Some Friendly Advice for Every Sales Professional

Within the last month, we have had several very talented sales professionals contact us for advice and assistance because they were suddenly out of work. The common thread ……none saw it coming. If your saying to yourself this couldn’t happen to me…read on!

One was a Vice President of Sales Operations. He had been hired by the COO (pretty good sponsor and advocate to have wouldn’t you say?) and reported to a Division General Manager who gave him a sterling job performance evaluation, just eight weeks ago. Why was he let go? The company had a revenue shortfall and decided to downsize across the organization to improve profitability.

Another was a Regional Sales Manager. Last year she managed the fifth best team out of ten in the country. Year to date her region was ahead of plan and ranked 4th out of ten. Why was she let go? The company used a consulting firm that recommended consolidating the number of regions from ten to six and hiring two Regional Vice Presidents.

The last casualty was a sales representative that had been an employee for six years. Each year he was between 95% and 102% of quota.  Why was he let go? His company was acquired by another and they merged territories to avoid overlapping coverage. His counterpart was the top sales representative in the acquired company and they decided to keep him.

Our message: “If it can happen to them, it can happen to you.” Are you prepared?

An Ounce of Prevention!

Here are some tips to help you.

  1. Update Your Resume: Ensure all your accomplishments are noted and current. Be sure to include President’s Club, the number of years you were at or beyond 100% of quota, company rankings and other awards.
  2. Get Social: Use Linkedin and Twitter to build your personal brand. Start with a professional photo and then build a profile that explains the problems you solve for clients. Join relevant groups in your industry, share content that is pertinent and timely and comment on posted content such as blogs. Become a thought leader.
  3. Build Your Linkedin & Twitter Network: Yes, this means expanding the number and especially the quality of Linkedin connections. While every connection could provide a possible lead, focus on individuals with 500+ connections. These are highly networked sales professionals, sales trainers, consultants, recruiters, authors and bloggers to name a few. Recruiters use specialized Twitter apps like TweetMyJobs and Jobvite to advertise job openings and find qualified candidates. If you need help finding a job the quality, depth and breadth of your contacts can prove very useful.
  4. Network at Trade Shows:  Start by downloading the official conference app. Most conferences have hashtags for Twitter, conference planning and scheduling options for meetings. Use them. Make a list of the people you want to meet. This might include speakers, executive search firm representatives, industry analysts and key individuals in other organziations. Set goals for the number of new contacts. Trade shows are not only for connecting with customers. Make new acquaintances to expand your network.
  5. Be memorable: Stand out for performance. Do what’s asked of you on time and don’t be a critic. Always be viewed in a positive light because you cooperate with company requests and are an achiever as opposed to an average or below average performer.
  6. Know Your DiSC® Style: This behavioral style assessment has been around for decades. It helps people understand more about themselves and others by developing a more productive work environment.  This assessment is especially helpful for sales professionals understanding of others…think prospects, customers, management and other company personnel. You should be able to explain your DiSC Style and how to adapt to others that have a different style. Have you ever stood in front of a customer who blows you off? Or a customer who is extremely direct?  Or a customer who seems to hesitate every time you ask a question? If you don’t know your DiSC Style, contact us we can help you.
  7. Explain the Buy-Sell Process: Most organizations map the sales process but not the customers buying process. You need to know the pathways for both and be able to discuss your strengths and limitations. Be prepared for questions about prospecting, providing insight or perspective, call planning and execution, developing a strategy, negotiation and emotional intelligence. Practice your responses with a colleague or friend.
  8. Become a Life-Long Learner: You’re a sales professional; you need more than product knowledge. Be relentless in your pursuit of business acumen, industry knowledge and selling skills through on-going sales training, by reading sales books, newsletters, magazines and sales and industry blogs.
  9. Recommendations/References: Add recommendations to your LinkedIn profile. It’s also a good practice to have key customers that can serve as a reference.
  10. Find a Mentor Outside the Company: Choose someone that is unbiased and can help you grow your career. Many sales professionals have a manager that does this nicely today. The problem arises when the manager lets you go then you have lost your mentor. Its always best to have someone external.
  11. Look for the Warning Signs: There are usually warning signs that job changes are coming. A few examples are talk of mergers and acquisitions, repeated regulatory changes that are restrictive to the business, revenue decline or shortfall, reports of increased costs, poor earnings reports, change in the company Board pf Directors (BODs) or a change in management. Each of these should create a red flag that warn of a reduction in force.
  12. Have Backup Resources: Remember if you are let go the company takes your cell phone, tablet and PC and all the information stored on it. Be sure you have backup resources available especially contacts.

Parting Thoughts

As can be seen from our opening comments job loss can occur for many other reasons than job performance. Sales professionals—reps, managers and vice presidents–need to be proactive. Manage your careers carefully. Remember no one will manage your career better than you.

“It’s said that a wise person learns from his mistakes. A wiser one learns from others’ mistakes. But the wisest person of all learns from other’s successes.” John C. Maxwell.

As always, we welcome your thoughts and input. Let’s start a discussion and elevate the sales profession with a thoughtful and informative discourse.