The 4 stages of competence in business development

April 20, 2021
Career growth
The 4 stages of competence in business development

What are the 4 stages of competence in business development and how do they impact your success as a business developer? Find out below!

Have you ever felt so incompetent that you almost quit your job? I bet you did, just like most of all other human beings.

The good news is that you’re not actually incompetent, you simply need to develop your knowledge and go through the 4 stages of competence in business development.

Each one of us goes through a learning process and it usually consists of 4 different stages.

But before going into detail, let’s set the record straight on what is actually competence. Simply put, when we talk about competence we refer to all the skills and characteristics that enable you to perform a job.

To be competent, you must be able to respond to circumstances and follow behaviors that were proven successful in the past.

The more things you learn, the more experience you gain and that’s what ultimately will make you a competent business development professional.

The 4 stages of competence in business development are also known as the 4 stages of learning.

  1. Unconscious incompetence
  2. Conscious incompetence
  3. Conscious competence
  4. Unconscious competence

The business development learning process

If you really want, you can become very competent in business development. After all, competence is something you acquire through learning.

But you must be aware that you can only reach the ultimate state of competence if you go through a somewhat painful learning journey.

The first thing you need to do is to accept your lack of knowledge and recognize the importance of learning new skills and improve yourself.

However, there’s an issue: in the first stage of competence in business development, you are not really aware of what and how much you know.

Basically, you are not very conscious of your knowledge gap and might even think you’re doing great until reality hits you.

As you enter the second stage, you start to notice your lack of knowledge. Suddenly, things don’t seem so obvious anymore and you start thinking that maybe, you should get back to learning.

This is actually the stage where your learning journey starts.

From this point onwards, things start to get easy, you know how to use your skills but you still need to put conscious effort to complete your tasks.

Finally, after putting in effort and hard work, you reach the last stage of competence in business development: you are completely independent and you carry out tasks on an unconscious level.

4 stages of competence in business development: unconscious incompetence

Out of all stages of competence, conscious incompetence is definitely the most challenging one. In this stage, you are not even aware that you lack skills or knowledge.

So you are completely unconscious that there are things you need to learn or improve. You simply can’t recognize problems as they occur. Thus, you don’t ask for help.

A very common scenario for business developers at their first experience is not being able to recognize a real business opportunity.

We tend to spend the same amount of time on every opportunity without understanding if it actually makes sense.

What happens usually is that we focus on the opportunities that make us feel comfortable regardless of the real business potential.

At that point, we waste time, we don’t get results and our managers grow unhappy with us.

You don’t understand what’s wrong and either feel less confident or on the contrary, you accuse your manager of not understanding you.

The real problem is:

You don’t have the right knowledge and mental tools to see your mistakes…yet!

To get out of this stage, you need to put in some effort and the best thing you can do is practice awareness.

This means you have to be very conscious of everything you do, you need to ask questions, ask for feedback and learn from previously completed work.

When you do that, you understand why you’re doing that task and can more easily assimilate it. Over time, constant awareness will help you to move through the stages.

Further, make sure that you also practice self-awareness and that you’re able to align your skills with your personal and professional goals.

If you’re struggling with achieving some of your goals, try to identify what causes this problem. It could be a lack of knowledge or you might be lacking some skills to perform better.

A great way to become more self-aware is by creating a personal SWOT analysis. Rate all of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

If you know your strengths and weaknesses, you will know what to improve!

4 stages of competence in business development: conscious incompetence

Conscious incompetence is the second stage of competence. This is the stage where you’re starting to realize that there are things you don’t know.

Thus, you recognize your weak points and understand the importance of acquiring new knowledge. The learning process can finally begin.

In short, the solution for moving to the next stage is acquiring knowledge. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s really the only way to become a competent business developer.

This, for example, is also the moment in which most of our students join our training.

Typically after a bad professional experience where they didn’t get the results they wanted or because they would like to move up, but they lack the skills to do so successfully.

However you decide to do it, your priority needs to become learning and improving every day.

There are plenty of ways to learn, you can ask your colleague for help. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing your weakness with your colleague, then look for external mentors that will help you understand what you’re missing.

Moreover, they will provide a lot of motivation and support to improve your confidence, avoid negative thinking and focus on important things.

Other good ways to learn are listening to podcasts, read books, attend conferences, seminars, webinars, and so on.

Last, if you’re serious about your professional growth, go full in with formal training which is the fastest way to compensate for your lack of knowledge and skills.

Your knowledge is the best investment you can possibly make!

4 stages of competence in business development: conscious competence

After spending a certain time learning new skills through repeated practice and participation, your competence grows and starts to display.

You’re now in the 3rd stage of competence in business development which is called conscious competence.

At this stage, your skills improved and you feel more confident and you’re able to perform tasks independently.

Moreover, your performance is of a higher quality than before.

However, in order to perform well, you still need practice, conscious thought, and hard work.

Although you’re on the way to excellence, there are still more skilled people who can perform better and faster than you.

Besides, your performance will drop if you face some distractions or time limit pressures.

Things don’t come natural just yet.

To move onto the last stage, you must find someone with great knowledge and mastered skills.

Someone who can provide the right instructions and direction. You might want to hire a personal coach.

Or you can ask a friend or colleague to help you out. It’s important that you work with someone more experienced than you.

But, be careful, unfortunately, many coaches or LinkedIn famous people are not always the most trustworthy.

You might end up wasting money and time with someone that is not competent enough to speed up your growth.

Make sure you trust the person you choose, check reviews, and ask the opinions of other customers who worked with that specific expertise.

A good tip to spot the right people online is to follow them for a while, read what they share online and notice if they are consistent.

Real experts tend to be very consistent and they rarely contradict themselves. They tend to be genuine, share plenty of knowledge for free, and take a real interest in you as a person.

4 stages of competence in business development: unconscious competence

At this last stage, you have enough knowledge and experience with the skill that you can perform it unconsciously.

You are able to complete the required tasks with ease and speed. Since you perfected your practical skills, you no longer need concentration or active thinking.

Also, you don’t need a mentor or a coach anymore. If anything, now you’re able to mentor and coach others who are in an earlier stage of the learning journey.

A great way to know if you become a competent business developer is to measure how much time it takes you to do important tasks, for example, writing personalized emails to your stakeholders.

To give you a benchmark based on our team, the business developers who just started need up to 20 minutes to research and write one personalized email.

After only 2 months they are able to write in under 10 minutes increasing their productivity and efficiency.

For full disclosure, they receive constant training and feedback on each email in the first four weeks. This helps them understand the process and become competent fairly quickly.

To persist at this stage, you should do the same:

Keep practicing the skill on a daily basis.

Learning is a lifelong process. Therefore, the practice of learning will never end. That’s why it’s important to constantly work on your skill and your self-development.

Each day you will become a better version of yourself. So, just keep on doing it and never stop growing!

Mastering business development

Business development is a complex field and you can only master it after many years of practice.

Our experience with thousands of business developers showed us that on average you will enter the last stage of competence after 9 years in the field.

A very long time if you ask us!

The main reason for such a long time is the lack of structured information and training. In fact, the majority of business development professionals never received formal training from their companies.

Unfortunately, this means that you’re left on your own trying to figure out the way.

But luckily for you, we are here for you and we made it our mission to provide you with a safe space to learn, network, and improve every day.

Take advantage of our platform, connect with other peers and shorten your journey to success!

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