The competition for sales management posts is tougher than ever. Every move you make can either propel you forward or take you back. Here’s what you need to know to move up and over your competition.
Understand your customers.
Get into their heads and look at their problems, don’t just offer canned solutions. "It's crucial to take the time to understand your audience," says Rachel Book, associate director of talent attraction at AT&T http://att.jobs/careers.aspx. "Develop products and solutions around the customer's specific pain points in order to solve business problems."
Sales career advisor Katy Piotrowski suggests, "asking people you respect to share their stories of times when their approaches were challenged." Hearing how other sales people overcame negative critiques can be effective in helping you stay positive. Piotrowski also suggests asking for feedback from managers. Letting your superiors know that you're interested in improving "can help you earn the respect of others," she says.
Consider your location.
Before accepting your next sales job, evaluate its location. Does it fall in line with your long-term sales career? If you like being a field-based sales person, stay in the field office. If, on the other hand, you feel you need extra sales training, marketing, or operations expertise, then consider a stint with the corporate home office.
Be ready to own it.
If you’re looking to move up to sales management, you have to come to grips with the idea that things will change drastically in your new post. "You have to understand that your time is going to be spent very differently," says Matthew Schwartz, author of Fundamentals of Sales Management for the Newly Appointed Sales Manager. He advises those eager to move into management to interview existing managers at the company. Find out as much as you can about what they do and if it sounds like you’d be happy and motivated to do the job.
Don’t abuse positive thinking.
Sales performance expert Alan Rigg relates a story about Admiral James Stockdale, the highest-ranking officer in the 'Hanoi Hilton' in Viet Nam. Stockdale told of optimists who never survived their time in Hanoi, simply because they clung far too much to their dreams of release and in doing so couldn't handle the brutal realities of what it took to survive, day to day. In explaining his "paradox," Stockdale noted, "You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end (which you can never afford to lose) with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be." The lesson salespeople need to learn from this is that you can’t afford to be too optimistic. In other words, don’t waste time on sales opportunities for which you have no scheduled appointments on your prospect's calendar, and for which you have no previously agreed-upon agenda for moving the sale forward.
Apply these principles and you’ll stand a better chance of getting that sales promotion. Above all, be ready to own it and never be too optimistic.
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