Leadership

CEOs, authors and speakers share the traits that unlocked their success

No two successful people are exactly alike. But often the people who've reached great heights in their career and life share certain traits and methods in common. Simple ideas, such as investing in yourself and finding your motivation, can propel anyone forward. The way top leaders and entrepreneurs have leveraged these ideas can inspire new ways to unlock growth in your own life.

Use the mindsets, knowledge, wisdom, pains and losses from these seven top entrepreneurs and business leaders to help pave the way for your next big win.

1. Invest in yourself

Success begins with you. You are the driving force behind your goals. To reach those goals, you must push yourself to learn more and hone your skillsets.

"The best investment I ever made was when I was 25 years old and I hated sales. I borrowed $3,000 from my mother to buy a sales program—it was twelve cassette tapes and it took 10 days for it to arrive," says Grant Cardone, multi-bestselling author, speaker and sales trainer.

Imagine: an incredibly successful sales trainer who began his career hating sales.

If you have your own company or are thinking of starting one, you will need to be your own everything – secretary, receptionist, financial officer, you name it. Even if you simply want to advance your career in a given field, never stop striving to improve. Build yourself to be as capable as you can be.

"I made so much money from those tapes. I went from making $30,000 to making $100,000 a year," he says. Most importantly, not only did I make more money, but for the first time in my life I could say I loved sales. For the first time, I knew what I was doing. Ever since then, I've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars investing in myself and my people, in hopes of making us all better, more motivated, more strategic. Some of the programs don't work, but I keep investing, knowing that it'll pay off in the long run."

2. Plan every call, presentation and pitch

The act of preparation forces you to know what you're working with and how to conduct yourself.

"Before I go out on an important sales call, with all the tools that are available, I still just carry around a little notepad and pencil. I'll write down three or four good questions I want to ask, make a little plan, and then tear it up so that I'm not pulling it out in front of my prospect," shares Neil Rackham, bestselling author, sales consultant and academic.

Hand writing notes is good for your memory. Having thoughts and questions ready also ensures that there won't be lulls in the conversation. You will also avoid having to follow up on something you forgot to ask earlier. Research your clients or prospects to gain insights from them in person that you couldn't otherwise. Ask yourself: What do they want? How I can solve their problems?

"Especially for complicated, long-term deals, knowing the [people] and company you're talking to…lets you tailor your conversations to their needs and anticipate common sales objections. It also shows your prospect that you really know what you're talking about. Going the extra mile in your early conversations demonstrates that you'll put in the extra work whether someone is a client or a customer and it can be the difference between a 'no' and a 'yes' down the line," says Sujan Patel, SaaS founder and growth marketer.

3. Know your motivation

Passion and authenticity will help you stand out. Noah Kagan, Chief Sumo at Sumo.com, says he's far more likely to take the call of the people so passionate about his product that they have already practiced selling it on their own. This drive will make you memorable. As the entrepreneur and marketer explains, "Go find a product that you just believe in."

That grounding will also provide a foundation upon which you can build. "What's your why? As soon as I found my why, all of the selling faded away and the authenticity came out," Chase Jarvis, CEO at CreativeLive, award-winning photographer, explains. "Alignment and playing a game that I actually care about has made all the difference in the world. It also provides a level of hunger that can't be achieved when you're just working toward a check."

4. Learn to sell

Knowing sales is important for everyone, regardless of their career path. Sales is really just understanding how to build trust and convince people to take action. That skill is essential in leadership, entrepreneurship and any role looking to build something new.

"The best investment I've ever made in becoming a better salesperson was taking a part-time job selling water heaters door-to-door. There was nothing scarier than going door-to-door, convincing people I wasn't crazy, and actually getting inside of their house to complete the sale," Michele Romanow , co-founder at Clearbanc, serial entrepreneur and investor on Dragon's Den, explains. "To this day, nothing has taught me more than that job. As an entrepreneur, you should never underestimate how much of your success is based on your ability to sell. You sell to get vendors, customers, employees, investors, partnerships. I'd tell anyone that's young to take a hard sales job, because you'll learn so much and become so unafraid."

5. Get uncomfortable

Shying away from something that's uncomfortable or difficult to do is a missed opportunity for growth. Learn from mistakes and grow with each lesson. Take your hardships in both hands and use them to your advantage.

"The best investment I've ever made is in building my own confidence," " says Jamie Shanks, CEO at Sales for Life. "What I've realized is that I'm willing to do things and learn, to get kicked in the teeth as long as I don't make the same mistake twice."

Elle Kaplan is the founder and CEO of LexION Capital, a fiduciary wealth management firm in New York City, serving high-net-worth individuals. She is also the chief investment officer and founder of LexION Alpha.

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