November 20, 2023

Boost your sales game with Steven Bartlett's Laws of Business and Life: The Self

20 min read

In sales, as in life more generally, success is a journey shaped by the wisdom and principles that guide us. Enter Steven Bartlett, an entrepreneur, influencer, and thought leader whose insights are reshaping the way we approach business and life. In this blog, and in three others we’ll be highlighting in the coming weeks, we delve into the treasure trove of wisdom Bartlett shares through his 33 laws outlined in his recent book ‘The Diary of a CEO: The 33 Laws of Business and Life’. These laws are not just guidelines but are the keystones to achieving excellence in sales and beyond.

Through this blog series, we will explore how Bartlett’s principles can guide you to revolutionise your sales strategy, boost your personal growth, and help you navigate the intricate world of business with confidence. Whether you're a seasoned sales professional or freshly appointed into your first sales team, Bartlett's 33 laws can help you navigate the challenges and opportunities that await.

Who is Steven Bartlett?

Bartlett was born in 1992 in Botswana, to a Nigerian mother and a British father. Seemingly from a story of two halves, his mother, having left school at the age of seven, could not read or write, while his father was a highly educated structural engineer. Years later, having moved with his family to England as a toddler, Bartlett himself was expelled from school (for poor attendance) and a few years later also dropped out of his formal university education. However, what he went on to achieve is more than enough to make any parent proud.

Steven Bartlett is a man of many talents; he actively works in a range of roles including acting as a founder, entrepreneur, public speaker, investor, author, and is the host of his own (and the UK's leading) podcast, 'The Diary of a CEO.' Having once been rejected at audition-level to appear on Dragon’s Den as an entrepreneur, he is now the youngest-ever Dragon to sit on the illustrious panel, having joined the den for the programme’s 19th series.

In Bartlett’s podcast, and in preparation for his latest book, he has interviewed some of the world's most influential experts and leaders. While his audience comprises a diverse spectrum of young, aspiring entrepreneurs, creators, business leaders, and high-net-worth individuals, the lessons he shares, and the teachings of those he interviews, can be of value to anyone on the path to success.

Reflecting on many of his interviews, Bartlett's 33 laws hold insights and practical wisdom for all, while offering accessible anecdotes to provide a roadmap for personal development.

Pillar 1: The Self

Bartlett breaks his book into four pillars: The Self, The Story, The Philosophy, and The Team. In this article, we’ll start by focusing on the first pillar. The Self is the pillar focused on you: your own abilities, skills, capabilities, and growth. This pillar focuses on “your self-awareness, your self-control, self-care, self-conduct, self-esteem, self-story". As a base for personal growth and development, the self — and your understanding of your own self — is key to your success, both in business and in your day-to-day life. When you step back and consider your life, the self is very often the only thing you have true control of, and because of this, Bartlett starts his foundation for success by a close self-examination. As Bartlett believes, to master yourself is to master your entire world – and while this is no mean feat, it is the first step to fulfilling your full potential and achieving your dreams.

Bartlett’s first 9 laws make up the pillar focused on The Self. But how can mastering these laws help you boost your performance in sales? How does mastering the self help you hit targets and secure revenue for your company? Here are the 9 lessons sales professionals can take from Bartlett’s laws:

Fill your 5 buckets in the right order

Barlett’s first law is based on the principle that we all have five ‘buckets’ that we fill throughout our lives. The first bucket is filled with knowledge and what we know, the second with our skills and what we can do, the third with our network and who we know, the fourth with our resources or what we have access to, and the fifth with our reputation or the opinion others have of us. These five buckets will ultimately dictate how successful you are, but Bartlett believes you must focus on filling them in order to achieve long-term success.

His theory works on the basis that by filling the first bucket, it will naturally overflow into the second and start filling that, and so on and so forth. So, by focusing on your knowledge, you will in time develop the skills that pair with that knowledge. By developing those skills, you will grow your network and meet more like-minded people, which in turn will enable you to increase your resources. With the first four buckets full, you will already be filling the fifth, by having the knowledge, skills, network, and resources to automatically be filling the reputation bucket too. As a salesperson, reputation and trust are cornerstones of success, so it is clear to see how Bartlett’s first law can already help secure your base skillset.

By ignoring the first few buckets, whatever you aim to build in your personal or professional life will be built on weak foundations. Successful sales professionals will know this to be true when it comes to demoing a product. By jumping in at the deep-end and launching straight into outreach with an enviable prospect, you will miss the vital first few buckets. While you might get an interested, ideal client, when they start to ask the difficult questions (because you’ve left some gaping holes in the foundation), it’s not so easy to deliver convincing or reassuring answers. However, if you take the time to learn about the product, what it does, how it works, and can adequately demonstrate best practice for it, you will build a solid foundation on which you can take your client and deal forward. A solid framework is needed to build trust and relationships, both of which are central in sales. It’s therefore essential that salespeople recognise the importance of building their foundations the right way, and in the right order.

To master it, you must create an obligation to teach it

We’ve all been there, setting New Year’s Resolutions with the very best intention of self-betterment. We’ve also all been there when a few short weeks later we find ourselves struggling to follow through on those resolutions. Bartlett’s second law is one that will help keep you on track with new challenges and will ensure that you can not only form a new habit, but in doing so, you’ll also become a master at it. Bartlett argues that to succeed at something, to master it, you must not only take on the task of learning, but you must also then share that knowledge. By creating a daily obligation to share what you’ve learned, you’ll turn your new-found interest into something much more.

To form a new habit, you must hold yourself accountable. By setting yourself a task, and providing public, daily updates, you allow the potential to build a community interested in what you’re sharing. These comments (and the analytics that will follow) will help you improve, enabling you to create a social contract and obligation with your audience. If you can up the stakes and give yourself something to lose (in this case your audience to whom you want to appear an expert), you introduce loss aversion to the situation. To master a new skill then, you can apply a positive pressure to yourself that will help you stay on task, simply by doing it publicly.

For sales and marketing professionals, this couldn’t be easier. When networking is such an important part of filling your buckets (and increasing knowledge is too), making a daily obligation to share your learnings publicly, perhaps with a daily LinkedIn post, creates a win-win situation. Not only are you helping to grow your community or network, but you’re creating the perfect environment to become a master of your new knowledge or skill. After all, who’s to say you’re a master of it, if nobody else knows that you know or can do so much? Bartlett recommends the Feynman technique to further help your progress. If you can explain a complex theory or problem in simple language, and have others understand it, then you have successfully imparted knowledge and taught, and are one step closer to become a master of it.

You must never disagree

Gut reaction, when a prospect raises a concern or makes an outlandish statement about the product, is to disagree or contradict them. Why wouldn’t it be, when you’re desperately selling all the benefits you can and are desperate to hit your target? However, according to Bartlett’s third law, this is actually the worst thing you can do. While healthy conflict strengthens relationships, unhealthy conflict weakens a relationship – and that’s the last thing you want to do with a prospect who’s already got their concerns.

So why should you never disagree with your client? To be more precise, Bartlett’s third law is more about not starting the immediate response with a rebuttal or denial. Conflict will undoubtedly crop up in the sales cycle, but it’s important to recognise that healthy conflict is when you are working towards a common goal and both parties are working against a problem, while unhealthy conflict is when you are working against each other. In sales, nothing will turn a prospect off faster than them not feeling heard. To ensure this doesn’t happen, you shouldn’t start your response with a statement of disagreement. Instead, start your response with common ground, acknowledge your prospect’s problem or concern and reply in a way that makes them feel understood. By doing this you’ll increase your chances of keeping them engaged and open to hearing what else you have to say.

According to Tali Sharot, who Bartlett interviewed for his book, the key to changing someone's mind is finding a shared belief or common ground that will keep their brain open to your point of view. Following a study published in Nature Neuroscience, Sharot revealed a new type of confirmation bias that makes it very difficult to alter other people’s opinions:

“We found that when people disagree, their brains fail to encode the quality of the other person’s opinion, giving them less reason to change their mind,” said the study’s senior author, Professor Tali Sharot (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences).

So, to win your prospect round to your way of thinking, you need to listen to them, hear their problems and concerns, and address them in such a way that you’re not disagreeing with them. You must frame your response to acknowledge those fears but find some common ground and experience you can use to demonstrate another outcome for them.

You do not get to choose what you believe

For the prospect who’s so set in their ways that they don’t want to hear you out, this law will help you change their mind. In fact, this law will help you change any belief you have, or the beliefs of others. While it’s true that the fundamental beliefs we have are not chosen, beliefs do evolve and can change based on a number of factors, which in turn, drives our behaviours.

According to Bartlett, our brains evolve strategies to conserve energy. Those strategies are our beliefs. Normally, our beliefs are built upon a mixture of evidence and experience — as the saying goes, seeing is believing. What that means is, for some people, witnessing an event is enough evidence for them to change their belief. However, for this change to happen, they must trust the evidence as well as the source from which the evidence comes.

For you to change a prospect’s belief of something, you must provide convincing evidence, having already established trust and rapport with them. The brain considers new evidence alongside existing evidence and will trust the new evidence based on four factors: their current evidence, their confidence in that current evidence, the new evidence, and their confidence in that new evidence. For your prospect to have the most confidence in any new evidence you present to them, they must also have trust and confidence in you. It is important then to ensure relationship building and clear communication are central to your prospecting strategies.

You must lean into bizarre behaviour

For those of you working with disruptive technology, this is perhaps not as alien a concept as it once was. Change and innovation can be scary when its implications aren’t fully understood. However, stepping out of your comfort zone and leaning into those things we are less than comfortable with, is the route to development.

Bartlett’s fifth law focuses on cognitive dissonance and outlines how it can stop you from changing and growing, even when the cost is our own set back or failure. However, he goes on to state that while change is only going to get faster, so will feelings of cognitive dissonance get greater. It’s by being aware of this, that we can actively choose to embrace the innovations that can set us up for new growth and future success.

In sales, there is always a new piece of technology, or a new approach in vogue. Imagine cold calling has been your only method of outreach for the last few years. If someone told you that you had been missing out because an omni-channel approach is the path to hitting your targets, you’d likely be resistant. Why? Because it’s different. Cold calling has always worked for you up until now, so why change? When faced with this scenario, Bartlett advises we all ought to reserve the temptation to judge without knowing the facts. Instead, he says to lean into the new suggestion, read up on it, ask questions about it, and attempt to understand why it could offer more. Not understanding something isn’t an excuse to deny it, but rather should be your cue to lean in more and learn more. For Bartlett, taking no risk is the bigger risk, for we all must risk to achieve.

Ask, don’t tell – the question/behaviour effect

Bartlett starts explaining this law with the illustration of Ronald Reagan asking in a pre-election debate, ‘are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?’ He goes on to explain that questions, unlike statements, encourage an active response in people, making them think more specifically. For Bartlett, this “political magic backed by science”, draws on the idea that when facts back up your argument, questioning your audience becomes extremely effective in enabling them to see an alternate answer.

As seen in many a court room, a well-designed question can be incredibly powerful and can lead people to a complete change of opinion. Questions trigger a different reaction in the brain than a statement does, so a well-crafted question can both challenge and lead a person to a change in their response or a change in their opinion. Bartlett states that these questions must have a binary yes or no answer, and questions that start with ‘will’, rather than ‘can’ or ‘would’, are also more likely to engage your audience in a positive manner. Starting with ‘will’ creates a sense of ownership, allowing the question/behaviour effect to be even stronger than ‘can’. One suggests ability; the other suggests ownership.

In sales, by turning a statement into a question, you allow your prospect a sense of control over the situation. You are not telling them what to believe, or that they need your product above any others. You are creating a space for them to recognise that the option you offer provides potential that they don’t currently have. Rather than tell your prospect, ‘you’ll increase your sales with this technology’, you could ask, ‘will you be targeting further growth in revenue this quarter?’ Of course, your prospect isn’t going to say ‘no, we don’t care about revenue’, so you have already introduced a positive influence on the conversation that will follow. A yes or no question, with no room for explanation or excuse, holds your prospect to commit – one way or another. There is no space for being wishy-washy. They either want to do better, or they don’t. By gentle confrontation, you can lead the prospect to meaningful change, while encouraging them to commit to improving their own capabilities to achieve it.

Never compromise your self-story

The idea of a self-story is the truth your set out for yourself. It is what guides you and determines your success in life. The core of this law, then, is to never compromise on what you’ve already agreed to, decided on, or set for yourself. It is about being true to yourself and not allowing distractions, fears, or other outside influences to change your fundamental desires and goals.

For his book, Bartlett interviews Chris Eubank Jr, who succinctly describes his self-story as being “the type of person that will find a way”, regardless of how hard things may be. The law is essentially about developing mental toughness and harnessing the skills that hold you to your truest wants in life, without allowing you to be cowed down or back out when things get tough.

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion”. — Mohammed Ali

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion”. — Mohammed Ali

In revenue teams, and sales roles in particular, self-concept is key to success. With knock-backs and rejections at every turn, it’s important for salespeople to keep a clear eye on who you are, what you believe yourself to be, and what you are capable of. Your understanding of who you are becomes a huge part of your own resilience and mental strength. Every action you perform provides evidence to what you are capable of, regardless of whether there is an audience to it or not. This evidence is based in the choices you make, and so fundamentally means that you hold the key to your inner strength, your mental toughness, and your potential to succeed. By recognising this and holding yourself accountable, even when nobody is looking, you will build a strong moral foundation from which you can grow.

Never fight a bad habit

What this law is preaching isn’t that bad habits are okay. Rather, Bartlett wants people to recognise that fighting bad habits is often fruitless. Why? Because we are rewarding ourselves in doing them, and by removing the reward, there is no incentive for us to keep fighting said habit. A habit is informed by three factors: the cue (the trigger for habitual behaviours), the routine (the habitual behaviour itself), and the reward (the result or impact that behaviour has on you).

To break a habit, you need to interrupt the habit loop, but the payoff is what keeps you going back to it. So really, changing the habit is a better focus for your energies. By replacing the final step of the habit loop with a different reward, you can change your bad habit to a good one (or at least a less bad one!). Stress has a directly negative impact on your efforts to break a habit too. So, if you’re craving a cigarette, and smoking is the habit you are trying to break, then you are inadvertently creating a scenario in which you are setting yourself up to fail. You must keep stress levels low and yourself well-balanced while you form good habits, and Bartlett suggests a good night’s sleep could be central for this: “sleep is the foundation of success”. Undoubtedly, will-power is important for helping you change bad habits, and so any depletion to your normal will-power levels will make you more likely to rebound.

Sales teams are often facing growing levels of pressure and stress. To perform at your best, you will need to allow yourself the opportunity to re-balance yourself and reduce stress factors. Bad habits, while they may be enjoyable, will still sit in your sub-conscious as bad habits. Just as a good night’s sleep can help you rebalance your cortisol levels, so can reshaping bad habits into good ones help you shed extra concerns and sources of stress that impact your performance and success.

Always prioritise your first foundation

This law picks up on elements that the first eight laws also touch on. To secure long-term success and happiness, you need a good, solid base on which to build. Focusing on the self, this comes down to health. Your health is your first foundation. Bartlett believes that if you prioritise your health, you can live long enough to enjoy your other priorities, but should you work on other priorities first, and your health not be stable, you risk losing everything you have built. Everything else in life rests upon your health; without that solid foundation, everything is at risk.

Our health is at the core of everything we do in life and Bartlett believes that it is what you do today that determines how your mind and body will be later in life. Whether it be physical or mental health, the benefits of looking after yourself can clearly be seen in your workplace successes. Physical fitness, as well as strong mental resilience, are essential for sales teams who often are desk-bound for eight-plus hours a day, during which they face a steady stream of rejections. For those working in such teams, you’ll be all too familiar with the growing pressures of increased targets and carrying the weight of your company’s financial security on your shoulders as we face severe economic challenges. By addressing your health and wellbeing now, you will ensure that regardless of the difficulties that come your way, not only will your health enable you to remain strong and steadfast, but your coping mechanisms will also allow you to fully embrace the other eight laws in this pillar.

“Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” — Edward Stanley

“Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” — Edward Stanley

Key points

For all people, success is intricately woven with the wisdom and principles that serve as our own individual compasses. One of the most successful young British professionals, Steven Bartlett, has reduced his own personal achievements down into a set of 33 laws, which he believes hold the key to his success. For Bartlett, these laws are not mere guidelines, but are the very keystones that can unlock doors to unprecedented personal and professional growth.

Embracing Bartlett's wisdom is not just a choice; it's a commitment to a journey where resilience, innovation, and strategic awareness will become your own guide. Whether you're a seasoned sales professional or new to your revenue team and fresh to navigating the challenging world of sales, by integrating Bartlett's principles into your approach, you might just find that lessons on ‘the self’ will improve your existing methods, strengthen you own techniques, and help provide the fortitude to set you on the path to success.

Interested in improving your sales technique on a practical level too? Get in touch for a demo of the Selligence platform and see how else you can start improving you processes to set yourself up for success.

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