’m fascinated by the higher-order skills, or the “skills behind the skills,” that can help us to become better not just with our daily professional work, but hopefully our personal journeys, as well.
It’s exciting, a little terrifying, and pushing me to grow in new ways. I thought I’d share some of the journey so far, and what I’m learning along the way. Hopefully you’ll find some useful nuggets to apply professionally or personally, whether you’re in a sales role or a leadership role.
I first had to make the decision to write the book. Once I made the decision I knew I needed help to achieve the goal. I got tired of looking at “write the book” on my list, year after year! The timing felt right, with my new focus on sales and sales leadership, and I made the leap. When I made the decision, it was interesting how the resources started to make themselves more available, I think because I was open to receiving them.
Writing a book isn’t a single task on the to-do list, and I think that’s how I was looking at it in the beginning (I know, crazy right?). It’s a commitment, and one that has lots (and lots, and lots) of smaller steps along the way. For someone who’s a type-A “figure it out” person, I knew there was so much I didn’t know. I realized that to reach this goal and to do it right, I needed to surround myself with people who have been there, who know way more than I do. That includes expertise and coaching from my publisher, Smart Business, to guide me through the process. I’m learning from all of the sales pros and leaders I’m interviewing as research. My marketing director is supporting the launch efforts, I’m getting advice and support from my fellow authors, and support from family and friends who are cheering me on.
Making time to dedicate to the craft of writing is taking new levels of commitment. Because writing a book isn’t a single task on the to-do list, I’m learning just how challenging it can be to create the necessary time. Timing is a total experiment. How do I find the right balance that helps me to finish the book, but doesn’t stall my business growth? Whole days, half days, two hour blocks of time. I’m trying all of it. Right now, I’m finding that that half-days are working, and that might be dedicated to research, conducting interviews, and writing. About 4 hours (with breaks), and then I’m ready to switch my mind to something completely different. But I’m also a realist, so I’m squeezing in time where I can, even if it’s an hour or two. Sometimes it’s on a flight, or on a weekend.
Getting away periodically helps me to clear my mind. As I write this, I’m staying at a beautiful inn, in the Hocking Hills area of Ohio. I took two days away to focus on the book. Surrounded by gorgeous scenery, lots of wildlife, and fewer distractions I’ve found myself making more progress. Not something I’ll do every week (darn!), but something I plan to do more regularly as I move through the process.
I’m having to work past my doubts and frustrations. One of the skills I’m exploring in the book is learning agility, which is the capacity for continuous learning from experience. Research from the Center for Creative Leadership has uncovered it as one of the top skills needed in our organizations. Something that wasn’t even on the radar a decade or two ago.
Learning agility is like being thrown into the deep end of the pool and figuring out how to stay afloat. It’s immersing ourselves in an experience that completely challenges us, and plotting what to do next. Figuring out how to be successful when we have gaps in experience, information, or knowledge. That’s exactly where I’m at. Even though I do quite a bit of writing, this is an entirely new experience for me. I’m having to figure out each step, and I often don’t know if it’s the right thing or not. I’m learning to accept the doubts that come with not knowing exactly what to do, or not having past experience to rely on. I’m learning to work through the frustrations of not getting as far as I’d like, or research being a dead end, or cutting out paragraphs and paragraphs that I labored over, but just aren’t working. Rather than experiences to avoid, I’m learning to accept them as part of the process (work in progress, that one!).
I’m looking forward to sharing more of the journey with you, and of course the finished book. Stay tuned, lots to come!