September 16, 2016

Multiplier Skills and Specific Skills


“I will never be able to sell something. I am the artist, I create things, I don’t sell them to the buyers at a fair. Sales people should sell, not me!”. This is what my fiance was telling me the other day, when she came back from a fair where she sold some of the art she creates. I told her something on the lines of “you should be one of the best sales persons for your own art”, thinking that every buyer wants to engage with the artists they like.

Tell someone to start learning how to sell and you’ll get frowns and “Damn it, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a sales person!” type of responses. Especially if they are a creative person or, God forbid, a coder! This doesn’t change the truth: selling is a skill you should understand and practice.

Selling is, also, a multiplier skill. The multiplier skills take all the specific skills that you have and they make the total bigger and better. I define “specific skill” as a skill that you need to do your job. Drawing is specific for an illustration artist, programming for a coder, accounting for an accountant, you get it.

I got the idea of multiplier skills from Derek Sivers’ Ideas are just a multiplier of execution article (go read it!).

Here is a pyramid of values for specific skills (by “bankability”) and multiplier skills:

AWFUL Multiplier Skills = -1
WEAK Multiplier Skills = 1
SO-SO Multiplier Skills = 5
GOOD Multiplier Skills = 10
GREAT Multiplier Skills = 15
BRILLIANT Multiplier Skills = 20
——– ———
AWFUL Specific Skills = $1
WEAK Specific Skills = $5
SO-SO Specific Skills = $10
GOOD Specific Skills = $50
GREAT Specific Skills = $100
BRILLIANT Spec. Skills = $200

Multiply the two and you get a number showing how successful you are or you can be.

If you are a great coder ($100) with weak multiplier skills (1), you will often see worse programmers being paid a lot better – like a so-so programmer ($10) with great multiplier skills (15).

The same if you are a weak designer with brilliant multiplier skills, you might see yourself getting a lot more for your efforts than your more talented counterparts.

This means that above a specific amount of specific skill (being GOOD), it might be better for you to use 1-2 hours per week to develop multiplier skills instead of trying to become great or brilliant. Of course, there are specific situations when you need a brilliant someone. If you are in that specific situation, the article is not for you. Or maybe it is, you arrogant POS! :)

What are some multiplier skills?

The first multiplier skill I became aware of was writing. I am not thinking of becoming a published author. I am thinking of being able to express your ideas clearly in written form. Writing avoids unnecessary time loss and subsequent misunderstandings. Think about it: writing a two phrases email that explains what you need beats the hell out of 5 paragraphs ones.

Selling, the multiplier skill I talked about at the beginning of the article, is another one.  You sell something from the moment you are born. By crying, you sell your need for food. You sell a movie to get a date later in life. You have to sell yourself to be hired. You have to sell a product you create if you are a founder of a company (everybody sells, not only the CEO). If you are a creative person, an artist, you still need to sell what you’re creating. You need to convince your partner, kids, friends, audience, public, readers to listen to your ideas and act on them.

Public speaking is not easy to do. It is also another multiplier skill. Most of the adult people I know would need to be better at addressing groups of people. It’s not only for the entrepreneurs, CEOs or business people. As long as your job means talking to 2 or more people at the same time, it would be a lot easier if you have some public speaking skills and you don’t melt once more than 2 pairs of eyes are focused on you.

These are three multiplier skills I can think of right now. I am sure you can mention some more in the comments below.

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