Sales and Sales Management Blog

December 6, 2011

Eating with the Big Dogs–Taking the Next Big Step in Your Sales Career

Filed under: career development,goals,motivation,sales,selling,success — Paul McCord @ 11:56 am
Tags: , ,

Last summer I received an email from Beth, a pharmaceutical salesperson with slightly more than two years of experience, asking me what she should be doing in order to take the next big step in her career.  She is a slightly above average seller in her company—actually one of the better sophomore performers.  Since joining the company she has taken her manager’s advice and only compared her performance and numbers against the other salespeople with less than three years experience (her manager told her not to try to compare herself to the more experienced sellers as she would likely become discouraged).

I sent her an email asking a number of questions, one of which was what her short-term and long-term goals were.  She responded that her short-term goal was to be the top seller in her company in her “class,” and her long-term goal was to become one of the top 5% producers in the company.

In response to my question as to what she was currently doing to improve her sales she responded that she was taking advantage of all the training her company provided, was an avid reader of sales books, and constantly talking to her colleagues about what they found worked and what didn’t.  As we continued to communicate it became obvious that she considered her colleagues to be the other sellers in the company that were either selling at the same volume or had about the same amount of experience.

Although of excellent quality, unfortunately the vast majority of training her company provided was product training, not sales training.  Consequently, Beth was becoming extremely proficient at discussing her products but wasn’t getting the training she needed in the various aspect of selling.  In a very real sense she was more of a walking product brochure than a salesperson.

My recommendations to Beth were threefold:

  1. Start Eating with the Big Dogs:  Rather than hang out and discuss ideas with others in the company who are at or below her production level, she needed to be interacting and learning from the top producers in the company.  The only thing others at her level can teach her is how to stay at the production level she is currently at—worse, those below her can only teach her how to fail.  If she wants to grow she needs to learn from those who are where she wants to be. I encouraged her to start inviting those big producers to lunch.  She should look at them as mentors and teachers—and as colleagues.  Spend as much time as she could learning everything she can.  Listen to them on the phone; hitch a ride as they make sales calls if possible; find out what they read and who they value as teachers and mentors.  Emulate success, not mediocrity.
  2. Take Control of Her Training:  Since the company is primarily concerned with investing their money training their sales staff on their products, she will have to take control of her sales education.  She’ll have to invest her time and money in learning how to be a top notch seller. Beth’s situation is hardly unique.  In fact, a great many companies—probably the vast majority–neglect sales training in favor of product training.  Many companies (and sellers) mistakenly believe they are the same thing.  Not only are they not the same thing, neither is very effective without the other. At first Beth wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about spending her money attending on-line and live training seminars and workshops.  After all, she argued, her company should be paying since her skills were going to be used to sell their products.  True, I agreed—except her skills were going to be with her for life, not just while she was selling for the company she currently works for.  Her product knowledge is to a large extent company specific, her sales skills will be universal and benefiting her for life.  With that explanation she agreed—reluctantly—to make the investment in herself.
  3. Compete Against The Best, Not the Easiest:  I encouraged her to stop comparing her production and progress only against those with the same amount of experience but to compare herself against the best in her company and her industry.  If she wants to be a top dog she has to compare herself against the top dogs—even if at the moment that comparison isn’t comfortable. If she is only competing against others at her level she is giving herself a false trophy.  Her goal isn’t to be one of the best mediocre producers but rather to be one of the top producers in her company—and ultimately her industry.  With that in mind, certainly she can take some pride in the steps she makes, but she really can’t allow herself to bask in glory just because she out sold a bunch of other middle of the road sellers.  She has to keep her eye on the ultimate goal and only compare herself against that goal. Does that mean she’ll be ever frustrated—and possibly become discouraged and quit as her manager suggested—by comparing herself against a goal she isn’t close to achieving?  Not at all.  She should be able to see her progress as she continues to close in on that goal.  Like a long-distance runner, she might click off the landmarks as she passes them, but she must know how she stacks up with where she wants to be and keep her eye on the ultimate goal.

It has been almost a half year since my interaction with Beth.  I received a call from her last week.  She has implemented all three suggestions.  She feels she still has a lot of sales training to go through.  She still hasn’t made her goal of being in the top 5% of her company’s sales force.  But she has progressed from being in the top 40% to closing this year in the top 25%–with a very realistic opportunity of being in the top 10% next year.

Beth ain’t there yet—but she’s making great progress very quickly.  She says that so far the biggest impact has been eating with the big dogs—she had no idea how differently they did things than the way she and her fellow mediocre sellers did them.  The sales training is paying off.  Knowing how she stacks up against the big dogs gives her new motivation to make big steps, not just the little ones that she previously thought were reachable.

If you’re looking to take the next big step in your career do the same as Beth—start eating with the big dogs and leave the other average sellers behind; take control of your own sales training; and compare yourself with the big producers, not just the ones you think you can compete with easily.  It will make a difference—and like Beth, you might find the difference comes pretty quickly.

Advertisements

2 Comments »

  1. Really nice article you just totally expressed you experience by means of this article. By my side one should take proper training to be more productive or scrutinize this type of material.
    Regards.

    Comment by Sales Training — December 20, 2011 @ 5:24 am | Reply

  2. You are right. Product training, not sales training is usually 90% of the budget and 90% of time spent in training.

    Comment by Sales Training — February 28, 2012 @ 6:06 pm | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: