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.


  1. posted by Levente September 17, 2016 Reply

    I’ve written my thesis on the skills required on the job market of different position-levels for marketing jobs. I’ve read many studies also on the job market as a whole or for different industries.

    These 3 multiplier skills are mentioned as either inter-disciplinary or put in the soft skills category.

    Most papers agreed that communication skills (written and spoken) are more important for fresh graduates than various hard skills. And that the education system doesn’t really prepare you for this. It wasn’t only Romanian graduates either, the situations is similar in the UK, USA, Portugal etc.

    Good conflict management skills were also highly important, more so for mid-level and above positions. I think this is also a good multiplier skill. Whether you’re an employee working in teams or an entrepreneur who is balancing deadlines, cashflows and clients egos at the same time.

    Public speaking was mentioned a lot in a study where freshly employed people were asked about which skills are they lacking most after university.

    • posted by Bobby Voicu September 17, 2016 Reply

      Thanks for the comment. Quite insightful :)

      Also, thanks for the heads-up on not having comments activated on this blog post.

  2. posted by CristiL September 25, 2016 Reply

    Storytelling – great multiplier skill (works best if inserted with a good joke and/or a mindful outcome) helps multiply both selling and public speaking and sometimes both :)

    Improvization – brilliant multiplier skill – the trained reflex of beeing able to adapt your story/pitch to different situations and limitations, works best for people who have a lot of experience and practice :)

    • posted by Bobby Voicu September 25, 2016 Reply

      I agree. I was actually thinking about this article and I am under the impression that all of these are, actually, subskills of selling :) even writing or public speaking :)

      • posted by CristiL September 25, 2016 Reply

        You’re impression is not entirely wrong … for as for all the specific skills are well … subskills of the professional skill(accountant, lawyer etc.) … selling/marketing comes also with a must have minimum required set of subskills:

        Building a network – a so and so multiplier skill … it may help you a lot if you build it on solid principals … here your word is your reputation …

        Negotiation – another good multiplier skill … it can actually be used to multiply your network by trading skills and/or favors( a must have skill that can help you on all levels )

        • posted by CristiL September 25, 2016 Reply

          Just made the connection … as this concept can be applied for an individual(for skills … ) conversly for a product/business you can have Product feature vs Traction feature as follows :

          Product development feature:
          -multiplayer game
          -runs as web application
          Traction development feature:
          -user retention

          • posted by Bobby Voicu September 28, 2016

            It makes a lot of sense :)

            The specific skills are product ones, defining you as a person (what you know how to do) and the multiplier skills are the traction ones, that allow you to get feedback and grow.

  3. posted by Country Blush June 06, 2017 Reply

    When I have had a stressful day I just sit down and knit until I’ve forgotten about what had upset it’s so absorbing and it keeps me busy

    • posted by Bobby Voicu June 08, 2017 Reply

      That’s actually a good skill to have :) I don’t know if I’d choose knitting. but having this kind of hobby to help you take your mind from business is really good.

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