I wrote this guide several years back when I was promoted to manage a sales team. As a manager, the first thing I wanted everyone to understand is what I expected from them. This evolved into a little more than that. Yesterday, a former younger colleague of mine, who I had helped mentor, asked me to resend this document to him, as he was thinking about how to advance in his career, and he remembers me having really good advice, but of course, he didn’t save the document.
This is a preliminary peek at my upcoming “How to be Professional” ebook.
So here it is, barely edited from its raw form.
This is how I have built my career, and it’s what I expect from other professional salespeople and their support staff (sales engineers, inside salespeople, etc.). The key to us beating our competition is in this “code”, I believe.
Strive to return all emails and phone calls on the same day they were received. Even if it’s just “Can’t talk now, will call you later”. This little effort lets those we work with (and for) know that you are working, and alive, and that you care enough to return their communications. A lack of responsiveness shows a lack of respect. I’m sure no one wants to disrespect their partners/coworkers. The higher the position of the caller, the more responsive you should aim to be.
This covers a lot. Show up on time, there is no excuse for lateness. I strive to be there 15-20 minutes early so I have time to set everything up and be ready to go at the time of the meeting. Be professionally dressed. You can never be “overdressed” in sales. You can be over the top, which is a different story, and you should never be over the top. If you need to know the difference, let me know. Especially important in your communications, now that we will be tracking them in SFDC, is that you really strive to keep your communications clear and concise and professional. We all have those close friends we joke with. Try to keep that off of email. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want your mother, or the CEO, to know about. When you answer the phone, use a professional opener. Don’t just answer “hello?” or “This is Joe” make this your own style, and use what feels comfortable. I try to say “<company name> this is Iain”. Never think that because you know who is calling via caller ID that it’s OK to answer differently. They may have someone conferenced in. Similarly, don’t put your colleagues in that situation. Be especially careful with speakerphones.
Under-promise and over-deliver. Take notes of all important conversations for yourself. These notes are so you can refer back to specific details later when you need to. The better your notes are, the better you will come across when the deal comes alive after a three-month dormant period. Follow up also means that after a business meeting, send a note to summarize your meeting, thank your host, etc. Anything from a quick note to say “thanks for meeting with us today,” or something more formal around a POC and the next steps. These documents differentiate you as a professional sales person and help your contacts repeat your message to their colleagues.
Invite suggestions on how you can do better, and adjust accordingly. Never gloat, never slam the competition, accept thanks and praise when given. There is no room for an ego in sales.
One of the most important things I learned early in my travels was to befriend my partners. It makes working with them that much more enjoyable, especially when that 18-hour day ends by going to dinner with them. Go that extra step, find out about them, their lives, their kids, etc. This forms personal bonds that last beyond your current employment. You will be shocked, later in life, when you realize how small the world is. Specific industries are even smaller. You never know who your boss will be in the future. Act accordingly.
Go that extra step. Do a Google search, look at the customer’s website, read some of their propaganda, find an important issue in their industry, anything that you can anchor on to show the customer that you go above and beyond and that you care. If you have an angry customer/partner, research in SFDC to get up to speed, read the SOW, etc. Do the work. You can never be too prepared.
It shows. If you like what you do, and you enjoy your job and your customers, it shows in everything you do, and customers and partners will believe you and trust you more than if you are evasive, curt and miserable.
If you need to complain, please, call me and vent. I’m happy to do that, everyone needs this from time to time. Do not vent, air dirty laundry, etc. with your customers or partners, or even each other. You guys all kill yourselves, the last thing you want is to listen to someone else’s idea of how bad things are. It’s just bad form, and we want to keep some mystery “behind the curtain”. It’s safe to say that anyone reading this hasn’t worked only 40 hours in a week in a long, long time. We all sacrifice and do what it takes to get our jobs done, some more than others. We all have different thresholds of what we, and our significant others, can tolerate. Be cognizant of that, but let it go. This isn’t a competition, we are a team. And again, if you need to vent, call me, I enjoy talking people off of ledges.
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