5 reasons Sales is an attractive career

After my MBA, I wasn’t sure of what I want to do, but I was sure that I would never take up a sales role. It was the time when almost all my friends had the same thoughts. We desperately were looking for something in Marketing, Operations, HR but Sales was never on the cards. I started my career with a non-sales role, but after only 6 months I realized I am in a wrong place.  Luckily, I got a business development role soon. I was still scared of a sales role and I was just surviving in my previous organization. Then I moved to a marketing role when I joined IBM.  I thought now my life is set. I worked in the marketing role happily for 2.5 years,  but after that, I was completely convinced that, if there is a career which is lucrative, glamorous and rewarding then it’s sales.  I was fortunate enough that I got a Sales job in IBM. It was when I was not doing Sales I realized that MBA is first about business development. Every thing else is a business support function. Not that they are not important, but if I were to list down the roles, I will put Sales at the top because:

  • Money matters :  Among all the professions I have found Sales is the most rewarding one.  Yes you have an issue of variable and fixed pay, but if you really look at it, fixed component covers almost 60% – 70% of any other professions. So if you are in Marketing or let’s say a developer with similar no. of years of experience and skill sets and if you are earning is 1000, atleast 700 would be the fixed component in Sales. But it’s the variable which makes the difference. You are stuck with 1000 for ever, but in sales you can make it 2X or 3X depending on how you perform and unlike other professions you will be rewarded next month or next quarter.
  • Apply what you learn:  You really get a chance to apply what you have been trained in the company or what you have learned in your academics.  To be a high performing sales professional you definitely need to be good in the following skills
    1. Technology
    2. Domain
    3. Industry
    4. Softskills

There are many sources of learning and if you are like me who want to be questioned and apply what you have learned  in real life scenarios, then sales is definitely for you

  • Building relationships : Every other professions are most limited to office premises and your interaction is limited. There is no limit of whom you can meet in Sales. And you get chance to build to a relationship with a person sitting at reception to CEO of the company. Relationship matters in all the aspects of life. You simply can’t ignore them. And you will not get any other profession which will challenge you to establish a relationship for your success. To an extent you can exist on your own but sales doesn’t work like that.
  • Everyone need you badly  : What is THE most important thing to any human being ? The feeling that someone need you badly and someone values you to an extent that they just don’t want to let you go. In sales you grow business. You know how to make money for the organization. And if you succeed in doing that, then you will certainly succeed in becoming one of the most essential person for your company, customers, business partners and of course boss.
  • Challenges every single day : Every deal is different, market changes with time, geo, demographics, products or services  and you have to learn to handle change to exist.  You are challenged every single day and with every single deal.  There is no formula set to win.

Sales is all about numbers and discipline. It’s a pure game of consistency. It’s a game of perseverance and a lot of smart work.  You are at your best when you do all the small things and put your acts together.

 

Getting the attention of CXOs !!!

Whether it's sales or marketing, or even if you are on a job hunt there is no one who might have to be convinced to get to know to as many CXOs possible. Even if you are setting up your own venture you know how critical is the buy in of a CXO. So I don't have to spend time to convince you to know or have a relationship with a CXO.

The question then is when we know how critical it is to have CXO, what mistake we do usually because of which we don't often fail to have to them. I have come across many situations where people CXOs have many LinkedIn connections but still there is no conversation happening. According to me there are certain fundamental mistakes which we do :

  • We tend to focus more on position than people
  • Our efforts are transient and we often "Begin with the end in mind" only to realize that the intend "End" has never been achieved
  • We become oblivious of the pressure and CXO's paucity of time

I recently read a book by  Andrew Sobel, who suggests 10 ways to get access to CXO. They fall in two categories long term and the short term strategies:

Most of the sales people start their endeavors with LinkedIn or visiting cards and confine them to there only.  Very few of them understand the fact that it's not just matter of few days or months. You are talking about a career of 15-20 years. So you need to start today and be persistent in your efforts.

The above strategies boils down to 3 very important aspects  which you need to address through out your career.

1, Passion:  What is it that you are really passionate about ?  It can be photography, novels, politics, gardening etc. The point is there is something in your life  which you really like and you want to excel in that. Yes it's true that out of 24 hours you spend majority of your time in activities which will help you to just sustain, but there is thing something which you do because you want to do it. Keep learning and keep improving in such activities. They too are a part of your career which may not be helping you to earn money but will help you to get noticed.

2. Content: Once you have figured out your passion you then need to focus on creating content. Don't remain in disguise and think of a day when you will become master in your passion. This is something which we all do and which I have done for very long. Don't be afraid of critics and most importantly don't think you will know everything one day. That's not going to happen ever. They important thing is to stop thinking and start doing.


3. Being Digital : If there is something which has really revolutionized the era we are living, then it's communication.  There is no dearth of social media channels which we can leverage today to get connected with people. At this stage you need to understand

  • What type of content you can create ?
  • Where you can share them ?

 

We get in to the formal education to get the job. And then we don't do much about the career we want to build.

Shaping the win probablity in Sales

Ever wondered why you don’t have a direct Sales rep for IRCTC ? Because it’s a transactional Sales. No rocket science, You know where you want to go, when you want to go, you select a train, make the payment and you are done. Imagine life would have been so simple if all the sales processes were like this. Customers going to your website, selecting the product, making the payment and boom !! Sales happened. Trust me CEOs couldn’t have been happier. But unfortunately that’s not the reality. You and I have got a Sales job because the sales is not going to be transactional,  it’s going to be complex and it’s going to be highly unpredictable.

Every sales which is not transactional are determined by two factors emotions and probability. No matter how much informed the customers are, how much research they have done, they remain forever in denial that their purchase was more emotional than logic. In today’s market scenario value differentiation is diminishing as competitors soon replicate your products and services, so as a sales person, your ability to manage and leverage emotions is critical. It is THE factor which will make you a Ultra high performer sales rep instead of a mediocre sales person.

The other critical factor a sales person’s success is his ability to shape the win probability. Win probability is not determined how much you have progressed in a sales process. As a Cloud seller in IBM, I have come across many instances where the customer did a successful POC, satisfied by the prices still he became untraceable after a point of time. There are 5 levers which shape the win probability according to the Jeb Blount of Sales EQ.

  1. Prospecting
  2. Qualifying
  3. Stakeholder mapping
  4. Alignment of 3 Sales process
  5. Sales specific Emotional Intelligence and human influence frameworks
Prospecting

I have realized prospecting is toughest phase in a sales cycle. Trust me it’s difficult to do segmentation, to build a database, to get a response of your email, to cold call and of course handle the rejection. This is the phase because of which people think Sales roles are tough and there is a lot of pressure. If you are not good in prospecting, you will not have a strong pipeline and as a consequence desperation will increase. And consequently your sales pipleline will become even weaker.

Good prospecting is the first step to increase the win probability.  Ultra High performers know how to do prospecting and they spend most of their time in this process.

Qualifying

Everyone follows BANT criteria to qualify prospects. The success lies in  how well you define BANT i.e. Budget, Authority, Need and Time line.  Win probability a lot depends on just Need, rest of the other things may fall in place  on their own.

Stakeholder mapping

Contrary to BANT criteria where you talk to the person who have the authority of taking decision, stakeholder mapping spans to a broader set of people are directly and indirectly  impacted by your product and service.  These boarder category of people include Buyers, Amplifiers, Seekers, Influencers and Coaches ( BASIC). A high performing sales person knows that it’s not just decision maker he has to know and to increase the win probability the more people he knows the better it is for him.

Alignment of 3 Processes

Unconsciously, we all have 3 sales process to be aligned to win any deal :

  1. Sales Process : This starts with Prospecting, Qualifying, Demo, POC and finally Sales. It’s quite linear.
  2. Buying Process : Buying process is quite linear too and varies with different clients
  3. Decision Process :  It’s non-linear and it is this process which has to be worked really hard.

The decision process is non-linear, individual, emotional and often irrational.  It is the intuitive process through which each stakeholder makes commitments of time, emotion, and action. Ultra-high performers understand that the decision process is where strategy, logic, and human emotions collide.

Sales specific Emotional Intelligence

High performing sales professionals are virtuosos with people. They shift win probabilities in their favor through perceiving, controlling, managing, and influencing nonconforming, irrational, human emotions. They possess a toolbox full of influence frameworks along with the agility to apply them in any situation to improve the probability of getting the outcome they desire.

Attaining proficiency in all the above levers is a continuous process for any Sales person. No management schools will teach you these. You need mentors to point you in the right direction and to give you continuous feedback. Merely good understanding of products are services are not going to take you anywhere. You need a continuous passion, interest, persistence and curiosity to develop these qualities. Remember these are the factors  which makes Sales exciting.

 

 

The 4 intelligence for a successful career in Sales

Sales is all about building your career each day and with every deal. It’s like you becoming an actor. Suppose you want to pursue a career in acting and you go to Mumbai to try your luck. You need to have all type of characterstics, you learn dance, you learn fighting, you make 6 packs, you get your hair transplant done if you are shedding your hairs, you apply all kind of techniques to get a fair skin and whatever was left related to astrology to fight with your stars you get them fixed too. Then you scout for that one movie which will make you successful and establish you as an actor. Then there are two possibilities.

Suppose you are fortunate enough to get a break and one producer signs you. And assume your movie become a hit. Do you think your career is settled ? No. You need to prove yourself with next movie, and then next and then next. And after sometime there will be pressure on you to do different roles other wise you will get typecast and in no time people will forget you.

In case you were not fortunate enough to get that big break. To survive you will try different kind of roles, small insignificant ones etc. Something which happened to Nawazuddin Siddiqui. It’s up to your choice and your destiny the way it will unfold. You need to keep trying keep learning but for all that you need to learn how to survive first.

Sales is pretty much like that. You need to prepare, you need to be consistent and persistent everyday irrespective of what your boss is saying and what type of emotions you are having. I have seen people in the name of selling all they do is just follow up, making random calls, spamming inboxes and meetings which goes no where. They don’t understand the need of training and learning. Just you like need training to develop your skills and competency in any given field, you need to always learn in Sales. The other issue is they look for the company, colleagues, boss to train them. Well that’s a myth. At the most people can facilitate the training but end of the day, your learning is in your hand.

If you really look at it, all kinds of training help you acquire/enhance 4 types of intelligence:

  1. Innate Intelligence
  2. Acquired Intelligence
  3. Technological Intelligence
  4. Emotional Intelligence

Innate Intelligence is something you are born with. It’s all about how smart you are. It’s there in your DNA. Just that some people are aware of it and some aren’t. Mainly because they compare themselves, the try to imitate somebody or it could just be their inability to handle situations the way should handle. It’s also about the curiosity you show in everything.

Acquired intelligence is all about how much you know. How much you know about your client, how much you know about client’s industry, how much you know about their business, about politics, about nation etc etc. You accumulate the information from various sources to foster your intelligence. It’s a continuous process which is driven by your attention to everything that matters to close a deal.

Technological Intelligence, according to me has two dimensions, first, it’s know-how of the technology and the impact it can have on businesses. I sell Cloud, so through training I try to understand all the aspects which can help my clients to run their businesses, create new business models and add values to their clients.

The other dimension is how you use technology to keep yourself organized and give more time to human relationship. How you work in such a way that you don’t miss out any deliverables. How you organize yourself that you develop the ability to run all the projects in parallel and complete them on the stipulated time.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to perceive, correctly interpret, respond and effectively manage your own emotions and influence the emotions of others. Every individual is different and need to be handled differently. Certain clients will talk a lot, may annoy you at times and there will be many who will not open so easily. They will conceal their emotions and it will become difficult for you to understand them. Emotional intelligence is also the ability to handle stress, pressure, disappointment and working with your colleagues with whom you differ in opinion.

Buying is human, Selling is human. People buy for their reason, not yours. After a certain point of time, quality, features, references don’t matter, what matters most is the type of person you are. And learning is definitely the way to build a successful career in sales.

How to use Twitter to get your first job / next job ?

Source: www.forherbyher.com
Source: www.forherbyher.com

When used effectively, social media has the power to make or break your career.  There was a time when CVs used to float every here and there with very less a candidate could do. Things have changed today. A candidate can be in touch with his potential employer almost every day.  All he need to do is to find out the right approach and build his case with the right set of people.

LinkedIn is the most powerful tool for professionals but you can’t ignore Twitter.
 It require continue efforts, dedication and discipline to get benefits from Twitter. There is no formula of success on Twitter.   I am going to highlight what I have realised will work when you would like to join your first or next company of your choice .
Twitter is a very powerful, relationship building, relationship management and customer service tool. And you can easily see the impact of it. Even government has started using Twitter as a tool to reach out the larger mass. Whether it’s MoE, Railways you will find Twitter is often being used to make the government smarter.
career
Here are the 5 things you should start doing on Twitter immediately.
  1. Relationship building : Relationship building is about “Why should I know you ? “.  You have to tell people who you are. You have to be known for something or you have to be expert in something.  I have seen people reluctant  in answering these questions including me. And then over the period of time I have realised there are always going to be people better than you. So you only focus on what you are and what you do. Don’t compete or set benchmarks. Just keep on improving and evolving by always learning something new, something  which  keep you relevant. Stay abreast and have opinion about everything happening around you.
  2. Relationship management: is about Why should people remember you? Most of the people who you will interact with, are just faces or ids. And there are plenty of them. And given the timespan of attention everyone has, it’s quite easy to forget you and your work. Building and management are different stuffs and you need to understand both require different efforts, tactics and contents.
  3. Monitor and interact with people working in the companies you want to work. Search the profiles of top leadership of the companies and then filter out their followers. In all possibilities, you will find someone who might be able to help you in your pursuit.
  4. Keep an eye on what  is trending in the industry you would like to join : Confidence comes from knowledge and fake confidence comes from Bluff. Whatever you choose, you got to have some relevant content when talking to your potential recruiter. You have to display your knowledge and work. Don’t invest money in some expensive or short term courses till the time you have done your first level research.
  5. Develop direct relationships with bloggers and journalists : Subscribe to their RSS feed, retweet, leave a comment and help bloggers to find each other.  Every blogger strive for followers and they all love to increase their posts. Similarly companies have their blogs where they share important announcements, educational posts, updates on their products. Don’t just like them, put some valuable comment. These blogs are highly monitored and there is a person who keeps track of all the comments. So this is a good way of engaging with someone from the the company directly you want to work in.
The first part has highlighted  “ What you should do “,  now “How you should do” :
  1. Setting up a right Profile is the first step for any social media: Profile serves two purposes.
    1. It’s a way a of telling people who you are when they land on to your profile
    2. It’s a way to let people discover you.  For ex. If I am making a search for Big Data, then Twitter search will find all the people who have mentioned “Big Data”  in their profile. Use correct key words in your profile.
  2. Lists : Lists is an excellent way to organise your followers and the people you follow. And if you quietly want to keep an eye on someone, just add them in a Private list without following them.  So I have created following lists which help me to easily find the tweets of people who are important to me :
    1. News
    2. Personal
    3. IBM
    4. Competitors of IBM
    5. Cloud
  3. Sharing content you have created : There is no dearth of the resources and tools which are free and which can be used to create some good content. Content can be following types :
    1. eBook
    2. Blogs
    3. Infographics
    4. Presentations
    5. Videos
  4. Choose whom to follow wisely : Your interest in logging in to Twitter depends a lot on the people whom you are following. The people whom you follow should be active, should share relevant contents, should have an identity and most importantly they should follow you back. If you follow someone, who has more than 1000 followers, and he follows you back then the chances of your content reaching to large audience increase manifold times.
  5. Use a Social Media publishing platform : You might not get time to publiish content regularly. and that’s when you should automate the content publishing. Use HootSuite to schedule your content across different social media platforms.  Choose a day most likely Sunday, when you will schedule your tweets for the entire week. And then be responsive to the likes, shares, followers you are getting. It’s like creating a campaign to attract leads.
I help people to build their social media eminence and make the most of it. Just ping me back in case you want to get in touch with me for any help with your Social Media.