Grow Your Sales Career – Secrets to Become Indispensable
Sales is a funny job because for many people, it’s the career of last choice. When a young child is asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” rarely will they say, “I want to be in sales!” People don’t go to school to be in sales. Heck, when I graduated with a degree in electrical engineering, the last thing I thought I’d be doing was sales. Perish the thought!
Sales is often a career of last choice yet is always first in pay.
Most people get into sales by accident. Someone asks them to sell for them or in a moment of desperation they apply for a sales job that doesn’t require experience. Can you relate?
Yet sales professionals, on average, make more money than any other career. A sales pro with a few years of experience can bank more bucks than a doctor with a decade of school and massive responsibility.
If you’re like me, when you talk with retirees with an abundant lifestyle, more than half were a sales pro, by far more than any other job. A sales career pays off.
If you’re in sales, how can you become intentional about your career? How can you maximize your success and your lifestyle?
What’s the secret to sales career success?
Great sales pros are always in high demand. And those who can sell new, unique, and disruptive products get the best jobs for the highest pay. I know sales pros working with startup companies that make more money than the founders — and rightly so: no sales, no shareholder value.
The secret to sales career success: take sales seriously. Make yourself indispensable, continuously increasing your value to ensure that you remain employable and well paid.
Don’t Close Sales, Facilitate Them
I define sales as the act of facilitating a profitable transaction that opens a relationship, one that the customer will gladly tell others about. If the customer feels like they’ve been “closed,” you lose potential profits from word of mouth and potential future business.
You and your prospects have seen on TV and in movies all of the sleazy and manipulative sales techniques: think Glengarry Glen Ross, Grilled, Used Cars, Tin Men, Boiler Room, Wall Street, etc. And you’ve experienced it, too.
Today’s prospect views the old school, manipulative sales techniques as douchbaggery: use them, and you’ll never get another chance.
Worse yet, they’ll tell everyone they know on Twitter and you’re toast. Social media slams means sales game over.
Instead, use intelligent and powerful sales tools like smart questions, discovery, matching objectives and priorities, and making prospects smart with education to create a valuable customer relationship.
Take Your Career Seriously
Do you want a sales job or a sales career?
If you’re just taking orders, you can learn one more question to increase the sales transaction — “You want fries with that?” This requires little skill and rarely pays more than minimum wage. Customers who just want to place an order prefer doing so with their smart phone.
There’s no long-term career path for an order taker.
Every business that sells a product or service that customers usually consider before making a decision requires a professional sales force. The sales pro must be smart enough to be able to solve the customer problem at a high level and direct company resources to bring the solution to the customer. You have to be able to understand the situation, match the customer requirements, and sometimes negotiate the deal.
Doing this requires skills and ever changing knowledge. For the average sales rep, their product knowledge expires every 18 months as products move through marketing cycles and technology advances. Of course, if you’re selling a commodity, that doesn’t change much and you become an order taker.
If you want a long-term, well-paid sales career, sell something that’s complex, valuable, and keeps changing so that your always-updated knowledge of customers, products, and business means something and is worth much.
Always Be Learning and Unlearning
Customers and technology is a moving target. What sold a decade ago won’t even get a glance today. Think flip phones, VHS, and pagers. And because of ubiquitous on-line company and product reviews, your prospects know more about what they want and why they want it then ever before. And they know how much they should pay.
This means you have to stay ahead of the curve, providing newer and better information than a prospect can find with a Google search. Your ability to draw insights by integrating information from multiple sources and deliver fresh thought leadership creates your compelling competitive advantage.
Always be learning about your products, your company, your prospects, their business, your competition, and yourself. And un-learn what’s no longer relevant or unwanted.
You’ve got to be smarter or better trained than your buyers. I’ve observed that most customers have more negotiating skills than the salespeople that sell to them. No wonder most companies give up margin on almost every deal. So, get good at negotiating. (I wrote a book with the antidote for what buyers get taught in negotiating class so that sales pros can keep more margin.)
Don’t recycle what doesn’t work anymore. Stop telling and listening to the old sales war stories that are no longer relevant. Instead get going making your own stories with what works now.
Act as if You’re Self Employed
When conducting sales training events, I ask the politically incorrect question, “Who believes that they’ll be working here for the rest of their career?” A couple of old timers raise their hand.
“What are you doing to land your next, better paying job?” I enquire as I’m greeted with mostly dumb looks. A few of the eager beavers on the front row smile wisely.
What gets you a sales job won’t make your sales career.
Consider yourself to be self employed, you just happen to have a full time contract with your current employer, subject to renegotiation anytime you succeed — by you — or anytime you fail — by them. This attitude shift means you’re always increasing the value to your current contract. You’ll always do what it takes to be your best.
If you want a high paying career, you’ve got to become a high powered sales pro. And your current employer benefits, too.
Buy Your Own Sales Tools
Sales is the only profession I know of where the professional demands from their employer the tools of the trade. A plumber or carpenter invests tens of thousands of dollars in equipment and years of training and apprenticeship to deliver professional services.
Imagine if a plumber comes to make repairs and they ask, “Do you have a wrench I could borrow?” Would you consider that professional? Probably not, you’d tell them to leave!
Yet sales professionals demand a laptop, a mobile phone, and sometimes a car from their employers to get their job done. They want the company to pay for a cellular Wifi hotspot so that they can connect their computer to the internet. They want their boss to pay for their education. They want their boss to buy them books. They complain when the boss won’t upgrade their laptop. How professional is that?
Invest in the tools you need to exceed it your job. Don’t wait for your boss to approve purchasing a MacBook if you want one or need one. (They wake up fast, stay running fast, and you won’t be hunting for a power outlet because the batteries seem to last forever.)
If you need software tools, buy them.
If you need hardware tools, get them. If your IT department won’t support it, buy it anyway.
If you want a sales book, buy it. And read it!
If you want to take a class, take the vacation time, pay for it yourself, and go. You benefit for the rest of your career and create a competitive edge making it completely worth the investment.
Hire People to Help You
Overwhelmed with administrivia, the trivial details that take away from you sales focus?
Sales pros don’t do expense reports during selling hours.
Hire someone to do that for you. If you could hire a part time virtual assistant for a few hundred dollars a month and free up time to make thousands of dollars more a month in commissions, why wouldn’t you? Don’t ask the boss to pay for then, you’re getting your team ready for the next contract with a bigger fish.
A good resource for learning about virtual assistants: The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. Every sales pro needs to read Tim.
Act like self-employed sales pro and you’ll be a massive success.
Mark S A Smith
Working with leaders to bring in the right customers, fast.
P.S. Learn more ways to create a clear difference with a no-cost webinar,“How to Keep Competitors Out of Your Accounts” on Thursday, August 4. Limited to 100 participants, so sign up now.
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