This week, I had a flashback from my early days in sales. I remember the first sales job I had and the shock I was in when I started learning the job and realizing what it was going to take to be successful. I remember the apprehension. I remember the butterflies in my stomach. I remember the fear. And I remember the grueling work it took to make things happen.
This flashback was caused by a conversation I had with my cousin, who recently started her first real job in sales. She graduated from UNH last year with a degree in business and made a decision to join a firm in Massachusetts that specializes in financial planning. She accepted a role as an associate, which is where all new recruits start.
They are put through a rigorous training program and expected to learn the ins and outs of the business as quickly as possible. In addition to the training they receive, they are also expected to pass tests required to gain certifications so they are able to sell and give advice on various products and services.
My cousin reached out to me and asked if I would be willing to sit down and talk to her about her new role. She wanted the opportunity to practice her presentation and asked for some candid advice related to a career in sales.
Here are a few of the things I mentioned to my her. If you're starting a career in sales, you'll get a lot of advice from a lot of people. But these are a few things I experienced and also things I make sure I work with people on regularly. They also apply to everyone in sales, so for what it's worth, here you go.
Put in the time
Anytime you're starting a new role, be prepared to put in extra hours. This is especially true early in your career when you're starting off and learning. Don't expect to work 40 hours and be successful. If you aren't willing to put in the extra time and effort, go find a 9-to-5 job somewhere and do the minimum. But make no mistake about it, being successful in sales and business requires you to go above and beyond in all that you do.
Confidence is critical in sales. If you doubt yourself and aren't confident in what you're saying and doing, your customer will feel the same way. If you're feeling apprehensive, you have to act like you aren't. If you doubt yourself, you have to act like you don't. If you can't act, you can't sell, and that's something to always keep in the front of your mind. Sales requires you to be in situations and do things that are very unnatural. If it feels awkward, it's likely something that will help you be successful.
It's all about the questions
Selling is not rambling on and on and boring someone with your story. Selling is about getting people to open up and talk, and the only way you can do that is by asking effective questions. With my cousin's role, this is even more important, as she is talking to people about their financial situation. It's something very personal and private, so you have to be able to ask effective questions and get people to open up. People love to talk about themselves, they love to talk about what they know, and they love to talk about what they do for work. Everyone loves to have someone listen to them. Never forget that.
Teach people something
Nobody wants to sit down and hear a sales pitch about how great your company is and how great your products and services are. But people do like to learn new things. And in any sales role, the more you can teach your prospects and customers, the more effective you will be. You'll build trust, creditability, and that's critical in every sales role, especially in the financial planning business that my cousin is in. Before you meet with a prospect or customer, ask yourself this simple question. What am I going to teach them?
I could fill the Sunday News with advice for new salespeople, but these are a few things I consider to be most important. And to my cousin, Brittany Long, congratulations on your new role at Boston Partners Financial Group. With your business acumen, personality and work ethic, I'm confident you'll be an asset to your customers and have a very successful career helping people plan for their future.
Christopher Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes Closing the Deal weekly for the Sunday News.