Business advice is delivered so frequently and repetitively that sales people tune out the majority of what they hear. Common truths run the risk of becoming cliches and cliches are more often times than not, simply dismissed. The purpose of this article is to share with you one critical business truth I've discovered, in a manner that resonates with you like never before. You will have indeed heard the message that follows. My goal is to deliver it as no messenger has before, seeking to "flip a switch" that connects. When I founded XINNIX in 2002, one of my favorite sayings was "There are no shortcuts to excellence." I'd also frequently mention during the course of selling our services to industry professionals, "We don't offer any 'magic pixie dust' that will make you successful." I've been blessed to work with tens of thousands of industry professionals and I have enormous learnings from my relationships. What I've observed throughout my long career in sales, leadership and business ownership is this; nothing replaces hard work. However, there is one key "ingredient" that acts like yeast, one that is almost universally successful in expanding the size of one's success. The purpose of this article is to share with you what is perhaps the single closest thing to "magic pixie dust" I have discovered. If I were to offer you something for nothing, you'd most likely discount my offer as either a "gimmick" or worse, something worth exactly what you paid for it: Zero. Understanding this risk, I will give this my best effort. One business discipline, virtually every time it is executed, works like an "automatic-pilot" within a salesperson. This one business discipline works on both the conscious and sub-conscious level of not only the sales person, but each and every individual within the sales person's sphere of influence. This one "magical" discipline is most consistently present among successful loan officers that I've encountered. This "magical discipline" requires personal courage. A courage to dream. A courage to overcome a fear of failure. Resulting from this courage, they become brave enough to expose themselves to failure. They become willing to be measured, judged and evaluated. Most importantly, I have discovered that most top sales professionals are humble enough to constantly seek advice and support. They have open minds and a eagerness to never stop improving. Top producers keep score. My advice to every loan officer and sales professional in our industry is this. Be bold, courageous and humble enough to dream, to put your dreams and goals into words, commit these words to a plan and then, share your plan with those you trust to help, encourage and ultimately, hold you accountable. There is a transformative, magical process that immediately begins to operate within a person that is willing to formally share their goals and dreams with others. A weird combination of fear, relief, anxiety, excitement, focus and energy occurs when we become vulnerable to failure, open to criticism, and humble enough to seek help. The closest thing to "magic pixie dust" in sales in the discipline of business planning. Upon creation of a plan, the decisions, judgments and influences of all those aware of your plan begin to reorder in constructive ways, from the obvious to the invisible. From your sleep patterns to your diet, from better time management decisions to seeking wiser business relationships, the net effect of thousands of decisions will combine to ultimately help achieve the clearly defined objectives defined in a written business plan. The process of business planning does not require complexity. No sophisticated business degree or professional expertise is required to begin the process. Indeed, it is counter productive to even attempt writing a business plan that is so complex that all variables, sales, expenses, and relationships are defined. The number one reason (excuse) I hear from sales professionals that fail to embrace the business planning discipline is, "it's just too complicated." Nothing could be further from the truth. A plan is a personal document that broadly, publicly and courageously identifies goals that you hope to achieve. A plan opens its' author to measurement, feedback, judgment and most importantly, a far greater opportunity to succeed. I am offering, to any and all willing to listen, my highest and most valuable advice. Adopting this business discipline will yield enormous benefits in both your professional and personal life. Demonstrate the courage to create a business plan and submit your plan to those you trust. Risk falling short of your goals. Expose yourself to critique, accountability and the support of others. Your business plan will act like an invisible hand, offering you non-stop direction, guidance and inspiration. And it will cost you nothing but the time invested in writing your plan. This is the closest thing I've discovered to "pixie dust" in my almost 30 year career. Casey Cunningham is president of XINNIX, a provider of mortgage sales and leadership development programs. She may be reached by phone at (678) 325-3501 or e-mail [email protected].