Change what needs to be changed, not what is easy to change.
— John C Maxwell, What Successful People Know About Leadership

Let's Turn Up the Heat on Your Sales Career

Every now and then a magical opportunity comes along. The software is new, customers love it, and things just line-up. Leadership has a vision that works, customers don’t have a lot of alternatives, and the solution is priced where it’s still offering 10x in value.

How many times can you expect this to happen in your career?

For many of us, once is extraordinary.

For the very special, two times is even better, and even more uncommon.

Others don’t ever find a “natural winner.” You know, the kind of company that’s going to happen with or without you. Climb on the rocket ship and get in fast, this thing is taking off now!

In fact most salespeople have never worked for Facebook, LinkedIn, Zendesk, Workiva, Zuora, Hubspot, Google, Workday, etc..

I’ve seen plenty of career salespeople have twenty jobs in twenty years. This means you have to start looking for a job as soon as you find one. No doubt, this is self-torture.

Today, I’m going to tell you how to make sure you’re not that guy or gal.

I don’t want to see your resume fly across my desk every year for the next ten years. And I know you want to spend all your time interviewing, updating your LinkedIn profile, and rewriting your resume.

When you imagine yourself ten years from now, I want you to see someone who’s made a real contribution both to your clients and your colleagues. Not someone who’s burnt out, stressed out, bitter and blaming everyone but themselves for all the things that are wrong with the current situation. Let that be the guy sitting next to you on the airplane, not YOU.

Five Ways to Guarantee a Successful Sales Career No Matter What Your Situation

#1--Take control of what you want out of your sales career. Get a game plan together and set a direction for yourself. Even if the direction changes, you’ll have a plan to guide you. Many salespeople avoid planning, but that’s not going to be you. Decide what you want and write it down. Revisit the plan frequently and adjust as necessary.

#2-- Decide now that no matter where you go, you will remind yourself that you’re a salesperson. This one trait alone makes you special. Unlike other people (i.e. Lawyers) you don’t have to live with your frustrations. You don’t have to cope. Why? Because you inherently have something no one else does: sales skills.

If you don’t like what’s going on, you can get your selling shoes on and start selling your ideas and solutions. Get some influence. Find some power. Build your reputation. Earn some credibility. Spend the time necessary to develop the right relationships so your ideas are implemented. (Not just heard. Too many salespeople think because they have an idea and they’ve voiced it, it should just be implemented. First you have to develop some credibility, then find some power, then sell sell sell!! )

#3—Don’t rest. Angela Duckworth wrote in her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance that “Complacency has its charms, but it’s not worth trading for the fulfillment that comes from realizing your potential.” A worthwhile sales career is played full-out. It isn’t for all the fine people who want to hang out and “get some stuff done.” You won’t do well if you’re shooting for pretty good. Sure, you’ll get by for a few years.

But eventually you’ll get left behind. Someone with more energy, hunger, and persistence will replace you. They’ll be a little less demanding and a little cheaper too. And you’ll find yourself looking for a new job one too many times.

Sales is a career for people who want to push things forward. Hourly. Daily. Weekly. Not on Mondays, or when the boss is flying out and wants to go on sales calls; or at the end of the month when all eyes are on your performance. Every day must operate with a  sense of urgency. Your clients need you and you must never forget, you need them too.

#4—Build relationships with the long-game in mind. With LinkedIn sales careers are infinitely better. In the old days, salespeople used to leave jobs and they would “disappear.” Clients would call and former employers would tell customers, “Sorry Kendra, Mike is no longer with us.” Kendra would ask, “Where did Mike go? Can you give me his new number?”

She’d be told, “We don’t know where he is. But it’s OK, Tylor can help you, I’ll transfer you now—hold on.”

And Kendra would never be able to find Mike, at least not without a lot of patience and hassle. And Mike couldn’t really call his old client Kendra, at least not without death threats, night sweats, and nasty grams from the legal department.

Mike would have to hope Kendra read the paper and saw the announcement his new employer wrote up in the Business Times. The timing on that was always hit and miss.

So Kendra would take the immediate rout. Besides, Kendra never had any time anyway, especially to track down a salesperson. As much as she liked Mike, that could take weeks. And she had no idea if he was still in the business. So YES, of course she’d talk to Tylor. She’d be insane not to, she needs what she needs now! Even when she prefers to work with Mike.

Today, if you leave, your former clients can find you instantly! Kendra can punch your name in LinkedIn and send you a message in five seconds. All while she’s listening to your former employer give you the runaround about how you’ve supposedly disappeared!

What a big win for all sales professionals!

If your customers want to buy something from you, it’s easy for them to find you! So take the time to cultivate relationships with your clients and your colleagues.

You’ll never really be forced to cut ties from your network.

This means you have more opportunity than any salesperson in the history of the United States to cultivate long-term relationships with colleagues, clients, and prospects. Don’t waste it.

#5—Learn that you ARE capable of more than you ever imagined and then push yourself to That Place. Now this statement is easy to read and yet difficult to understand. Reading it and doing it are very different. Let me try and explain. There are many ways to get to That Place and grab this knowledge. Very few lucky people stumble upon extreme challenge and are capable enough to hold onto it when it arrives. Most must seek it out. So you have to go find it, and sooner is better.

(Even if you think you’re top-notch, best in class, doing all you can, and all your colleagues think you’re “THE BEST.” I challenge you on that thought.)

How do you find That Place?

Maybe you need a mentor or a coach. Perhaps a good aggressive company will do the trick. Maybe a demanding boss who hammers down on you with just the right amount of sharp-bite will get you there. Until you’ve been pushed, maybe even shoved, to the very edge, (I had to be shoved. Maybe you’ll be smarter than me and will go willingly.) you really don’t understand that you are capable of more.

If you can, find a place that will challenge you beyond what you think is possible.

If you do, you have found nirvana.

Go where the goals are so far out there that you seriously wonder if your boss is a nutcase. When you start having these thoughts, you’ll know you’re in the right place.

Stay in the uncomfortable demanding place and find a way to make things happen. This is where you’ll feel the most alive, challenged, and have the most opportunity. When things get “hot” don’t run.

Stay. This is where all the magic happens.

Feel the fire, and learn to deal with the heat. Do not run. Don’t look for ways out and certainly don’t look for excuses because they’ll only seem like reasons. You have to step up to the challenge and take the fight head-on.

The truth is being uncomfortable is absolutely necessary for growth. Difficult to get from yourself, because these kinds of production levels will make you extremely uncomfortable. You will not adopt them willingly at first, because they will seem too unreasonable. You will feel very reluctant. Because they are too difficult, too out-there, too unrealistic.

Yes, they will seem VERY unrealistic in the beginning.

Challenges will revolve around managing time, priorities, getting resources, executive buy-in, revenue goals, culture change, and more.

But you’ll find a way to do it, whatever the obstacle, and your life will never be the same. You’ll have to temper your hard earned confidence with humility from that point forward.

And I won’t be seeing your resume cross my desk for some time.

I’ll have to come and find you.

And put my selling shoes on and try and grab a few minutes of your attention.

Because you’ll be knee deep involved in another organization. And I’ll bring my best opportunities to you when you’re least expecting it, when you're at your very best.

But look--this is how it’s supposed to be.

So act differently. Act aggressively about what you want out of your sales career. Somehow, right now, get started.