Often in a professional (or personal) situation, we undertake a strengths and weaknesses assessment of ourselves. This often even forms part of our recruitment processes, appraisal systems and/or development plans. However, there is a material flaw here. This analysis only covers that which we are aware of. That we know.

In sales, many of us know our weaknesses. And, in most cases, we either consciously mitigate them or overplay our strengths to offset them. But what about our blind spots? What about those weaknesses that we aren’t aware of. Those mannerisms, habit or ingrained processes which result in suboptimal outcomes or, worse still, prevent us from succeeding?

The Johari Window (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johari_window) principle described this. Our blind spots are those things we, ourselves, aren’t aware of, but others see in us. It is important as this shapes how people react to and interact with us.

Addressing our blind spots are crucial to our growth, not just in sales but in life. Case in point – unfortunately, it is often when you’re significant other is walking out the door leaving you that they often rattle off a litany of your ‘blind spots’

So how do we, as sales people, understand our blind spots to they become conscious rather than unconscious weaknesses (or, of course, unexploited strengths!)?

First, we need to give people the opportunity to analyse/review what we do. We need people we trust and opinion we value to review our sales process with the view of providing feedback to help us grow. Yes, sales people and leaders, it is unavoidable that in order to be coached properly, it must be done ‘on the field’.

Secondly, and here comes the painful piece for most but the singulary most important, you have to be prepared to receive the feedback from them and act on it. Here is where emotions like justification and rationalisation come forward. ‘I don’t normally act like that’, ‘I wouldn’t normally say that’, ‘I only said that because the client said X’. ‘Ordinarily I’d.

It is important here to realise many sales peoples experience with this has been ‘clandestine’ review – hence the immediate negative emotion. A sales manager coming on a meeting but never setting the scene around the feedback loop. So the sales person leaves the meeting thinking that was great and in the car back to the office is assailed by all the things the manager saw they did incorrectly. Feedback is much easier to receive when asked for.

The sales person must drive this process. This shouldn’t be driven by a manager. It should be a process of self realisation and development. As a sales leader, you job is to help them come to this realisation, not force the process on them. This is often where ‘formal’ 360 feedback systems in corporates fail.

A professional sales person may even ask trusted clients for feedback. Every sales person should have someone who provides this ‘sense check’ for them – it doesn’t always need to be their sales leader either.

Growth comes from checking your blind spots regularly. It comes from being humble enough to ask people for their view of you – because the reality is, they treat you based on their perception of you, not your perception of yourself.

Great sales people aren’t great because they think they are, they’re great because their clients think they are.