From the February 2009 issue of Entrepreneur

We learn from our actions, and we act from our learning. Without one, the other suffers; together, both provide clarity and truth. If there's one thing I've learned about selling over the years, it's this: There is no one way to sell. And whether it's breaking into new accounts, making a presentation or marketing a new product, I've realized that no matter what someone says, action backed by confidence can dispute the naysayers and create many new opportunities and breakthroughs. But when we take action all the time and leave out the learning process, it can become dangerous. Here are two points for staying sharp, being focused and moving forward.

1. It's what you put in your head. We are--and we become--what we think about all day long. Each day, I plan who I will see and what I will read. Those are the two biggest influences on my actions. What are you learning and who are you surrounding yourself with? When you think of time management, realize that you don't really manage time--you manage activities. What activities do you surround yourself with each day? What are you reading? Keep copies of industry magazines and newsletters that educate and update you. I also read biographies of history's best, books on energy and other titles like The Oxford Companion to the Mind.

What does this have to do with selling? Well, it's amazing how many ideas you can get when you learn how life works. Learning new and interesting subjects infuses you with enthusiasm and keeps your mind open to new ideas.

2. It's right under your feet. Opportunity is all around us--we just have to be aware of our surroundings and keep asking ourselves, "What is this telling me?" Question everything and ask yourself how it can be done better or differently. It's the commitment to learning from the first point that allows your actions to come alive.

I remember a quote by J.M. Barrie: "I'm not young enough to know everything." Children teach us amazing, creative selling ideas. One of my business associates designed and created Sky Dancers, which made more than $300 million worldwide. He came up with the idea when his kids were outside playing with their dolls and catching "whirligig" seedlings from a large maple tree and throwing them in the air, then watching them twirl back to the ground. He started wondering what would happen if you attached those kinds of natural "wings" to a doll and made flying dolls--and there it was.

Nothing replaces the knowledge we gain from putting our ideas into action, whether they're creative ways to sell or new approaches to closing accounts. But after a while, we can become stale and lose the ability to move our business forward. That's why we have to keep our learning and our actions working in unison--together, they create the opportunities for sales success.